We’ve been a one car household for about a year now. Last year, it was rare that both me and Michael needed the car at the same time, so it wasn’t that much of an inconvenience. Our commutes have changed since then. With winter coming, neither of us wants to be the one having to take a motorcycle out in the rain, or making our partner ride in the rain while we drive in comfort in the Leaf. Time for a new car.
Choosing the car
We are already half way through a 2 year lease on a Nissan Leaf. The Leaf has treated us well, and has let us transport friends and family on occasion. It is also equipped with CHAdeMO, so it can handle longer distance travel needs. A second car would be strictly a work commuter, basically filling in for a motorcycle while keeping us out of the elements.
We prefer keeping all of our vehicles in the garage. We have a two car garage with a bonus alcove. Our Leaf and our 3 motorcycles fit quite handily. The last time we had 2 cars, it became quite the hassle to get the bikes in and out of the garage, so they went under-utilized. If we got a small car, we might be able to get all our vehicles to not only fit, but be able to get the bikes in and out easily without having to pull a car out first.
I also wanted a car which wouldn’t break the bank. I’ve been thinking about trading in my gasoline motorcycle for an electric motorcycle, and getting an expensive car wouldn’t leave enough in the budget for that.
The Smart is about as small as they get. I learned they could do highway speeds, and had more than enough range for my 26 mile daily commute. I talked to some people who had gasoline Smart cars who were pleased with the handling (aside from the stiff suspension), and claimed the car could handle more cargo than it looked like it should. Next step, a test ride.
Michael and I went to the Smart center of Seattle. They had exactly one Smart Electric Drive in stock. We drove it from the dealership out to Mercer Island and back. It handled well enough, and would certainly be more comfortable in rainy weather than a motorcycle. Leasing it from the Seattle dealership would have cost almost as much as our Leaf lease though, and it had a solid roof rather than the standard panoramic roof I had been coveting. We left the dealership, deciding maybe the Smart wasn’t for us after all.
Acquiring our own Smart
Over the next several days, the weather turned colder and wetter. I thought about my alternatives for my winter commute, and still really wanted an enclosed vehicle. The next closest Smart dealership was out of state, the Smart center of Portland. I decided it couldn’t hurt to see if they could help me get a Smart Electric Drive, preferably with that panoramic roof. After all, they had 30 in stock at the time, compared to Seattle’s one.
After several email, text, and phone call exchanges, not only had I secured a Smart electric with a panoramic roof and heated seats, but they offered me a lease deal far less expensive than Seattle could offer. $1800 down, under $150 per month with the battery assurance program. They sent me the paperwork via FedEx, we signed and sent it back. They arranged to have a company ship the car to me, which actually came out to be less expensive than had I tried to go to Portland and pick up the car myself. They took care of the Washington sales taxes and vehicle registration for me. The entire experience was much easier than I had imagined. Within a week of sending my first email inquiry, my new Smart was delivered to me at work.
The Smart car doesn’t have as much power and torque as the Leaf, but it does well for such a small car. The suspension is stiff, so you feel a lot more road imperfections. The car creeps forward without touching the accelerator, just like a gasoline car or our Leaf, so very intuitive there. Acceleration is smooth and responsive. It feels surprisingly stable in corners. The small turning radius makes parking a breeze. I’m personally enjoying driving a less common EV around town, although I’m not sure how many people have figured out my car is not your average gasoline Smart.
The panoramic roof is one of my favorite features. When I’m sitting in stop and go traffic, I can look up and see the trees climbing into the sky rather than stopping at my roof line.
The Smart has been quite fun to drive. It is so nimble and easy to maneuver, and as an electric it is quiet, has no annoying engine vibration, doesn’t stink up the garage, and I never have to take it to the gas station. Even as a barely beyond basic model, it has aux and USB ports, automatic dusk sensing headlights, and a rain sensor to adjust the speed of the wipers.
After one week of owning and operating the Smart, I am pleased to report I am well satisfied with my purchase. I think it’s safe to say Michael feels the same, since he has borrowed the car several times already.