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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Part 1: Smart Car At The LA Auto Show

My trip to the LA Auto Show proved to be very interesting, because the show makes it easy for me to compare numerous cars in just a few short hours. With the introduction of the Smart Car to the US, I was interested in seeing what it was like.

I'm a big guy, I'm 6'2" tall and weigh 250 pounds; so small cars are always a tight fit for me. However, the Smart Car has a lot more room than you'd think both on my left/right sides and even above my head. As near as I could tell, I had about 3 more inches of free space above my head.



The 1,000cc engine is located just under the trunk area and gets 33 MPG City and 40 MPG Highway. It's important to realize that this mileage is the 2008 standard, which is closer to real world numbers. If this was based on the earlier standard, about 5 MPG would be added to the numbers making it be around 38 City and 45 Highway. In contrast, the Toyota Yarus, which had 40 MPG highway with the old standard is now rated at 35 MPG highway.



In addition to being able to reach the engine from the trunk area, it appears that one can also reach the lower half of the engine from under the car.



The inside of the car, shown below, has plenty of room for 2 people. Even if you're big and fat like me.

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
...

Here's a shot showing what the driver's side of the gages and controls look like. This is the "Pure" version of the car.



In the "Passion" version of the car, you'll notice to extra gages to the right and a few minor differences.



The dash area controls can be seen below, as well as the glove box. Who stores gloves in the glove box any more???



While the trunk area isn't massive, it's big enough for several suitcases whenever you go on a long trip.

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
...

In addition, there's a small storage area within the lid of the trunk. This could be a good place for emergency tools and other things.



Because the engine is in the rear, just under the front hood you'll find access the wiper fluid and other things that I forgot to ask about...




Videos Of The Smart Car Booth From The LA Auto Show:

Talking about the Smart Car:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU4RIfEklCE

A Look At The Smart Car:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M00Yv93wU6Y

Smart Car Reactions At The LA Auto Show:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQfdHjekovw



In the second part, I'll compare the Smart Car to the other cars that come close to it.


Bob Diaz
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Part 2, How Does The Smart Car Compare To The Others?

How Does The Smart Car Compare To The Others?

As much as I'd love to do an "Apple To Apple Comparison", it's just not possible, because the Smart Car is SO different than the other cars, any comparison tends to be a bit lopsided.

Depending on what one defines as important, you can skew the results to any direction you want. For this comparison, we will assume that the car is driven to work and like most drivers, there's only one person in the car. Either the person is single, thus never has more then 2 people in the car OR is married and their spouse has a second car for when they need to carry more than 2 people. The following items are assumed to be important: (1) Low Cost. (2) High MPG. (3) Safety.


Factoring In The Difference In Gas:

The Smart Car takes Premium Gas, which tends to cost around 5% more than Regular Gas. Thus is Regular Gas costs $3.00 a gallon and Premium Gas costs 5% more; IF I put in $3.00 of Premium Gas, I will only put in 0.95 gallons. That translates to:

City Mileage: 33 MPG x 0.95 = 31.25 MPG, I'll just say 31 MPG

Highway Mileage: 40 MPG x 0.95 = 38 MPG


Smart Car vs. Honda & Toyota Hybrids:

The Toyota Prius base price is $22,325 and gets 48 MPG City / 45 MPG Highway.

The Honda Civic Hybrid base price is $22,600 and gets 40 MPG City / 45 MPG Highway

My wife and I own a Prius, and know for a fact that we really get around 40 MPG City / 50 MPG Highway.

Assume a distance of 100,000 miles and that gas costs $4.00 a gallon. The higher the price of gas, the more this favors the Hybrids. Thus...

Smart Car: 100,000 miles / 31 MPG City x $4 a gallon = $12,903 for gas

Toyota: 100,000 miles / 48 MPG City x $4 a gallon = $8,333

The difference is: $4,570 more in gas for the Smart Car

However a $22,235 Prius - $16,590 Smart Car (highest price) = $5,735 more to purchase the Prius

Thus in terms of out of pocket costs, the Prius costs more. This was using the worst case figures. If we used the true 40 MPG City, the real cost difference for gas came to only $2,903 more for the Smart Car.

Even with a Highway 50 MPG for the Prius (my own tests show it does better than 45 MPG), the gas would cost $2,526 more for the Smart Car. Still not enough to make up the difference in the price between the 2 cars.

While this comparison is a bit lopsided and the are other reasons why someone would pick a Hybrid, saving money in the long run is NOT a valid reason.


Smart Car vs. Toyota Yarus:

The Yarus Lift Back sells for $13,875 (base price) and the 4 Door sells for $12,900 (base price). Both get 29 MPG City and 35 MPG Highway.

In contrast the Smart Car Pure base price is $11,590, the Passion is $13,590, and the Cabriolet is $16,590.

This puts the Pure and Passion very close to the Yarus prices. However, when it comes to MPG, when I factor in the difference in Premium vs. Regular Gas, the Smart Car still comes in at 31 MPG City/38 MPG Highway or roughly 2 to 3 MPG more than the Yarus.

As always there are personal reasons for picking one over the other, but as for me, I find myself being squeezed on my left side when I sit in the Yarus. Maybe a smaller person doesn't have this problem, but I do.


Smart Car vs. Mini Cooper:

The base price of the Mini Cooper is $18,700 and the MPG is not stated yet. Last year's model was 32 City/40 Highway, but that was using the old system that gave higher, but bogus numbers. My best GUESS is that it likely to be close to 27 MPG City / 35 Highway with the new system.

Even if we compare the Mini Cooper's base price to the highest priced Smart Car, the difference is over $2,000 more for the Mini Cooper. Also, there's reason to believe that it will not do as well as the Smart Car in terms of MPG.

I find the Mini Cooper to be an even tighter squeeze than the Yarus. I assume that smaller people don't have this problem.

There are valid reasons for picking the Mini Cooper over the Smart Car, but cost and MPG will not be those reasons.


Smart Car vs. Kia Rio:

The Kia Rio 5 SX base price is $14,715 and the Kia Rio LX is $13,665. Both cars get 25 MPG City/35 MPG Highway.

The price is above the Smart Car Pure $11,590, but very close to the Smart Car Passion $13,590. While the price is close, the MPG is lower on the Kia for both city and Highway: 6 MPG Lower City/5 MPG Lower Highway.

In terms of sitting inside the Kia, it seems to have a bit more room than the Yarus or the Mini, but fell just about 1 inch short on my left side. So, smaller people are going to fit inside the Kia Rio without any real problem.


Other Cars

Most other cars feel short of the Smart Car on cost or mileage. I'll list them here for you to compare.

Chevrolet Aveo: $12,130, 23 MPG City/32 MPG Highway

Hundai Accent: $11,395 GS, $13,545 SE, $15,195 GLS, 27 MPG City/32 MPG Highway (5 speed manual), 24 MPG City/33 MPG City (4 speed auto)

Honda Fit: $16,070, 27 MPG City/33 MPG Highway

Ford Focus: $16,375, 24 MPG City/33 MPG Highway

Scion XD: $15,350, 26 MPG City/32 MPG Highway

Nissan Centra: $15,750, 25 MPG City/33 MPG Highway

Nissan Versa: $12,630, 27 MPG City/33 MPG Highway


There are other reasons for picking one of these cars over the Smart Car, but cost and/or mileage is not going to be the reason.


Bob Diaz
 

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Nothing really changes. Initial purchase price always trumps savings over fuel economy. The cheapest car to run is the cheapest car, period. Using that logic, then; the car you all ready have will be the cheaper car to run. Not the most fun, but it will save you money over all, no matter what your MPG is right now.
 

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nice clear review! i especially liked the photo of all the feet, great angle! hope it wasn't too labor intensive putting all the numbers together, they help me better understand value truely (and save me the web searching, searching, searching..).
 

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They told me at the show that the engine drops down on bolts the repair shop puts in. Takes about five minutes and then they access everything from under the car.

Just off picture of the bottom of the car, to the right you can find the oil pan plug on the right rear of the pan and the small cartridge filter just to the rear. Changes every 10,000 miles the factory recommends.
 

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Thank you Bob!!!
Really appreciate the detailed report and photos. I'm away from the computer but the forum reads great from my iPhone. Happy Thanksgiving to all
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Nothing really changes. Initial purchase price always trumps savings over fuel economy. The cheapest car to run is the cheapest car, period. Using that logic, then; the car you all ready have will be the cheaper car to run. Not the most fun, but it will save you money over all, no matter what your MPG is right now.
Two cars would have to be reasonably close in price and one would have to offer a major difference in MPG for a more expensive car, but with better MPG, to offset the higher cost. I really didn't search to find such an example, but if we are talking about the same type of car, it's unlikely to be found.

In general, as far as costs, it's best to hold onto a car for a minimum of 10 years. After 10 years the cost of repairs starts to increase to a point where if one continues using the car, the remaining years will see endless expensive repairs. That point will vary from car to car, so it's hard to say exactly when it's best to dump an older car, 10 years, 12 years, 15 years ...

Another thing is, that buying on credit is VERY expensive!!! Now I know that most of us are fighting to make ends meet, but if someone can save some money in the bank every month years before you need to buy another car, the savings on interest is huge. The biggest savings comes if you can pay off even part of a loan in the very beginning.


Bob Diaz
 

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" Call Bob"

Bob: That was a fine peice of work. Both the photos and writing were "First Class".

We hope you get a Smart and stay with us on this list for the long run.

Thanks. :D

A2Jack.
 

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Excellent trip report, Bob! Your analysis was pretty concise too, but I am not going to comment on the cost analysis based on the *published numbers* numbers for the estimated gas mileage, city/highway because I still fee, as previously posted elsewhere in this forum, that this car, if driven properly, will produce WAYYYYYYYY better mileage than those numbers represented. My reasons for getting a Smart are as much for it's economy and looks, as they are for being the first out there to introduce something new to this country that needs to be introduced for the sake of doing my share to reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum. I won't comment on that any more cause' it will then become a political statement, which I don't want to get going here on this great SMART CAR forum. :D

John
 

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In general, as far as costs, it's best to hold onto a car for a minimum of 10 years. After 10 years the cost of repairs starts to increase to a point where if one continues using the car, the remaining years will see endless expensive repairs. That point will vary from car to car, so it's hard to say exactly when it's best to dump an older car, 10 years, 12 years, 15 years.
Bob Diaz
You are right about keeping a car (depreciable asset). We have kept 4 cars for over 10 years, (one was stolen and the other wreaked) The other two, for 15 years. Our personal experience has been that over 10 years the replacement and repair tend to increase but in the case of both 15 year cars not enough to warrant replacement. We keep complete records on the cars and it has never become obvious that the equipment has reached the end of it's useful life.

Our first 15 year car was sold to buy our current trip car, but it was still reliable. We will be disposing of a 15 year old Jeep Grand Cherokee to buy the smart. I would still drive the jeep coast to coast without fear of problems but our life situation has dictated that we could be easier on the environment with a smaller car. But we can still have fun as our trip car is a 5 series Bimmer which gives us plenty of driving fun.
 

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10 out of 10

Outstanding work, Bob.

Thanks for taking so much time and effort to produce a truly interesting and informative post.

Felt like I was there!
 

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From a photo standpoint I'm impressed with the interior quality of the Pure and may not upgrade the wheel covers after all. Muchas gracias!
 

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Thanks, Bob, for your great pictures and well-thought out comments. Was there a Cabrio there? Wondering how smoothly and easily the top opens and closes.
 
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