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SO, WHAT IS THE APPEAL of this thing? I suspect it’s of a piece with what I like to call hybrid fever. There is a segment of the population that likes to wear their green on their sleeves — showy environmentalism rather than plain Jane common sense.
It’s the reason why people spend several thousand dollars more to buy a hybrid over an otherwise equivalent standard car. They probably realize they’re not saving any money (and the “environmental cost” of hybrids is actually pretty high when you take into account the totality — raw materials, manufacturing/disposal costs, etc.), but these folks like to present a public display of their politically correct values whenever they drive. A Prius does that; an older Corolla doesn’t.
If you doubt the power of image over actuality, consider the Honda Civic hybrid. Though very similar to the Toyota Prius in terms of function, it looked like an ordinary Civic — so its owner was unable to enjoy the image boost of driving an obvious hybrid. It was a sales flop — while the Prius has sold gangbusters.
Likewise, the Smart car isn’t about being smart. It’s about showing how cool/trendy — and politically correct — you are.
A genuinely smart Smart car would be a minimalist subcompact that weighs about 1,800 lbs., gets 55 mpg or better via a modern turbo-diesel engine — and which has a base price of around $11,000. Unfortunately, no such car is currently available.
Which shows just how smart we really are.