The Escape Pod (my smart fortwo)

Discussion in 'Mercedes-Benz' started by smart-za, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. smart-za

    smart-za Well-Known Member

    Hi everyone,

    Here are some photos of my 2002 smart fortwo, which my wife and I have named the Escape Pod, because it looks like a piece of a spacecraft that broke off and floated away. I'll follow this post with my thoughts and experiences on the smart.

    The smart in profile. It fits length ways between the lines of a normal parking space. The short wheelbase, firm suspension, and the fact your head is almost over the back axle make the smart's ride a bit choppy at high speed (110km/h +).

    The smart from the front. Not much to point out, except perhaps the skinny front tyres. Apparently the handling improves markedly if you fit wider front wheels and tyres (less understeer).
    The radiator cap is under one of those grills below the windscreen.

    From the side, it is clear that the smart is almost all door. The fuel filler cap is over the back right wheel - official tank capacity is 33l (8.7 gallons). The engine's air intake is an almost identical looking fitting over the back left wheel.

    My car is the pulse spec - it has alloy wheels and a glass roof. The roof is a nice touch, but it gets really hot sometimes.

    Inside, you can see the two pedals and the strange blobby design of the dashboard. The 2008 version has a much more grown-up looking interior, but I'm kind of fond of mine.

    The instrument panel is really simple. You get a speedometer with 140km/h max, marked in 10km/h increments until 60, and then 20km/h increments thereafter. Until 2007, fortwos were limited to 135km/h, but they raised the limiter to 145 in 2008.
    The LCD panel shows remaining fuel (not much in this photo), engine temperature, total mileage, trip mileage, and outside temperature. When I bought the car in August 2005, it had about 37000km on the clock (it would have been new in late 2002/early 2003). Since then, I've done another 39000km or so - an average of 1000km per month.

    Another photo of the interior - this one shows the radio and ventilation controls in a bit more detail. The blank panel under the radio is actually a very small cubby hole.

    The smart has a six speed manual gearbox, but no clutch pedal. All gear shifting is done by the computer, but you can ask the computer for a specific gear using the stick. If the computer thinks it knows better, it will ignore your requests.

    The boot/trunk is surprisingly spacious. It'll take a weekend's worth of clothing, or a week's groceries. Even a set of golf clubs on one occasion.

    The engine is a turbocharged and intercooled 600cc inline three. It will put out 45KW if you really force it, but it sounds pretty strained at those speeds, so I try to take it easy.

    I hope you like the photos. I'd be happy to post more if I missed a view you were hoping for.

  2. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    Very nice! Is the is a petrol or diesel version?
  3. smart-za

    smart-za Well-Known Member

    It's a petrol one - the diesel hasn't reached South Africa yet, I think because our fuel isn't clean enough.
  4. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    :) What fuel economy are you experiencing with the car?

    I thought about getting one of these instead of my Insight but found the mileage didn't match up to my expectations for such a small vehicle. I would also miss the clutch. :p

    Wayne (xcel -- the owner of the site) test drove a vehicle like yours and got very nice numbers out of it. I've yet to drive one but did enjoy sitting in one -- I'm impressed with the sitting volume!
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  5. smart-za

    smart-za Well-Known Member

    I get about 5.5l/100km mostly, with a worst of about 6l/100km. Best tank was 4.7l/100km on a long trip.

    I'll write more about my commute later, but I do fairly low distances each day (8km to work), so some days the car doesn't even warm up completely.

    I would agree that the fuel economy is not as amazing as you would expect from such a small car. One reason might be that the smart wasn't originally designed to be a fuel-saver - it was just supposed to be a city car, good for parking and narrow roads.

    I'm still marshaling my thoughts on how to hypermile the smart. No clutch, no rev counter, no FE display make some of the techniques I'm reading about a little difficult.
  6. smart-za

    smart-za Well-Known Member

    OK - here goes with general thoughts on the smart. I plan to add info to this post as it comes to mind, so it might change.

    My smart was one of the first to arrive in South Africa - a 2002 model (600cc petrol, pulse spec). For a short time, the only way to drive a smart in the country was to rent it from one of the major car rental companies - I did so, and loved it. It made me grin from ear to ear then, and it still does now.
    I bought it second hand - it was two and a half years old, with 37000km on the clock. New, smarts are considered quite expensive here, but the depreciation in the first few years quickly sorts out that problem, and I got mine for quite a good price, I think.
    My previous car was a Fiat Uno, so I was already used to driving slowly. While the latest 2008 smarts are pretty nippy, mine works best if you don't expect fireball performance.

    The 2002 smart has a 600cc turbocharged engine - far smaller than any other modern car except the Japanese kei cars. In 2003, the engine was bumped up to 700cc, and again in 2008 to one litre.
    The gearbox is a six speed computer-controlled manual box, and it is slooow. Pulling away from a standstill takes ages, especially if you are pointed uphill, and changing gears is slow enough that the turbo has to catch its breath after each change. All this means that acceleration is disappointing if you are into that kind of thing. On the plus side, the gear box is a proper manual, so you don't have the losses associated with a torque converter, and you can use engine braking quite easily.
    Don't let these comments put you off buying a more recent smart. I test drove a 2008 pulse the other day, and it launches hard enough that I had to hold back to avoid rear-ending the car ahead of me.
    A top speed of 135km/h is imposed by the computer, but you wouldn't really want to go faster than that anyway, because the smart tends to get blown around by crosswinds if you drive fast.
    According to EU tests, fuel economy is 6l/100km in the city, and 4.3l/100km on the highway. That works out to something like 118g/km of CO2. The EPA didn't test this model, but the 2008 one gets similar numbers (which are soon to improve when stop/start arrives).
    I'm sorry to say that I have never seen 4.3l/100km in my car. Most of my driving is around town, where I get about 5.5l/100km, 6 at the worst. I made one long trip (500km each way) in my smart, and got 4.7l/100km on the return leg. Didn't enjoy the trip though, because of the choppy ride and tendency to get blown around. I guess if one were to take it easy and drive at ~90km/h instead of 120, fuel economy and stress levels would both improve. :)

    Other characteristics
    Handling in the smart doesn't really inspire me to treat the road as my race track. The skinny front tyres seem to slide sideways easily, and bumps will unsettle the car in corners if you take them too fast. Think of a barstool compared to a normal chair to get an idea of the handling differences.
    Although the smart is very small, most of its space is available for the two passengers to use. I'm six foot two, and I almost can't reach the pedals if I slide the driver's seat all the way back. Luggage space is also better than some small cars, like the Yaris.

    Hypermiling potential
    Here's my plan for improving my mileage in the smart:
    1. Drive slowly, accelerate gently - already doing the first point, but could be better at the second
    2. Drive without brakes - I've been trying to avoid my brakes for a while now, but Joburg's topography and crappy traffic lights seem to be conspiring against me. :)
    3. Coast in neutral with engine on - my version of pulse and glide - the smart can't be started if it is rolling, so this will have to do. Recommendations on target speeds for pulse would be much appreciated.
    4. Forced auto stop - but only when I know I'll be able to come to a complete stop.
    5. Face-out parking - doing this already for safety reasons

    Obstacles to hypermiling the smart
    1. Traffic lights in Joburg are stupid, stupid, stupid. They aren't timed, they go red for no reason, and they break whenever it rains.
    2. It gets pretty hot here sometimes, so aircon is unavoidable on some trips, especially if my wife is in the car.
    3. As far as I can tell, the smart's engine cannot be started while the car is in motion. This makes engine-off P&G impossible.
    4. Lack of rev counter and fuel-consumption display is a handicap.

    Any ideas you might have on hypermiling my smart would be greatly appreciated. I'll keep everyone posted on how it goes with my efforts.

  7. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    You are doing well for short trips!

    Looks like your '02 smart fortwo may not be compatible with the ScanGauge but I would check with Linear Logic to be sure. You ought to be able to use either the SuperMID (built by our very own member named Yoshi!) or the MPGuino, though. Both require a little wiring but should work for your vehicle.

    You can still use NICE-ON, DWL, DWB, and Wayne did find that you can use FAS... just be careful not to run the 12V down too low!

    (Looks like you posted before I finished -- check out the review Wayne did for more ideas, though: CleanMPG Previews the 2008 SMART Fortwo)
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2008
  8. Mike T

    Mike T smart car dummy

    Nice car.

    Mine is a 2005 model cdi, 799 cc direct injection.

    I have the strikeline wheels on it - 5 inches wide on the front with 175/55-15 tires and 6.5 inches wide on the rear with 195/50-15 tires. They are OEM smart wheels and tires and believe me, they make ALL the difference in the world in improving the car's roadholding and stability in wind. The fuel economy penalty is no more than 0.1 to 0.2 L/100 km. It is a price worth paying. HIGHLY recommended!

    Right now, mine is on winter tires (skinny Hankook IceBears on the same wheels your car has, sportlines) and the handling is nowhere near as good, except on snow such as we have now, when the summer/wide tires would be awful.

    The cdi is retuned for Canada, with a richer mixture than the EU version, but even so, my lifetime fuel economy over 109,000 km is 3.92 L/100 km. Under 3 is possible on trips, with careful but not obsessive driving.

    I love the car and will never sell mine, which is a cabriolet.

    Since this photo was taken, the car has had the European front fenders added, which got rid of the large round side marker lights (as my avatar shows).
  9. smart-za

    smart-za Well-Known Member

    Well, I just added my first tank to the database, and it's not a pretty sight. I got 6.3l/100km, which is slightly worse than the 6.2l/100km the smart is supposed to get around town.

    I blame short trips, city driving, and several bouts of full-blast A/C.

    Wish me luck - next tank I'll be trying all the hypermiling I can get: engine-on-coasting, FAS-at-stops, driving-without-brakes, and parking-while-thinking. (Scangauge will come in the next few months)

    Fellow smart drivers: any other ideas?
  10. jkp1187

    jkp1187 Well-Known Member

    Cute! I like the color scheme.

    Can you fit a small motor scooter in the back perhaps? Then you could have an escape vehicle for your escape pod. :D
  11. smart-za

    smart-za Well-Known Member

    A folding motor scooter perhaps - it would have to get down to about golf-bag-sized.
  12. Harold

    Harold Well-Known Member

    Looks like a fun car! I would love to have one ! I would ,but I can't part with my Miata. Anyway great pictures. H:D
  13. drimportracing

    drimportracing Pizza driver: 61,000+ deliveries

    My Geo Metro is a monster truck in comparison! If your Smart4two had a manual 5 speed with a clutch and appropriate gearing it would be a real mileage contender with it's 600cc of raw power.

    I had to laugh when you described the stop lights. I spend so many hours a week timing lights I would go crazy with your dilemma. Best of luck. Thanks for the pics. - Dale

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