Beginning in 1993, ideas began to float around for a "smart car," which was to be designed in an attempt to offer a gas efficient vehicle that was compact, easy to handle and affordable. After being bought by Daimler-Benz in 1998, sales began in nine European countries, and instantly became a popular choice among consumers, according to a report by Edmunds.com. There have been many variations of models created since, and although they do appeal to some, smart cars are not without drawbacks.
Designed specifically to be fuel efficient, smart cars averaged only 32 miles to the gallon in one study done by TreeHugger.com. This is a particularly unimpressive rate for the smart car, as the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average rate for highway or city traveling should be around 36 miles per gallon when driving these models.
The smart car is built with a three-cylinder engine that shifts slowly and struggles when driving in excess of 80 mph. The car shakes at high speeds, and corners poorly, making it very difficult to handle. It also proves susceptible to potholes and bouncy landscapes, as the suspension rates well below average according to TheTruthAboutCars.com.
The smart car does not come with the perks of being a small car, which would mean better handling and better fuel economy. Instead, it succeeds only in being short (eight feet in total length) which does make for easier parking, but offers no other advantages.
With 2009 prices of a smart car ranging from $12,000 to $20,000 it is not any more affordable than comparable cars that offer better gas mileage, such as the Toyota Yaris, which typically runs from $12,000 to $15,000 and can get up to 36 miles per gallon on the highway.
Although some models of the smart car are available in the United States, the more fuel efficient diesel powered smart cars are exclusive to Europe. The smart cars that are available in America are difficult to find. As of March, 2009, only 75 dealerships across the country offered a small selection of smart cars, making the supplies very scarce.