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Great Smart Car Road Trip: Will It Make It Up the Hill?

 

Smart Car Parked In San Francisco

Smart Car Parked In San Francisco

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Previously, I talked about the 2009 Smart ForTwo Passion Cabriolet and the mpg performance that I experienced on this 850+ mile road trip (more here). After filling up in Wild Horse, California, we trekked the rest of the way up to San Francisco. Since, it was just about lunchtime, I decided that heading over to Columbus Avenue would be the perfect lunch spot, especially with all the great Italian restaurants to pick from. The challenge of course with this is parking—did I mention it was lunchtime?

Smart Car In San Francisco

Smart Car In San Francisco

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Now by this point my companion and I had traveled some 430 miles in the little Smart car and both of us were impressed by how well it handled the trip. Sure it was a little noisy, but what small, inexpensive cabriolet (that is convertible in layman terms) isn’t a touch on the loud side. The thing I was a little concerned about is whether the 70 hp and 68 foot-pounds of torque would be enough to get us up and over the hills in San Francisco. If you haven’t been to this great city by the bay, then you must drop everything you are doing, rent a small car and zoom over the hills that have been the fascination of chase-scene producers for decades. Just watch out for those trolleys because they can’t stop on a dime.

As far as parking goes, I feel like the Smart car has mixed results. Why do I say mixed? The trick with the Smart car is that you need to be hunting for a parking space where there aren’t pre-marked spaces, otherwise you could park just as easily with a Fiesta or Versa sized car. However, we found a free spot above Columbus Avenue on a ridiculous hill that only a Smart car could fit in and the picture above proves it. This type of unregulated inner city parking is where the Smart car really shines and I can think of many places in my home-base of Denver where this type of size and agility would come in very handy on a Friday night. So as I said, it is a mixed review, but if you need to park in tight places, the Smart is definitely the car to drive.

As for the hills; I decided to go over the to Geary on Divisidero, which for those unfamiliar, requires going over a very steep hill. If I were driving a Town Car I have no idea how you would see what was coming on the cross-streets. All that said, I had to make a complete stop at the top of one of the inclines. So it turns out that the 68 foot-pounds of torque could really use a boost. Since the Smart has a semi-automatic transmission it exhibited some roll back on the hill—not something you expect when there is no clutch pedal. The good news is a judicious application of the accelerator did get us up and over the hill.

Bottom line—the Smart was a pleasant car to drive in the city, especially with the sunshine and tourists taking our picture as we made our way down Lombard Street. However, unless you do a lot of parallel parking, you might opt to have a little more space. Tune in next time for our last installment of the Great Smart Car Road Trip where we discover how sporty the Smart is in the hills of Topanga Canyon.



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