June 2009


Prius vs. Prius:  Show me the MPG

by The Car Family

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

Is the new Prius worth the extra $2000 over the excellent previous model? Absolutely. The new Prius is brilliant. That is if you are not looking for a sports car or one that moves you with passion. In other words, the new Prius is a compact sedan where virtue lies in its frugality, not in its funality. It handles better, gets superior fuel mileage, has more useful interior space and more storage areas.

However:

Braking in the new Prius is good, but the brake feel is wooden and non-linear. This is due to the regeneration energy for the battery pack that is created while braking.

50 miles plus per gallon

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The two part rear window, one angled and the other straight, make using the rear view mirrors night position setting of questionable value. The window divider and the different glass tinting make it difficult to ascertain the distance of vehicles following the Prius. We found it better not to use the night vision setting.

50 miles per gallon

The cupholders are too shallow and too small to hold larger cups.

50 miles per gallon

The tires follow groves in the highway and cause a continuing shuttering that can be easily felt through the steering wheel. The tires are also a bit noisy and their grip in the wet is just adequate.

50 miles per gallon

The huge front window lets in a great deal of the sun’s heat and when combined with the large rear window provide a challenge for the air-conditioning, which takes away from the gas mileage.

50 miles per gallon

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The Prius has three buttons, one that enables the vehicle to run just on battery power up to about 20 mph under certain conditions. We never were able to get it to go much above 10 mpg. It requires a feather touch.

50 miles per gallon

The Prius has three buttons, one that enables the vehicle to choose its own best gas mileage setting. Why does it need this button when it automatically selects it?

50 miles per gallon

The Prius has a power button that combines both the gas engine’s power and the electric motor’s output to provide a burst of acceleration when needed. This is fine for pulling onto freeways, but when you need power in a hurry such as in an avoidance maneuver, who has time to find the button?

50 miles per gallon

The Prius has heated seats, but the buttons to activate them are below the dash in a hollowed out area. They are difficult to reach, to say the least, and although the pass through that was created offers a useful storage area, a sharp turn can bring anything you place there tumbling out close to the accelerator pedal.

50 mpg

The options can be expensive. Indeed, if you want the LED headlights you have to buy the nearly $29,000 version of the Prius to get them. You can’t get the larger, 17 inch tires, on the base model.

50 mpg

50 miles per gallon

The console mounted shift lever is easy to reach, but lacks significant feel and so you can easily miss the gear you want to reach. The Prius does have a park button on the center console and there is also a parking niche for the shifter. It can become confusing at first.

50 miles per gallon

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The small readouts located just under the front windshield are difficult to read and the font is small. In fact, all of the fonts are too small.

50 miles per gallon

The rear seats fold flat, they have a 60-40 split, but you need to remove the headrests first or move the front seats forward.

50 miles per gallon.

The interior lighting is just adequate and not good in back.

50 miles per gallon

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The base seats in the Prius don’t offer enough lumbar support and are difficult to adjust, despite a steering wheel that both tilts and telescopes.

50 miles per gallon

The radio reception is weak and the stereo sound is just average.

50 miles per gallon

The gas mileage readout is always optimistic and the miles to empty is pessimistic.

50 miles per gallon

The engine makes a mournful, muted attempt to roar when asked for full power.

50 miles per gallon

The power button, that combines the power of the electric motors and the gasoline engine is addicting. It feels like the hand of god pushing you past other vehicles or onto freeways. You can easily get to 60 mph in under ten seconds. There is also a gear for holding the car in gear for mountain driving. You can also beg the dealer to disconnect the beeping sound every time you put the car in reverse (can you say garbage truck backing-up warning?) and the dash readouts cast a reflection in the side glass.

50 miles per gallon

On a windy day the Prius’ large slab sides can create a sail effect   making it important to keep both hands on the wheel.

50 miles per gallon.

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The front spoiler is very low and it can easily hit the pavement on even minor inclines. Approach these with caution. Trust us.

50 miles per gallon.

Mom’s view: Love it.

Dad’s view: Let’s buy it.

Working woman’s view: Easy to park and live with/

Young working male’s view: Certainly not a babe magnet. Well, maybe in black with chrome wheels.

Consensus: Difficult to ignore 50 miles per gallon.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

Here is a comparison of the 2010 versus the 2009 Toyota Prius.

2010                                    2009

Price $23,500             $20,900

Turning Radius 34.2 ft. 34.1 ft.

Mileage City 51/48 mpg. 48/45 mpg.

Length 175.6 in. 175 in.

Width 68.7 in. 67.9 in.

Height 58.7 in. 58.7 in.

Weight 3042 lbs. 2932 lbs.

Front Headroom 38.6 in. 39.1 in.

Rear Headroom 37.6 in. 37.3 in.

Front Hip Room 52.7 in. 51 in.

Front Leg Room 42.5 in. 41.9 in.

Rear Leg Room 36 in. 38.6 in.

Cargo Room 21.6 cu. ft. 14.4 cu. ft.

Engine size 1.8 liters 1.5 liters

Total Horsepower 134 hp 1 110 hp

Electric Output (Kilowatts) 60 50

Horsepower (Gas Motor) 98 hp 76 hp

Torque (Gas Motor) 105 ft-lbs. 82 ft-lbs

Tires P195/65R15 P185/65R15 86
Wheels alloy 15 x 6.0 in. 15 x 5.5 in. e

Brakes – Front ventilated disc ventilated disc

Brakes – Rear disc drum

CD In-Dash 6 CD player single CD player

Total Number of Speakers Eight Six

Source Edmunds.Com

Sunblock vs. Sunscreen: Best Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer

by Alan Haskvitz

http://www.reacheverychild.com/alan.html

Americans spend well over $500 million each year on sunscreen products that may not be the proper type or be used properly. Sadly, the result is that there are about 69,000 new cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, every year and a reported 8,650 deaths. Especially at risk are those under 30 where melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in this age bracket.

The causes of the continued rise in skin cancer cases is especially worrisome since it can be avoided with some commonsense strategies. For example, knowing what sunscreen and sunblock do and the need for it to be applied and reapplied even on overcast days as well as wearing long sleeve shirts and pants and wide brimmed hats. A tee shirt only provides the equivalent of a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 5 rating and if it is wet even less. Higher SPF numbers indicate more protection.

The main differences between sunscreen and sunblock is that the former acts as a filter that allows a limited range of ultraviolet (UV) light to be absorbed into the skin depending on the SPF number, while the latter reflects UVA and UVB rays and, as its name implies, blocks them from the skin. Sunblocks are frequently thick, opaque, and usually white in color. It is crucial to note that many lotions contain both a sunblock and a sunscreen so read the label carefully. It is also very important to check the expiration date of the lotion. Regardless of what protection you select it is essential that it is used on a regular basis and this is equally significant for young children. Since ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin they can alter the structure of the skin cells and cause malignancy. There are three types of UV rays; A, B, and C. UVA is said to cause connective tissue damage and increase a person’s risk of skin cancer. UVB rays are normally absorbed into the ozone layer, and the very harmful UVC rays are absorbed by the stratospheric ozone layer.

Always check with your doctor before for a recommendation as to the type of sunblock or sunscreen that you and your family need. A trip to the dermatologist is recommended to check any black, irregular mole for cancer and to get advise as to the latest sunblock and sunscreen ratings.

Frequently, the media offers as UV Index rating that was developed by the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency as a way to warn individuals as to the severity of ultraviolet rays on a daily basis with 0 being the least harmful and a10 rating carrying the most danger. However, you need to know your skin type and there are six of them. A type 1 always burns and is very sensitive to the sun. Type 2 burns easily with a minimum tan. Type 3 burns moderately and tans gradually. Type 4 burns minimally, but tans to a moderate brown color. Type 5 rarely burns, and tans darkly. Type 6 doesn’t burn, is deeply pigmented, and is the least sensitive to UV rays.

Two other areas that are sensitive to the sun and deserve attention are the lips and the eyes where it is imperative that sunglasses that reflect all UV rays be worn as they may cause cataracts.

Consumer Search reports that a good sunblock for children is Neutrogena Sunblock Lotion Sensitive Skin SPF 30. For products with both a sunblock and sunscreen they recommend Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sunblock Lotion SPF 45, Banana Boat Sport Ultra Sweatproof UVA & UVB Sunblock Lotion SPF 30, and Bull Frog SuperBlock Sunblock Lotion with SPF 45. Highly rated sunscreens for those with sensitive skin and babies are Blue Lizard Sensitive and Blue Lizard Baby.

Sunscreen reviews indicate Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock I is good, especially with the SPF 55 formula. No-Ad Sunblock offers similar security.

Good information links

What do UV ratings mean?

http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uviscale.html

Are you at risk of melanoma?

http://www.melanoma.com/quiz_risk.html

Free booklet on skin cancer and what you need to know

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin

Volkswagen Jetta SportsWagon and Sedan: Diesel and Gas

By

The Car Family

For more reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/blog/the-best-new-cars-for-2008

For a base price under $20,000 you can acquire ownership in one of the best station wagons available providing you don’t mind a stiff legged ride and highly dentable side panels. We tired to like the Jetta SportsWagon equipped with the 2.5 liter 5 cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission but even with gas mileage consistently in mid 20 mpg range, the hard seats, intrusive transmission tunnel, and the deplorable reception of the stereo told us wait for the diesel model to test. The reason is simple, why not pay a little extra and get over 10 mpg more, have less costly maintenance, and a higher resale that would make all the other items disappear at you pass yet another service station on your way to 500 miles or more on a full tank of diesel? We are talking love here. You know, the kind of love that comes with knowing that things might not be perfect, but dependability and charm can salve a lot of door dings.

Jetta

We highly recommend the optional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic over the manual transmission mainly because the clutch on the stick shift has such a high take up point that it makes it more difficult to shift if you have shorter legs. Besides, there is virtually nothing to favor the standard transmission in terms of gas mileage and resale will be less with the manual.

Dad’s view: The 170-hp 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine with the five speed manual transmission had just enough energy to carry the family with some frisk and the gas mileage was about 23 mpg in mixed driving. You can also order the optional 2.0 liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 200 hp and is much more willing to be playful. However, I would go with the TDI version and its 2.0 liter turbocharged diesel engine that provides 140hp and a useful 236lb.ft. of torque. These engines can be ordered with a five-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic.

The suspension is all independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link rear. The rack and pinion steering is nicely weighted for town or highway. The ride is very sporty and works well with the Jetta’s disc brakes measuring 12.2 inches and 11.6 inches in back respectively.

Except for the hard seats, questionable air conditioning performance, and the expensive optional stereo and GPS, this would be a good choice for a family or for anyone who wants both a sporty ride and an economical one.

Mom’s view: Not a bad looking station wagon with exceptional visibility and maneuverability. I’m not sure about some of the options such as the overly complicated stereo and GPS and the panoramic sunroof isn’t something I would order in a Jetta. However, it is well engineered and has an Eos convertible type of mechanism that lets it open and raise in part. The electric sunshade remained closed during most of our rain filled days with the surefooted wagon. The rear hatch is very easy to open, but someone didn’t ask the ladies where to put the opening latch. The designers decided that the dirtiest place on a wagon would be best, right above the rear bumper. I can’t imagine any women living in the snow belt who is going to appreciate that location.

Safety wise the Volkswagen Jetta wagon has ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, front passenger front airbag, side airbags, and side curtain protection for front and rear riders. The Jetta also has daytime running lamps and directional signal lights on the side-mirrors. The car feels heavier then it is and you aren’t going to find a better handling wagon outside of the BMW, and that costs at least twenty thousand dollars more.

Driving the Jetta takes time to adjust to as it has quick steering, a sturdy suspension, and a bit of wind noise that can get a bit tiring. I like the the GLI’s turbo 4-cylinder most, but the diesel is a sweetheart. It uses urea to clean the exhaust and you only hear a bit of diesel chatter at idle. The controls are handy, but the radio is in need of a rethink. The navigation system is very weak and we were unable to find a restaurant by name. The system also works slowly. Night lighting is very good and the interior lighting adequate. On the sedan, the trunk opens perfectly when you use the remote. I couldn’t find a place to open it with just the key, but that could just be me and often is.

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I would find owning a diesel Jetta quite easy to validate. It is well priced and the resale on the diesel should be excellent. Pretty, perky, and poised when challenged by curves and tight city parking situations, it certainly deserves a long test drive.

Young working male’s view: Order the 140hp diesel version. It is easy to get well over 40 mpg and the range can be in excess of 500 miles. Plenty of low end pep, but don’t count on it being frisky past 80 mph. The turbocharged, four-cylinder, gas engine is much quicker and the turbo lag is almost non-existent. The automatic transmission has a manual shift gate, which is easy to use and a real plus in the mountains. The diesel model can be a bit rude when just starting out as it tends to lurch at times. This may be an anomaly so we are testing another model later this year.

The visibility is good in all directions, but it is much better if you take down the rear headrests when they are not in use. and it has a fairly tight, 35.8 ft., turning radius so it is easy to park.

The stereo is adequate, with poor radio reception. I would replace it or get a high end model if you really want that new car sound. It is clearly better then the competition in the form of the Subaru, Hyundai Elantra, Audi, and Mazda wagons when it comes to combining both economy, room, and handling.

In terms of comfort, the front seats need to be made larger and softer. There is a good amount of travel on the seating tracks and the steering wheel both telescopes and tilts.

The backseats are fine for most everyone, but getting three adults in would be a challenge. Not my type of vehicle, but certainly one that would be interesting if I traveled more. For the same price I can get a new Toyota Prius that gets better in-town fuel mileage and I can also drive in the high occupancy lanes.

Working woman’s view: Very much my kind of car. The wagon has nearly 68 cubic ft. of cargo space and there are a lot of small storage areas for change and a clutch-bag. The center arm rest contains a place for a cell phone and there is even a small, pizza box sized storage area under the wagon’s rear floor covering. The wagon’s back seats don’t really fold flat, but it really wasn’t much of a concern especially since the front-passenger seatback folds down to provide even more room for longer packages.

The Jetta looks modern and feels tight. My only possible worry would be the lack of high customer satisfaction scores and the high prices of some of the options. The latter can be alleviated by just sticking to the basics and the Jetta has plenty. This VW comes standard with air conditioning, a pollen filter, heated outside mirrors, speed adjustable wipers, a AM-FM-MP3, CD player, cruise-control, a handy 12-volt power outlet, keyless entry, power windows and a central locking system, self-dimming rear-view mirror, and grab handles at each door. I would like to own the Jetta diesel wagon without the Sport option. It is an ideal touring vehicle and commuter car.

Family conference: Easily the best new station wagon considering the versatility, pricing, and fuel economy. A station wagon makes great sense for a family and shouldn’t be overlooked by those who like to have a little fun with their economy.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

Unique Family Vehicles for Every Pocketbook

By The Car Family

Good fuel economy, room for five, fun to drive, and plenty of safety features are what makes a great family vehicle. What makes these six unique is that they are often overlooked and that results in these being exceptional buys as dealers are often very willing to make some dramatic deals on them. For example, two of them have diesel engines and they are quiet, clean, and remarkably efficient. Two are priced under $20,000, and one cost over $50,000

There are six that instantly meet that criteria. First, the Volkswagen Routan. This is essentially a Dodge minivan with a sharper interior, better handling, and the same spacious interior. Except for the dreadful headlights, this is a better driver than the Chrysler products. However, with a price significantly more expensive than the Dodge look for the Volkswagen dealer to be eager to meet the competition’s price. Gas mileage seldom exceeds 20 mpg and the engine and transmission don’t always agree, but it you want room and an abundance of useful storage features the Routan is worth a look and they offer a Carefree Maintenance program, too.

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Volkswagen’s Jetta Sports Wagon is terrific. For a base price under $20,000 you are going to house the family in a vehicle capable of getting over 35 mpg and with much less maintenance than a gas powered wagon. Get the optional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic over the manual transmission mainly because the clutch on the stick shift has such a high take up point that it makes it more difficult to shift if you have shorter legs. Besides, there is virtually nothing to favor the standard transmission in terms of gas mileage and resale will be less with the manual. The rear hatch is very easy to open, but someone didn’t ask the ladies about where to put the opening latch. The designers decided that the dirtiest place on a wagon would be best, right above the rear bumper. I can’t imagine any women living in the snow belt who is going to appreciate that location.

Safety wise the Volkswagen Jetta wagon has ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, front side airbags, and rear side airbags. The car feels heavier then it is and you aren’t going to find a better handling wagon outside of the BMW and that costs at least ten thousand dollars more.

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Mercedes’ R-Class Bluetec is a vast, heavy, unflappable Mercedes wagon that is surprisingly nimble on its feet, fairly frugal at the diesel pump, and has awesome passing acceleration. What’s not right is the overly complicated stereo and temperature controls, the placement of the turn signal, cruise control, and shift lever, and the lack of some features that should be standard on a vehicle that costs nearly $50,000 in base form.

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This is a very enjoyable alternative to a minivan and much more fun to drive. The handling is pretty good considering the 5000 plus pounds it is touting and the visibility is quite good. Options on our test vehicle were the rear entertainment center, which has two screens mounted in back of the front row seats, and separate head phones as well. The system works, but is even better is the fact that those in the rear seats have a good view of the road and the advantage of being able to get in and out easily. Although we prefer the sliding doors of most minivans, the more traditional swing out doors on the R-Class are much easier to use, and during inclement weather, can be closed much faster.

But the real story is under the hood. Mercedes makes the best diesel engines for luxury cars and has for years. In Europe they are common, but elsewhere there has been some reluctance to accept these models. In the past they have been noisy and prone to smelly exhaust fumes. That is no longer the case. They are nearly as quiet as a gasoline powered vehicle, get at least 20 percent better fuel mileage, have higher resale, and require less maintenance. What’s not to like. Indeed with a listed 18 mpg, city/24 mpg, highway, it as economical as most minivans and the Mercedes as all wheel drive. However, we found it very easy to get well over 28 mpg on the highway and 24 in town. Add to that the 25 gallon tank and you 500 plus miles before refueling isn’t that difficult to obtain. If you want more mileage try the fabulous E-Class sedan with the Bluetec engine and 30 mpg is common for this luxury sedan.

The R-Class safety features include an interesting Pre-Safe program that uses the brakes, accelerator, and steering inputs to detect if a crash/rollover is imminent. Once the computers sense this danger they tighten the seatbelts and, this is nearly impossible to believe, the passenger seat is moved into the optimum position for the airbag to deploy, and the windows and sunroof are closed. Other safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front and rear side airbags. I would also consider the optional park-assist system.

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The Mitsubishi Lancer is priced around $18,000 with a lot of features for those willing to take a chance on an “off-brand” sedans. The Lancer got high crash scores, and has dual-stage front, side and head curtain air bags with some models getting anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution. Always get as many safety options as you can on any vehicle. The 2.0-liter, 152-horsepower four-cylinder engine delivers well over 26 mpg in mixed driving. It look sporty and drives sporty while still offering room for a family and it has an exceptional warranty with five years/60,000 on the car and 10 years / 100,000 miles on the drivetrain as well as five years of roadside assistance.

One of our favorites doesn’t have a pretty face, but it is a beauty with a price tag of $10,000 and room for five. The Nissan Versa is probably the best small family car you can buy for the money. It has a huge interior, enough pep to make it fun to drive, especially with the manual transmission, and it is easy to get over 30 mpg. Good crash safety ratings. However, the 1.6 engine and the bare bones interior, even air conditioning is an option, is really not what most families would want. Thus consider adding a few extras and you can still have a family friendly vehicle for well under $12,000 and that includes six standard airbags. We also recommend better tires and the optional safety equipment. Be aware that if you load the 1.6 with too much you are going to make it more expensive than the much better equipped 1.8 model. The Versa isn’t the quietest or the best looking, but it is frugal and roomy.

Hyundai’s Genesis 3.8 is well equipped at $38,000 and a breath of fresh air for those looking for a family vehicle with plenty of luxury and still gives you 24 mpg in mixed driving and a terrific warranty that Hyundai calls “America’s Best.” Plenty of room inside for five, a list of standard features that makes other manufacturers blush, and a pleasant, if not sporty, ride. It was our family car of the year and deserving, but the difficult part is explaining to everyone that you didn’t pay over $50,000 for the Genesis.

High-tech equipment features you can order include electronic stability control, XM NavTraffic, adaptive headlights, radar-based active cruise control, a 500-watt 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, and electronic active head restraints. The Genesis also has heated and cooled seats and ultrasonic sensors located on the front and rear bumpers to help park in tight spaces. Safety wise the Hyundai has dual front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side curtain airbags.

Family conference: These vehicles are the perfect remedy for the family that needs good transportation, exceptional fuel mileage, and cargo space without surrendering to the thought you have to buy a tipsy, gas swilling SUV. Pick your price range and one of these unique vehicles could save you plenty.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

2009 Smart Cabriolet
by The Car Family

for more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

This is a very cute car. Thus, if you like its looks you should consider buying one. Does it make sense from the standpoint of logic? Well, if you live in a congested area where parking and maneuverability are important and getting about 34 mpg is a plus this is a worthy vehicle to consider. If you want attention and a good driving position with excellent visibility the Smart is worth considering. If you want to drive one of the world’s least expensive convertibles that lowers its top electronically, the Smart is worth considering.

That sums up the Smart ForTwo. It is not a car for those who are logical and need to haul a lot of people and equipment. It is not a car that can get you impressive fuel mileage. It is not a car that can disguise its short wheelbase on rough roads.

In our extended weekend with the ForTwo we couldn’t help but smile every time we looked at it. Here is a vehicle that is almost cuddly. Inside there is plenty of room for two and enough cargo space to haul at least six grocery sacks or a set of golf clubs. The Smart is very easy to enter and exit and the controls are easy to master.

Mom’s view: I honestly won’t mind owning this vehicle. It is susceptible to side winds and you must get used to cars appearing to drive right into you at stop signals as the car has a very short rear-end. Outside of that, this is a perfect beach mobile and fairly practical as well. Its real forte is parking in tight spaces.

The newest version that we tested was much improved over previous generations. The ride was smoother and the transmission not as jerky. The dash is colorful and the optional tachometer and clock pods are a must order, although the readouts are a bit small. The high seating position and large window areas make driving in traffic easy and the overall fit and finish must improved. There is even more cargo room in this model, although the convertible top does take up some room. By the way, to lower the top only requires a touch of a button, but it is a cabriolet and so the metal side beams of the top remain in place.

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Recent crash tests have shown that the Smart does well, but it is a small car. On the other hand, if you are worried about safety the best vehicles are always large sedans and not large SUVs. With this in mind the question is whether I would own one and the answer is in the affirmative. The Smart does not mind keeping up with traffic that is going well over the posted highway speed limit and the brakes and handling are acceptable. The cost is somewhat a concern with our test vehicle coming in around $18,000 dollars. However, being practical has nothing to do with buying the ForTwo.

Dad’s view: The three cylinder, one liter engine provides 70 horsepower and arriving at 60 mph takes over 12 seconds, but it can cruise very well at high speeds as the engine easily revs up to its 6500 rpm red-line. If there is one weakness it is the five speed automatic gearbox. Despite paddle shifters, the transmission remains a bit harsh. There is always some delay between your request for speed and the transmission’s acceptance of this request. It gets a bit jerky. If you are planning a passing maneuver on a two lane road you might want to reconsider as the ForTwo’s transmission doesn’t like to be rushed. Otherwise this is a fun and fairly frisky ride. The suspension isn’t pleased with rough roads and the short wheelbase can bring a shuddering feel. Handling is quite good considering that this is a tall vehicle with a thin width.

I did find that the brake pedal position is a bit uncomfortable and the air conditioning was hard pressed to keep the small cabin cool. If I were to own one I would tint the large windows immediately to keep the sun’s rays at bay.
The other downside of a hard-sprung car is that you can be fooled into believing it handles well. Yes, the steering is excellent and at low speeds there is a bumper car type of feel to its handling, but don’t be fooled. This car understeers greatly. The Smart’s rollover rating of three scores is satisfactory, but not nearly that of wider vehicles. Using the Smart ForTwo for what is was designed for and the run factor make it a unique buy. I liked it and I would buy one if I lived where its character and traits could be used to advantage. I would also love to see a manual transmission that could improve fuel mileage and driveabilty.
Working Woman’s view: Even at a starting price of $12,000 the base Smart isn’t inexpensive. You can order a Nissan Versa or some Korean vehicles for less. But you can’t get any more fun for the money. Driven properly you can probably poke 40 mpg from the engine, but with a 8.7 gallon tank you are going to be hard pressed to get over 300 miles between refuelings.
People constantly asked me if the Smart was safe. These were the same people who buy large SUVs and think they are safe. The answer is that the Smart does fairly well in crash testing and has standard ABS and front and side airbags as well as traction control. It does not have two tons of steel behind it, but the Smart’s 1800 pounds have been engineered around a crash cage that works such as those in race cars.
I very much enjoyed the Smart ForTwo, but it simply is meant to be a second car or a commuter vehicle and I don’t have the funds for such a novelty.
Young working male’s view: With just 70 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 68 ft-lbs. of torque available from 4500 rpm the engine is very much willing, but the effort is weak especially when confronted with a stiff headwind. Shift it with the paddles and you are going to enjoy your ride much more. The 28.7 ft. turning radius is a joy, and its 73.5 in. wheelbase makes it the shortest car you can buy. Speaking of which, this isn’t an inexpensive vehicle and even less so with the designer version from Brabus. The rear-mounted engine is challenged by the slow shifting transmission, but going fast isn’t what this head-turner is about. It is useful, attractive, and fairly fuel efficient, although it requires premium fuel.
The Smart Fortwo comes as a hatchback coupe or cabriolet and you can order them in three flavors with the base, Pure model only available for the coupe. The next level is the Passion, which we tested, and the most expensive is the dolled-up Brabus.
As for the stereo it is barely average. I would replace it with an aftermarket model that fills the interior with more sound. In other words, this is an interesting vehicle and one that you don’t have to be afraid to drive as some automobile reviewers feel. The real question is whether it is smart to buy a Smart. The answer is in your heart, not your head.

For a list of vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html
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