How smart are our smart cars?

The prodigal son of the auto industry

DON’T LET YOUR PETITE LOOK mistake you for its excellent performance on modern roads – the “ForTwo” Microcity Coupe is just over 8 feet long, less than 5 feet wide and 5 feet tall. Weighing 818 kilograms and 3 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper, these Vikings have race car-like roll cages, anti-lock brakes (ABS), advanced electronics, microprocessors and a superior drivetrain that offer better stability, braking and comfort. general. It has luxury upgrades like GPS navigation, reverse detection, night vision, assisted parking, climate control, smart card, and keyless voice control. Of course, the smartest car is the one that is fully automated and drives itself.

A smart car is a mini-compact two-seater with advanced electronics and microprocessor that are perfect for busy places and urban driving. The first prototype known as Micro Compact Car (MCC) was developed in 1994 by Swatch and Daimler-Benz and this ‘Swatchmobile’ was showcased at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1997. In fact, the word ‘Smart’ derives from cooperation between Swatch and Mercedes: Swatch Mercedes ART. The updated Smart “ForTwo” was launched in 2008 in the US.

What’s so smart about it?

The idea of ​​building a small car came from Nicolas Hayek, the inventor of Swatch watches. I wanted to make a small car that was fuel efficient, environmentally friendly, and easy to park in tight spaces. Today, his progeny in DaimlerAG’s Smart division and other automakers such as Renault and General Motors (GM) offer cars that have electric or hybrid motors and are fuel efficient and environmentally responsible.

Although initially people were hesitant to opt for Smart, now the notion is changing. To date, more than 750,000 ForTwos have been sold in Europe and Japan. Subcompacts are also gaining a lot of attention to the trend. Waiting lists and pre-bookings for Tesla and Chevrolet Volt show that people are more concerned about fuel economy and the environment. The Smart line has been conveniently positioned among the high-end design and technology segment that targets the urban upper middle class, especially the younger generation.

These microcars are small in stature but big in economy. Compared to a 7-foot-wide Hummer H1, ForTwo is only 5 feet wide. In a real life application, this means that a Smart Car can back up to the curb instead of parallel parking in line with other cars. Two or three Smart Cars can be parked that way in a single curbside parking space. In fact, Swatch wanted to make such a car initially for the American and European market, where parking space and gasoline are at a premium. The cars are ultra maneuverable and fast off the line; They can even beat many supercars when it comes to speeding up in city traffic. With its diminutive length, ForTwo can turn within a staggering 22.8-foot circle, compared to 35.7 feet for a Honda Civic.

With its Tridion security cell at the front, Smart has also governed the issue of security quite well. This rigid structure activates crumple zones of a colliding vehicle, creating a safety bubble around passengers. The second generation ForTwo has received 4 out of 5 stars for adult occupant protection from Euro NCAP.

ForTwo is one of the most efficient four-wheelers with a conventional gasoline engine on the market. Obviously it can’t compete with a hybrid when it comes to mpg numbers, but it has an artistic design and is certainly easier to park than a conventional four-wheeler. You can snatch the last parking spot virtually anywhere and it comes with a wide variety of color options for your monoblock and Tridion Safety Cell. From an environmental point of view, Smart is the most promising four-wheeler. Being electrically powered, it does not pollute the environment.

However, in case of price, the Smarts are not that smart and they never have been. The base price for a ForTwo automatic transmission is $ 20,640 in the US and $ 19,650 in the European market, not to mention the $ 28,750 price of the all-electric ForTwo Convertible (smart ED). Buyers looking for fuel efficiency are also looking for bank account efficiency, and they can find a small mainstream car with decent mileage for several thousand dollars less than the cost of a ForTwo.

Electrically-assisted steering offers very little haptic feedback from the road surface, causing ForTwo to skip excessively on bumps in the road. Disc and drum brakes also feel artificial in expert hands.

Smarts are also slow in terms of speed and mileage. Though fast on the line, the latest ForTwos Convertible can hit 0-60 mph in 10.2 seconds, compared to the 5-7 seconds required for most conventional sedans. Its top speed has been limited to just 81 mph, as excessive speed dramatically reduces mileage and electric range. The projected 70-80 miles of single range is also not practical when you need 3 hours of charging through a 240-volt outlet or 16.5 hours through a 120-volt household outlet.

Even smarter

DaimlerChrysler unveiled an all-electric version of the Smart Car, the ForTwo EV, at the British Motor Show in July 2006. Now, in 2018, it offers ForTwo Electric Drive – a quirky hatchback priced at $ 24,550 and a center-mounted, Motor 80 hp electric that goes 70 miles on a single charge. The latest ForTwo Cabriolet is the ‘convertible’ version of the Electric Drive par excellence. Like its predecessor, the Cabriolet also comes with an electric powertrain and surprisingly spacious cargo space.

ForTwo is not the only one in the Smart line. Toyota’s Scion iQ was a worthy competitor that held most of the smart car records before its demise in 2015. Now, ForTwo faces stiff competition from the Mitsubishi I-MiEV and the Fiat 500e. The Honda Fit and Chevy Volt may not be the smallest cars on the market, but when it comes to hybrid transmission, automotive intelligence, and fuel economy, these cars have good competition in the Smart segment. Mini Cooper is another challenger that offers sleek yet rugged performance. All of these cars are designed to maximize passenger space, while minimizing exterior length. ForTwo also has its Smart segment cousins ​​in Mercedes: Smart Roadster and Forfour. The latter is being rebuilt to offer a pint-sized 4 x 4 SUV for the domestic market in the US and Brazil. Currently, Hyundai is building complete driverless cars for the next generation and Samsung is developing an in-vehicle infotainment system. Both firms are competing in the industry to introduce hyper-intelligent cars.

While it is clear that this Smart is an excellent choice for the city car, what is less clear is whether it will completely replace conventional gasoline-powered cars. Only time will give us the answer. But, with fuel prices hitting all-time highs and environmental restoration a hot issue, it’s the peak time for automakers to offer and consumers to adopt more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly smart cars for commuting.

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