As regular readers know, we've never been big fans of the Smart ForTwo minicar. It's not that we dislike small two-seaters; in fact, we think they're cool (unlike most U.S. car buyers, we should add).
No, our problems with the Smart stem from its unpleasant driving quality--the slamming shifts from its automatic manual gearbox that pitch the ForTwo back and forth on its short wheelbase--and fuel economy not on a par with its extremely small size. It's bad enough, in fact, that we named it one of our Least Favorite Green Cars.
Now a survey from CNW Research says that fewer than one in 10 current Smart owners--a mere 8.1 percent--would buy another. And those are owners from New York City, perhaps the most appropriate place in the U.S. to own a Smart ForTwo.
Just for comparison, the next lowest model was the thoroughly sub-par Chrysler Sebring--at a far better rate of 37 percent, or more than one in three.
2011 Smart electric drive - first drive
The little two-seater has several factors working against it right now. Not only is the driving experience bad, but tiny two-seaters are undeniably impractical--the Smart doesn't have much luggage space, either--and the novelty of the car has now worn off.
Plus, fuel prices have stayed low recently, so it's not saving owners much money on running costs.
And Smart doesn't have much new to offer this year, meaning it has to soldier on with a basic design that's now more than 10 years old. A brand-new ForTwo isn't likely to arrive until around 2013 or 2014.
And the 2011 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive will only be sold in tiny numbers, with many of the all-electric cars going to fleets rather than retail buyers.
Meanwhile, the model lineup for 2011 stays the same: a base two-door, a high-level two-door, and a high-level Cabriolet with a roll-back cloth roof. About the only news lately has been the addition of optional plastic wraps that add graphic patterns to the body panels of any Smart.
Smart Expressions vinyl-wrap option - plaid pattern
Frankly, we hope Smart can get its mojo back and survive in the U.S. market. We're all for more alternative car types, and we devoutly wish the Smart were simply a better car.
But in our darker moments, we worry that it will end up as the modern-day equivalent of the Nash Metropolitan: cute, weird ... and loved only by a few strange souls.