Hey smart car—how smart are you? Since the late 90’s, thousands of smart cars found homes in European towns, villages, and sometimes apartments, before steering their way (smartly mind you) on to our roads. Lately, I’ve been seeing them pop up in abundance, navigating on our streets of San Francisco. Well, the U.S. roads are about to get even smarter next month when the Brabus-tuned version of its fortwo hits the roads in February 2009. Yes, microcar fanatics you’ve heard it hear first (except, of course if you’ve heard it elsewhere before this moment). Sure the car looks like a Fischer Price toy—but hey, who doesn’t love Fischer Price toys?
You can compare the Brabus, of course to the “Urban Tractor.” What I speak of is John Deere and their green, bright-yellow-wheeled smart fortwo Passion cabriolet (which was all the rage at 2008 SEMA). Their philosophy: “Going green doesn’t mean you have to give up being cool.” (I guess the definition of cool is highly open to interpretation.) The model comes complete with an eye-catching paint job, adorable miniature model tractor on the radio antenna, plus four air horns, an air-compressor powered auxiliary truck horn, and a big mama of a stereo. Despite the aesthetics you can’t argue how refreshing these microcars are compare to the gas-guzzling monstrosities put out by bail-out-needed Detroit. Viva la smart car!
But how do they rate? Tim Mutchler of Consumer Reports first impression of driving John Deere Jr. was similar to the experience he had with his, well, his John Deere lawn tractor. (Coincidence, or something more!? ) “Both fit in my garage easily. Both are pretty slow and noisy on the road. Both are easy to park. And both have headlights and a cup holder.”
When good gas mileage is the name of the game, you win some and you lose some. Stateside, the Brabus microcars only boost a 112-horsepower three-cylinder engine. But that means you get 41 miles per gallon efficiency! And in this era of gas-topping $5 a gallon, that’s what it’s all about. What stands this car apart from other fortwo models is the unique alloy wheels, monochromatic paint in either black or silver, while adorned with numerous BRABUS emblems inside and out. At $17,990 for the coupe and $20,990 for the cabriolet, it’s mildly steep being it only comes with the low 70 horsepower engine of the standard smart.
A red flag that might cross your mind: sure these microcars are cute, but they also have to share the road with the big boys. In this post-SUV era how do these little Fischer-Price- toys-on-wheels rate in safety? Well, not only does the 2009 smart fortwo BRABUS models come equipped with full-size passenger and driver airbags, but also head and neck side airbags, seat belt tensioners, and belt force limiters. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the smart fortwo 5 stars for side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the smart fortwo coupe the highest possible rating for frontal offset crash and side crash. The smartcar keeps sounding smarter and smarter. And it’s cute. It’s great to see the future of car innovation on the streets, as well as fuel-efficient auto-practices, while the U.S. is finally catching on to the environmentally friendly smart cars that our Euro cousins have come to love many years before. Go smart!