Smart Car – Update No 3

Ongoing from my original post on the poor gas mileage of American Smart cars (see “Smart Car – But No Smart Gas Mileage In US”) the comments continue to arrive. Here is just one, from Jeff:

“I got one of the first ones in the States. I live in SF (hills), and I am averaging just 20 MPG with mine! I called the dealer today who verified that one other owner is having similar issues and they verified it getting just 22 MPG. I am going to force the manufacturer to give me a new one if they don’t find a fix.”

Good luck with that one, Jeff.

The subject of diesel cars, so popular in Europe, has already been well covered. Their lack of popularity in the US results from very successful anti-diesel marketing strategies by the manufacturers, the US government, and artificially inflated diesel prices throughout America. Also, until recently, gas was so cheap in the States that designing diesel cars seemed somewhat pointless.

That situation has now changed, probably permanently, and it’s time the American public began lobbying for diesel-engined cars in the US.

Here’s why:

On a recent vacation in Britain my wife and I hired a Volkswagon Golf 1.9L TDI. It was one of the best vehicles in its class that I have ever driven. The 1.9 liter turbo-diesel engine (103 bhp) though slightly ‘clacky’ on tickover, behaved beautifully during all aspects of driving, with a real belt from the back of the seat when accelerating strongly. All Golfs have six airbags as standard, stability control and anti-lock brakes linked to the latest electronic stopping aids, while active front head restraints help to minimize whiplash in the event of a rear-end shunt. Electric front windows and door mirrors, remote central locking, a CD player and air-conditioning are also standard items. The car we hired had cruise control that was precise and immediate in operation.

Best of all, having driven over 1,500 miles in three weeks, the engine returned 56 miles per Imperial gallon, which adjusted for the smaller US gallon would work out at 49 mpg.

The car is apparently available in the United States, though, gas mileage is quoted as 42 mpg, which is still a healthy return.

The Golf is no Smart car, but it has many advantages over the Smart, purchase price, unfortunately, not being one of them.

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6 Replies to “Smart Car – Update No 3”

  1. I heard the first gen.(pre2008) smart cars that were imported from Europe to the US and was getting 45-50 mpg and could only be bought under a used car title. However the new 2008 smart car is getting half of that. How can that be possible? The answer is simple the engine is not the same. Diamler Chrysler chose to go with a “dumb down” made for American version rather than import them from Europe. I was told it was replaced by a Mitsubishi based engine. The best part is no one seems to care that they have been fooled.

  2. Stephen – the first Smart Cars were imported under license by a company in Santa Ana, California (G and K Auto) with only limited body mods, and none specified for the engine. You are right that the original Merc-designed engines were replaced on US models from January 2008 with the non-turbo Mitsubishi 3B21 engine. The car was also increased in overall size, so is basically a different car from its European counterpart.
    The question outstanding, of course, is why the car was altered to such an extent, given it was not found legally necessary with the earlier versions, and in particular, why was the power unit replaced, with an attendant loss in fuel economy?

  3. I have a 2009 Smart Pure. I have owned it for over two years and I drive it 35,000 miles per year. I check the gass mileage every time I fill up, and I can tell you that if you drive sensibly, your gas mileage averages 45-48 mpg

  4. Matt Globe – you can count yourself lucky. The EPA only rates it at 41 Hwy*


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