How safe is a Smart Car on the open highway?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

We're getting a new Smart Car dealership in town, and I was wondering if you could tell me what you think about it? On the surface, if you can live with a two-seater, it sounds good: great mileage, safe and cheap. -- Aaron

RAY: We agree with "great mileage" and "cheap," Aaron. I'm not so sure about "safe."

TOM: Yeah. If you do nothing but "around-town" driving, it's probably safe enough. But I don't think I'd want to drive a Smart on the highway unless I first covered the seats with plastic and put on my brown pants.

RAY: We haven't test-driven a Smart yet, but we've driven Miatas and Minis. And when you're going 65 miles an hour right next to a semi, "safe" is not the first feeling that comes to mind.

TOM: So before you buy one, try it yourself. When you go for a test drive, tell the salesman you want to take it out on the highway, and then try weaving in between some semis and F-350 pickup trucks.

RAY: If the salesman isn't covering his eyes and crying for his mommy by then, you may be onto something.

TOM: We actually love little, fuel-efficient cars. And if you live in a city or do mostly stop-and-go suburban driving, this could be a great car. It probably gets spectacular gas mileage, and you can park in all those spaces that other cars can't quite fit into.

RAY: And someday, if there comes a time when everybody is driving more reasonably sized cars, we might consider this a safe alternative for all-around transportation. But in a high-speed crash with some killer vehicle like a Lincoln Navigator? I don't think you'd stand a chance, Aaron.

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