Smart cars rarely leave you feeling neutral. You either get them, or don’t. They’re intriguing, small, highly maneuverable, gas frugal and just plain funky looking. What we might not know about this little car is that it dates back to the late 1980s when it made its introduction on European roads.
A Little European Comes To The U.S.. When the first Smart cars hit our U.S. roads, they turned a lot of heads. Orange County families, eager to show a greener face and drive something different flocked to them. It became a common site on the busy congested 405 highway to see these little two-seaters buzzing by. They were small, practical and gas friendly for its time.
Over time they evolved very little, shedding the top to offer a somewhat convertible version. It even now has an electric version, thanks to the Penske group responsible for its sale. I test drove it and still find it to be a good little commuter, yes, even on highways.
How Much? You can now lease the 2012 Smart Pure Coupe for $99 a month with a $999 down payment. The 2012 passion coupe can be leased for $169 per month for 36 months, with $999 down and the 2012 passion cabriolet for $199 per month for 36 months, with $999 down. All can be bought with 0-60 month 0.0% APR. The electric version can be leased for around under $600 a month and sold for about $29,000, roughly.
What’s The Difference? The difference between the different types are that the Pure Coupe starts off at 12,490 with an estimated 38 MPG highway driving. The Passion Coupe adds a panorama roof, alloy wheels, air conditioning with climate control, and 3-spoke leather sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, power windows, electric and heated side mirrors, and AM/FM radio with CD player. It can be bought for $14,690, same gas mileage. And finally the Passion Cabriolet takes it top off starting at $17,690, also same mileage. All use the smartshift® Transmission, a 5-speed automated manual that can be used either manually or in automatic mode. The electric Smart uses a 30 kW electric motor powered by a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that should get you close to 100 miles and takes 3 and ½ hours to give the battery 80% capacity on a 220V. It takes less than eight hours for a full charge it.
The Smart car phenomenon is still happening. If the base models leave you feeling blah, there are plenty of specialized performance and customized shops that will breath new life into your two seater. I’ve even seen a Smart Car powered with a highly tuned Suzuki engines that would put to shame any BMW M3. Now for under $1000 down and under $100 you can have a frugal commuter, although the electric Smart car looks more economical long term, given the right home setup.