True Strife: I Drive a Smart Car

Major conflicts exist all over the world.  Unfortunately, I have my fair share of them. My conflicts include my girlfriend vs. my fashion sense or lack thereof, and my social reputation vs. my car. Since my girlfriend always gets her way in terms of my clothing choices, let’s talk about the latter and more pressing issue. As the title of this post states, I, a self-proclaimed car guy, drive a 2008 Smart Passion ForTwo  painted in ULAS J1120+0641 Quasar Yellow. In simple terms, it’s brighter than Sergey Karjakin (pronounced Car-Yack-in, not Car-Jack-In, though my car has experienced both). I guess that’s not that simple, but just know that it’s really, really bright.

Now that my reputation amongst car people has been completely torn down, it’s time to build it back up again with a brief history of the Smart brand. The brand was conceived by Swatch CEO Nicolas Hayek. His original goal was to create a car with interchangeable plastic color panels to suit the mood of the owner, similar to his watch trim. Volkswagen was Mr. Hayek’s original partner on the project but dove out early.  The project was then picked up by Daimler-Benz, who after losing a large sum of money, bought the Smart brand outright. Two things can be brought up with this history:

1.) Why the hell did the most famous brand of luxury vehicles buy such an automotive oddity?

2.) I drive the weird stepchild of Mercedes Benz and a watchmaker!

I really don’t know why Mercedes bought the brand, other than the common assumption that they have a ton of money to spend on silly brands — too soon for a Maybach joke? But I’m going to stop bashing this midget mobile…sorry, little vehicle, and talk about why I actually love this car.

My dad put himself on a waiting list in spring of 2008 to purchase the car and few words were spoken between us until we actually picked up the car. The embarrassment I felt when my dad pulled into our driveway in this chubby Tweety Bird of a car was definitely immense but it didn’t last. The qualm this car brought upon me was easily lifted once I heard the magic words — take it for a spin! I sat in the driver’s seat, adjusted all of its settings, placed the key in the center console, and started the car. After idling for a few minutes, I was off to the grocery store for my first adventure in the Smart Car.

Driving around town, running errands is exactly what this car was meant for! It is capable of seating two normal sized adults and it has a hatch area for a week’s worth of laundry or groceries. This car was perfect for my lifestyle. The one thing I didn’t expect out of a $14,000 dollar car was the amount of attention it drew and still draws to this day. Old ladies are almost always the main inquisitors but the questions and comments vary with each individual polite enough ask me rather than laugh from afar.

Best Questions/Comments I’ve Heard:

“Do you feel like you’re going to die on the highway?”

“Your car must go a hundred miles on a fart’s worth of gas.”

“How much hamster power does that thing have?”(Personal favorite.)

All joking aside, the general consensus is that this thing is cool to look at but most would never drive it. Herein lies my conflict with the car, I drive it everyday and it gets more attention than any one of Enzo’s cars but it’s not the attention that this car deserves. I think this mostly has to do with America’s “bigger is better” mantra in life. This car is fuel efficient (38MPG), surprisingly fun to drive given its dismal 1hp to 25lb power-to-weight ratio, fits two adult passengers and is touted for its safety and engineering quality.

But I can’t go anywhere without being stopped for questioning. The car feels like it’s made up of balsa wood while driving over even slightly bumpy roads and if you get a flat tire, you have to call a tow truck or AAA because there’s no room for a spare. Despite these negatives, this car has given me faith in the brand and what its future holds. Most of us never thought hybrids would catch on, but we also didn’t think gas would hit $5.00 a gallon. Most people assume Smart Cars will never catch on, but as population grows, more people move into cities over suburbs, and the desire for gas guzzling, space-taking cars and trucks decreases, we’ll start seeing the real benefit of this pint-sized marvel of motion. In the meantime, please don’t run me off the road because, well that just wouldn’t be SMART!