Mr. Wren was in a car accident about a month ago. He was, thankfully, unhurt, but his 1994 Toyota pickup was totaled. And so, with a sadly-small check from the other driver’s insurance company (she was the at-fault driver) burning a hole in his pocket, we headed out to look at cars.
The check wouldn’t cover the cost of another car. But it would help. At the very least, it would serve as a sizeable down-payment.
I’d heard a bit about the new Smart4Two, pictured in the previous post, and was very curious about it. This little car has proven very popular in Europe over the last 10 years, and finally they’re selling it here in the USA. Now I have to admit, I love little cars. I always loved the VW Bug, and I love the new one, too. I was absolutely charmed by the Mini Cooper when I lived in Europe, and I was delighted when BMW started making them here. And then the Smart made its way across the Water. I was itching to see this car.
It’s made by Mercedes Benz. Fits two people only, but they can be two 6-foot-3-inch people. The engine is mostly in the back. There’s enough space behind the seats for maybe five paper sacks of groceries. The speedometer goes to 100 mph, but the engine’s governor limits it to 90 mph. The price is low, considering the fact that most people these days spend $20K and up (and up and up) for cars without blinking an eyelash. The Smarts are all in the teens. And it has some serious safety features for a car so incredibly tiny.
So we went to look. Mr. Wren was as intrigued as I was. We drove one. It was fun. You don’t feel like you’re driving a toy car. It feels nicely solid. For just three cylinders, it’s a peppy little fella. It has automatic transmission, but it’s actually manual transmission without the clutch pedal. I don’t know how they did that, really, but there’s a pause between each gear as the car switches, just like there’d be if the driver was doing the pedal-and-shift work.
That didn’t bother me, though it was a little disconcerting. I liked the Smart4Two. I could get used to it.
It did bother Mr. Wren, though. He felt that “hesitation” meant that there was really something “wrong” with the transmission. I don’t know about that. But more, he didn’t like that the Smart car actually produces more greenhouse gases than an average non-Smart car, or that it burns more oil, or that it needs high-octane unleaded gas, the most expensive at the pumps, to run well. The mileage it gets isn’t that eye-popping: Just 31mpg city, and 44mpg highway, so we wouldn’t really make up for the higher pump price in longer trips between gas stops. One of the new hybrids would run circles around the Smart in the mpg game, but that hardly mattered to us, since we can’t begin to afford a hybrid anyway.
Finally, neither of us liked that the wait to get a Smart car is about a year. We could have “reserved” one, and then got ourselves put on a list for when someone else “reserved” one and changed their mind, thereby getting us the car a little quicker than a year, but really, we need a car now.
So we didn’t get a Smart4Two. Instead we smiled at the sales guy (he looked like he was in the 10th grade), went and treated ourselves to Chinese for lunch. Then we started the longggg drive back up the mountain home. I’ll admit I was a little dejected. I really wanted the Smart car to be a great car, and I’d really wanted to drive one home. I’d been entertaining fantasies about driving it around and having people stop me to ask about my ultra-cool little eco-friendly car. Humph.
Since the afternoon was young, we decided to stop and check out Subarus on our way home. Saw a Kia dealership near the Subaru place. Mr. Wren said he’d heard Kia offered a great warranty deal – 10 years or 10,000 miles. So we stopped there first, curious.
I could ramble on and on, but we ended up getting a sedate, economical and rather pretty 2007 Kia Spectra with 48 miles on the odometer. Black as wet India ink. Paid cash, and boy, did I want a cigarette after writing that check! Yeow! But it really didn’t cost any more than the Smart4Two, and there’s quite a lot more car for the money in the Kia. More space, of course – it has an actual back seat – and a nice, deep trunk. It has front wheel drive, which will help when it snows. And while this little Kia can’t compete with the Smart for mileage -- it gets 25mpg city, 34mpg highway – it happily drinks regular unleaded gas. So I think that evens them out.
Best of all, this is the first new car I’ve had in, oh, 20 years. It has some of the cool new bells and whistles new cars have, like a CD player in the dash, and airbags, and actual built-in cupholders and even a plug-in for an MP3 player and stuff. It has a remote control door lock thingy. There’s even a special hiding place for sunglasses up above the rear view mirror. And of course, our Kia smells new.
And I don’t want to pet it.