Smart Cars and Their Gas Mileage
You may have noticed a change at some of your local car dealerships lately. You've seen some funny looking small cars on their lots! Reminiscent of the '70s oil crisis?
These cars get excellent gas mileage at around 40 MPG, and they weigh 700 pounds less than almost any other American car. They're also cheap! At $12,000, almost anyone can afford a new one.
So, since the Smart Car ForTwo has a fuel tank capacity (including a 1.3 gallon reserve) of 8.7 gallons, and the Smart Car Gas Mileage (MPG) is around 40 miles per gallon, you can squeeze out about 350 miles before your next petrol visit (trying to sound "British"). The Smart Car ForTwo's speed is regulated, and capped at about 90 miles per hour (MPH). If you're looking to race your neighbor, acceleration is guaged at 0-60 in about 12.8 seconds; faster than my Hyundai was in my High School years, but probably slower than my (hand-me-down) 1976 Ford Granada Ghia 302 4-door sedan (am I dating myself?)
Its engine displacement is 1 liter, and it has three cylinders. If you're not impressed, it does have four valves per cylinder! The Smart Car ForTwo is rated at about 70 HP, and has 68 lb ft of torque.
Fuel-injected, of course, but don't put regular 87 octane in this baby. You'll need to pay extra to use the manufacturer's recommended (mandated?) minimum of 91 octane. Does that wipe out the savings you get from the fuel efficiency? Don't forget to take that into consideration when forking over your precious money over to the dealer. It may cost more in the long run to buy and operate a ForTwo than keeping your current vehicle.
It takes about 3.5 quarts of oil, including the filter. It looks like it has five "fun automated manual" gear transmission, however! You can put the Smart Car ForTwo's transmission in fully automatic, or you can use the plus/minus gate on the gearshift.
From what I understand, the "fully automatic" mode gives the passenger (notice, "passenger" is only singular in a "ForTwo") and driver quite the experience. It's a bit jerky, is what I'm trying to say. I've read one article that says, “What that means is that you drive the ForTwo like you would a regular automatic, but the transmission lurches through gear changes with the awkwardness of a 15-year-old learning stick on his brother's Corolla.” Awesome description!
Dealer's Blue Smart Car
But Is it Safe?
Actually, they're among the safest cars on the road in the compact category. Now, how safe is the "compact category"? It's always better to be bigger in an accident. If one of these smart cars goes headlong into a Hummer, the Hummer's going to win. It's the price you pay for having all that protection. The gas mileage, the insurance, the cost of the vehicle itself, the maintenance, the cost to fix it were it in an accident, etc.
So, are you better off buying a Smart Car over keeping your 1998 V8? Well, it depends on your goals. If it's to try to save the environment, don't forget that making a Smart Car still costs the environment quite a bit in time, energy, and raw materials: resources that keeping your old vehicle wouldn't consume. It costs the environment more in resources for you to buy a brand new Smart Car than the amount of gas you'll save by switching. If you're thinking that you'll just buy a used one (since it was already made, you're not impacting the environment), ask yourself if you would really want a used Smart Car. It's more of a disposable car (which is worse for the environment!).
Interior of a Smart Car: Driver's Side
The interior of a Smart Car is cozy and comfortable. A lot of thought went into the design of the Smart Car for spacious seating leg, head, and cargo room. There is soft padding on the pillars and ceiling.
The cargo area is around 12 cubic feet if you stack it all the way to the top; a little more than half that if you stack to the belt line.
Improve Your Own Gas Mileage
What are some ways to avoid dropping twelve grand on a car you might not want to be caught dead in? (No pun intended.)
Well, start by improving your own gas mileage! Try the following steps to improve your gas mileage, in your old car or your new one:
List Of Suggestions to Improve Your MPG
- Increase your car's tire pressure (up to maximum manufacturer's recommendation)
- Get your alignment checked (and balanced while you're there)
- Don't buy heavily treaded tires (if you needed to change your tires)
- If you do buy new tires, splurge and get the metal valve stems
- Change your air filter
- Get a high performance (reusable/washable) air filter
- Reduce wind resistance (install truck bed "tonneau" covers)
- Reduce weight in your vehicle
- Drive less aggressively
- Change your oil
Mileage: The Devil's in the Details
So, the number one and easiest/cheapest way to increase any car's gas mileage, Smart Car or not, is to check your air pressure. On the door frame of most vehicles, there's a sticker that tells you the recommended air pressure. Choose the higher number unless you're driving from a cold environment to a much hotter one. A higher-pressure tire makes your engine work less. If you're trying to navigate a beach or a muddy road, reduce your tire pressure, but if you're trying to navigate a highway, higher tire pressures are the way to go.
Again with the tires, make sure your alignment is properly checked. An improper alignment makes your engine work harder, and ruins your tires! A double-whammy.
The third tire mileage factor is the amount of tire tread. Brand new tires have a lot of tread, and this is a good thing for safety. However, unless you're going muddin', don't purposefully get heavily treaded tires. The bigger the tire, the more this is a factor in your gas mileage.
Also, if you've decided you need new tires, pay the extra money for the metal valve stems. I'm not sure why, but I opted for this extra feature, and my tires seem to hold the same pressure from month to month, whereas before, they would slowly deflate over time.
Change your air filter. If your air filter is clogged, the engine needs to use more gas to compensate. Giving your engine lots of air is a big plus.
Use a high-performance air filter. A lot of them are washable and last for tens of thousands of miles (before they need cleaning even). The fabric and/or foam that they use for these performance air filters allow more air to pass through them than the paper air filters. And, as previously mentioned, the more air the better for engines.
Your vehicle as you bought it is probably about as air flow efficient as you're going to get it. A Smart Car's wind resistance for gas miliage is designed for maximum mpg. Car and truck manufacturers spend money putting your car in wind tunnels to see how it'll perform. However, if you've added accessories to your vehicle, or own a truck with a bed, you may consider trying to mitigate the air resistance these items generate. There are bed covers that snap onto the bed of your truck and helps the air flow. Don't try to just drop the tailgate, as this actually makes your gas mileage worse, and is a safety factor (as well as attracting possible tailgate damage). Believe it or not, the bed of your truck creates its own circular pattern of air that actually makes the truck bed less wind resistant (a good thing). However, a truck bed cover eliminates this problem altogether.
Reduce the weight in your vehicle. If you're carrying tools, water jugs, or anything else that weighs 50 pounds or more and that you don't need every day, you might want to consider keeping those things in your garage or shed. Don't forget, a Smar Cart can really only accommodate around 500 pounds, so any extra weight will not only eat up your gas, but make it work harder and keep it from accelerating as quickly.
Drive less aggressively. A heavy foot is often the cause of accidents as well as wear and tear on your vehicle and engine, and a Smart Car's gas mileage is no different. It also consumes an enormous amount of gas! Just ask anyone who has owned a high performance vehicle or truck/SUV owner. If they punch the gas pedal and try to burn rubber, a lot of times they can see the gas gauge move before their very eyes!
Slow down! If you drive over 60, you may be using more gas than you need to. The faster a car goes, the more wind resistance it creates. It's actually exponentially more air resistance. You may think that you go more miles in a shorter period of time, and thus use less gas, but it doesn't work like that, only because of the air resistance.
Change your oil. You should be doing this anyway for many different reasons, but, again, the harder your engine has to work to get you wherever you want to go, the more gas it will consume, and dirty gunked up oil doesn't help your engine's efficiency (or its longevity). Also, use the manufacturer's recommended weighted oil. A thicker oil than you need also makes your engine work harder, translating into more gas consumption.