mercredi 14 mai 2008

Rolling in my Smart Car

Last weekend we had yet another long weekend with spectacular weather. Maki and I decided to rent a car and take a trip to the countryside. Since we hadn’t made any hotel reservations, we were initially uncertain as to whether to take the whole weekend or to make two day trips, possibly inviting friends along on one of them.

Well, our hands were forced as far as inviting friends out with us because when I arrived at the car-rental agency I was given the keys to a nice-and-cozy Smart for two:

No idea what’s up with the Spanish number plates, but my hat’s off to whoever drove that thing over from Spain.

First observation: the car has pretty much everything it needs to have, but in miniature. Little a/c console, little radio, little glove box, little dashboard. Ironically, the only exception is the oversized ashtray, with cigarette lighter included:

You know you’re in Europe when…

Even the gearbox is tiny, and not very intuitive. Unusually for Europe, it has automatic transmission. I think they just couldn’t manage to fit a manual gearbox. The gearbox has only three settings: forward, neutral and reverse. Forward can be set to fully automatic or to “manual” automatic, which requires shifting gears by pushing the lever forward:

Unfortunately, the “manual” setting is default. To go into full automatic mode, you have to press a small button on the lever. I occasionally forgot and found myself driving around in first gear for prolonged periods. When on the fully automatic setting, I found that gear changes were very jerky.

Asides from that, the car drives fairly well. We got on the motorway and were driving at pretty good speeds, even passing some larger cars. It “feels” like a larger car when driving on the highway: unless the wind is blowing hard, in which case you have to struggle a little to keep it on course.

When we got back to Paris on Monday, we decided to drive out to the DIY store to buy some large pots and plants for our balcony. Amazingly we managed to fit our two selves plus a bunch of stuff in the little Smart. Too bad we didn’t take the camera with us, that would have been a funny picture.

By far and away the best thing about the Smart is that we didn’t have to search long for street parking in our neighborhood when we got back home (as we normally have to do when we drive) because you can easily fit into the tiniest of spaces left between parked cars. You can actually fit two smart cars into the space you would need for one “normal” car.

Well, that's my inner gearhead vented for a while now.

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