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Indianapolis - It may be the smallest car on the road, but it's generating more than a little interest, even though it's still six months away from hitting American streets.

The Smart Car is making its Indiana debut this weekend at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The Indy stop is part of a 54-city national tour. Fans of the Smart Car lined up in the parking lot for a test drive.

Nancy Birmingham of Ashville, NC, drove ten hours for the chance to take the two-seater for a spin.

"We're excited. It's innovative, energy efficient, reduces emissions. We've been waiting for the car, so we felt compelled to drive this far [to test drive it,]" Birmingham said.

The Smart Car is 8.8 feet long, 5.1 feet tall and 5.1 feet wide. Perhaps most importantly, it averages over 40 miles to the gallon.

Back from a test spin, David McCreary from Indianapolis said, "It's fantastic. It feels larger than it is. It's solid, quiet, sporty - pretty neat."

Jeannine Waldock, also of Indianapolis, was ready to put down her $99 to reserve a 2008 model.

Waldock said, "It's going to conserve energy. And you can get in any parking spot without any trouble."

WTHR Photographer Russ Govert, who stands six foot five inches, was skeptical about the roominess. After reluctantly crawling behind the wheel, he said, "I thought I'd be riding in a clown car, and there's more head room than in my SUV."

Smart USA's Ben Gani said the Smart Car comes with most of the same standard equipment as other cars - A/C, a stereo system and CD player with automatic locks and windows. The trunk space, above the engine in back is large enough to hold a set of golf clubs.

As for safety concerns, Gani said the car is engineered to get a four-star crash rating. Pointing to the car's frame he said, "There's kind of a diamond shape, what's called the tridion safe. It's reinforced steel that forms a shell around the occupants.. It also has four air bags - two in front, two on the sides."

He said the entry level models will start at just under $12,000. The Smart Car is owned by the Mercedes Car Group and has been available in Europe for about ten years.

Gani said demand for them in the U.S. has suddenly jumped "now that gas is up to $3 a gallon everyone is looking for a small economical vehicle that's good on gas," he said.
 
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