By January 14, 2008

I didn’t do the smart thing

I put a $99 deposit down on a smart car almost a year ago. At the time, I owned my motorcycle and a Mitsubishi Montero with about 140,000 miles on it. I thought the smart car would be good for zipping around town with another person, and for doodling up to DC when the weather wasn’t nice enough for the bike. I configured my black-on-black Passion last August. Smart USA promised they’d contact me when a test-drive event was being held, and then a dealer would contact me before the end of 2007. I was excited to be one of the first people in the US to own a smart car. Smart USA was only importing around 12,000 cars in 2008, and I would be among the first 1000 people to get one.

A lot has changed since then. The most notable thing was the purchase of my 2007 Mazda3Speed turbo five-door. It’s so fantastically awesome I couldn’t imagine wanting to drive something else besides Cylon. I imagined that the smart car would be great for driving around town until I found out that it didn’t have godly fuel economy. The car gets about 40MPG in real-world driving conditions. That’s about what my motorcycle gets, but it’s not earth-shatteringly efficient enough to put up with the tiny smart body. You can get mid- to high-30s from a Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, or Nissan Versa and get so much more room plus better acceleration and top speed. Speaking of top speed, the high end of the smart car is about 82MPH. It waddles from 0 – 60 in about seventeen seconds, which be fatally slow on the main thoroughfare in town.

I did the math on the money I’d save driving the smart vs. the Mazda3Speed. I get about 21MPG around town in the Mazda. That’s a difference of 19MPG. Both cars use premium gas, so that’s a wash. I drive about 300 miles every week, for a difference of about $50 a month on gas. I’d only save about $600 a year on gas with the smart car. I’d have to put up with a tiny car, slow acceleration and low top speed and a car payment to save $600 a year. Bleh.

To top it all off, Smart USA never contacted me for a test drive, and I didn’t hear from the regional dealer until last week. If I hadn’t bought the Mazda3Speed I might have considered it, but not now. I canceled my order. Now that I have Kaylee and Cylon the smart car was just a dumb decision.

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