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Small and perfectly formed, the revolutionary Smart Fortwo car is a star—at least in Hollywood terms. The teeny, tiny two-seater featured in The Da Vinci Code, with lead man Tom Hanks using it as a getaway car through the busy streets of Paris. And it’s in those bustling European towns that the 2.7-metre-long, 1.5-metre-wide car comes to the fore.
It was first shown at the 1998 Paris Motor Show (the car was named the City Coupe at the time). Ten years later, it’s driven throughout the world.
It’s a hit because of its size. The Smart car is so small that back-in parking is possible in an otherwise parallel parking zone, allowing two or three Smart cars to park in a space allocated for one standard car—not that I tried that, fearing the wrath of parking wardens.
The car weighs 730 kilograms, making it one of the lightest cars on the market and leading the mini-micro car market. Its lightweight construction features an exposed, rigid steel frame covered with plastic body panels that are scratch-resistant, come in lots of colours and are simple to exchange and recycle.
Before you panic about safety, the Smart Fortwo comes with two front and two side airbags, ABS braking, belt pretensioners and a front crumple zone. In order to optimise the front crumple zone, the Smart Fortwo has its engine positioned at the rear of the vehicle. And that engine size? A zippy 1,000cc—that’s enough grunt to easily keep up with motorway traffic.
To get into top gear you have to adjust to the fact that it is a clutchless manual. That’s right, it has only a brake and accelerator, which means using just the gear stick or paddles behind the steering wheel to move through the gears.
Although it may be small, the Smart Fortwo has ample boot space, and with the passenger seat’s backrest folded down there is even more room.
The Smart isn’t known just for its smart looks, but also for its environmental friendliness. During manufacture, water consumption and pollution are kept to a minimum, and all materials are 100 percent recyclable. It is also one of the lowest-emission cars on the market, with just 88–112g/km of CO2 emissions. It’s light on fuel too, with an average fuel cost per year estimated at $1,680.
On the downside, the Smart car is small. If you’re six feet tall (1.82 metres), you’ll just fit into the car, with about ten centimetres to spare before your head bumps into the roof.