Are smart Cars Daimler’s Little Engines That Could?

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Sure, Daimler’s smart “fortwo” (an unfortunate appellation that we think begs to be misprounounced “FOR-twoh,” which has a certain Tagalog flair) is fuel efficient, but would Americans swap their SUVs for a car that, at 8.8 feet long, makes the Mini Cooper look lanky? Apparently, yes. Between its January launch and July 31, Daimler sold an impressive 13,958 smart fortwos, the company tells us. But what’s it like to be behind the wheel? Both BusinessWeek and Slate recently dispatched writers to evaluate the wee wonders, although neither publication could bring itself to go along with smart’s perpetually lowercased branding. For these two reviewers, the fortwo was easier to extol in theory than in practice:

I got into the little runabout and immediately felt I was in a car priced at about $10,000 and built in some Eastern European factory devoid of modern robotics. It feels a bit like a kit car, one my Dad and I might have built in the driveway. —David Kiley, BusinessWeek

[An]other reason to buy a Fortwo is if you enjoy being stared at. I personally haven’t been ogled this much on the road since I toured a friend’s neighborhood in his restored Model T. People pointed at the Fortwo as I went by—smiling, waving, giving me the thumbs-up….When I pulled up next to a corner filled with teen girls, one laughed and shouted, “It looks like a shopping cart!” —Seth Stevenson, Slate