I never cared for the Smart. Reviews always derided it for its herky-jerky transmission and surprising lack of fun. I always thought you were paying a premium over a conventional B-segment hatch and getting a raw deal. I also thought the uncapitalized brand name was moronic. However, I did see the appeal of the car in big cities where space was at a premium. You were pretty daft to buy a Smart in, say, Des Moines but shrewd to do so in Rome. Well, it looks like the residents of New York City are finally warming to the diminutive hero of parking.
Maybe it’s rental companies like car2go that are inflating the number of Smarts (ugh, no, I won’t do the lowercase letter!) on NYC streets, but I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in Smarts since I was last in NYC two years ago.
I’ve tried to find street parking in Manhattan on a few occasions. It is a gigantic pain in the ass. You end up parking blocks from your destination, and that’s after sometimes 30-60 minutes of driving around fruitlessly looking for a space. The one time I found a spot right in front of my building, I spent the afternoon fretting I was too close to a hydrant. Incidentally, if it’s so important to keep the space in front of hydrants clear, why are NYPD officers allowed to park their private vehicles in front of them?
Speaking of the NYPD, they’ve started using the Smart in their fleets. They are replacing the old three-wheeled scooters which actually cost $6k more, required the driver to have a motorcycle license, and were limited to 35 mph. Jeez, I give the Smart grief but it sounds like a much smarter purchase than one of those scooters!
I thought maybe it was time to soften my stance on the Smart, considering their merits as a city commuter. But sadly, according to reviews, the car’s dynamic flaws remain. The ride is stiff, the transmission shifts roughly, and the car lacks the tossable, fun-to-drive character you would expect something looking like this would have.
It’s a pity. Just look at how it slides into that tiny parking spot…
(Editor’s Postscript: In a major shift of strategy, in the US and Canada all Smarts will be EV only, after the current inventory of gas-powered cars are sold)