The cars we loved.
If you just happen to live in a large or globally hip city, chances are that you may have noticed small golf cart sized cars parked randomly all across your town. For those in Austin, Portland, San Diego, Minneapolis or any number of places (26 in total worldwide), these little wheeled appliances are a common sight thanks to Car2Go. Car2Go rents Smart Fortwos like Redbox rents videos.
After subscribing, the Car2go user gets the right to rent a Fourtwo by the day. Before Car2go, Smart’s Fortwo was a seldom seen car in most North American cities. The potentially practical micro car was simply impractical for most as its starting price could buy you a decent two year old mid-sized sedan.
Car2Go’s version of the pint sized Fourtwo is not quite stripped down and slots somewhere between Smart’s basic and “Passion Coupe’ models. Smart is a German subsidy of Mercedes Benz who also owns Car2Go. Smart has struggled to grow its market share in America, but Car2Go may re-introduce the Fourtwo to a whole new audience, one hipster at a time.
Its a known fact that younger people no longer have a passion for cars as previous generations have. The Fortwo fits well into their perception of the automobile as a necessary evil or an appliance. The Fourtwo has been popular in Europe where the streets are narrow and crowded and the people are not as large.
In America, the land of all night buffets and eight lane super highways, the Smart Fortwo has not been so welcomed outside of coastal areas. Here in Columbus, Ohio I have seen only three or four Fortwos on the road since they were officially imported here in 2008, often buzzing around coffee shops in the fashionable neighborhoods.
Smart makes other models, some slightly larger, but the Fortwo (gas and electric) are the only cars shipped to the United States. The Fourtwo seats two and features a 1 liter 3 cylinder engine that makes 70 hp at the front wheels. At 1,808 lbs it weighs about as much as a ’70s era VW Beetle and has more power. That’s not anything to brag about as the Smart car’s claim to fame is its tidy size and easy park ability.
If you assumed that high efficiency is one of the Smartcar’s main attributes, you might be disappointed. Despite its small size and modest power, it only manages 34 city/38 highway using premium gasoline. Those figures are comparable with cars like the 160 hp Ford Focus or base models of the Mazda3, two cars that are considerable larger and more versatile.
The Fortwo can be configured in ways to make it lavish. Three petro models and one electric can run anywhere from $14k to close to $30k for the electric version of the cabriolet. Despite its modest dimensions, the SmartCar can be fun to drive, in the seat of your paints way that a go cart would be thanks to compact dimensions and optional weighted power steering. Just don’t expect to win any stoplight races with cyclist with a 13 to 14 second 0 to 60 time.
Despite its toy-like appearance, the SmartCar is a real car underneath with two airbags, ABS 15 in wheels. The power is managed by a five-speed “automated manual” transmission. Some versions even have paddle shifters. The simple lower wishbone/McPherson strut suspension with a DeDion axle setup in the rear keeps the Smartcar planted on the road, but the short wheelbase (and sidewinds) can make for a choppy ride – especially for those brave enough to jump on the expressway.
While the average Fortwo may start at around $15k, once option packages are chosen or picked from a long list of must haves, you may well have spent enough for a Focus S. While some Focus will park themselves, the Smart is small enough that no electronic wizardry is needed for most drivers. The cars are so small that pranksters have already taken to tipping them over, the new urban cow tipping has not effected Car2Go owned vehicles here in Columbus, but its just a matter of time before parked ones near the campus of OSU will be fair game after a Buckeye loss.
Which brings us back to Car2Go. While enthusiasts are not likely to subscribe to and rent a Car2Go, hipsters, business travlers and people who simply need a car for a day or so will find the convenience of not having to rely on the mass transit system of a strange town comforting. Before Car2Go, the Smartcar was seen as a toy or novelty, after Car2Go, it has become a necessary novelty.