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Smart City Car Arrives in Omaha

The Smart Fortwo has arrived in Omaha Nebraska. Omaha Nebraska the largest city in Nebraska and called the "Gateway City of the West", because of its central location as a transportation hub for the United States in the late 1800s can now be called now the Smart Car hub to the West. The pint-sized, two-seat city car arrived in Omaha last week, and a short time after three demo models were unloaded, Ryan Maher, a brand specialist for Smart Center La Vista at Interstate 80 and Harrison Street, showed up in a metallic blue convertible to give me a ride.

Smart Car Offers Fun Along With Fuel Efficiency

Fun is the word for Smart car's fortwo Passion Cabriolet.

The pint-sized, two-seat city car arrived in Omaha last week, and a short time after three demo models were unloaded, Ryan Maher, a brand specialist for Smart Center La Vista at Interstate 80 and Harrison Street, showed up in a metallic blue convertible to give me a ride.

Despite the sun, we didn't put the top down, because it was freezing out.

I'd seen the Mercedes product up close in Germany, but I'd never taken a ride in one. Somehow, the car didn't look as small in Germany, parked among other small cars, as it did in downtown Omaha, next to full-sized cars and sport utility vehicles.

At 106.1 inches by 61.38 inches, the fortwo is more than 3 feet shorter than BMW's Mini Cooper. The fortwo also is about 700 pounds lighter than the Mini, coming in at 1,852 pounds for the cabriolet model and 1,808 pounds for the regular Smart car.

While Maher got out to show me around the car, I started wondering whether it would even hold me. The car is 60.71 inches high. I'm 74 inches and change and 220 pounds. Surprise. I fit nicely in the passenger seat with headroom to spare.

The interior was in charcoal and gray tones, with a lot of plastic, including the interior door handles and the top of the dash-mounted heating and air conditioning controls. But the seat was comfortable, hugged just right and was easily adjustable.

The space is tight but much roomier than it looks from the outside. And careful attention to detail was apparent in the layout of controls and placement of the seats. The passenger seat, for example, is set a bit farther back than the driver's seat, so shoulders do not bump, and the seats are higher than those in a normal car. That makes it easier to get in and out and provides a good view.

The passenger seat folds flat, making it possible to haul more than what fits in the small cargo space behind the two seats. The cargo compartment capacity is rated at 7.8 cubic feet to the belt line, or 12 cubic feet if you stuffed it to the roof.

There's also a small glove box, and each door has a pocket.

Smart has a steel safety cage and four air bags, along with standard electronic stability control, which is designed to stop vehicles from swerving off the road.

Maher, who besides his sales duties is a marketing major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, zipped us around downtown in lunch-hour traffic.

The fortwo has what Smart calls "five-speed automated manual transmission" with "paddle shifters." Maher said it takes some getting used to, and prospective buyers are given instructions before they can take the car for a test drive.

Basically, the car has no clutch pedal, but it does have a clutch. It has a stick shift on the floor, which allows you to run up through the gears when an arrow lights on the dash. Or you can set it on automatic, and the gearbox will shift automatically.

It's no racehorse. The car has a one-liter, three-cylinder engine that puts out 70 horsepower and is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 33 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway in preliminary tests. That puts it behind the hybrids: Toyota Prius is rated at 48 city and 45 highway, and the Honda Civic is rated at 40 and 45.

The Smart car engine, which sits in the back of the car, can produce a top speed of 90 mph and acceleration from zero to 60 at a leisurely 12.8 seconds.

However, driving around town and out toward the airport on Abbott Drive, I was impressed with how the car kept up with traffic through the muck of recent snow. The ride was firm but not jarring, and it was apparent that this was a German car -- tight, steady, solid.

As we drove, people gawked and waved, so it seems its distinctive looks will attract an audience. When we pulled up to park, several people came up and asked about the car and where it was available.
Source: Omaha World-Herald go to . By Chet Mullin, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.
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