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Smart USA teams with Nissan on new small car

Consumer Reports News: October 06, 2010 12:23 PM

Smart announced today that it is collaborating with Nissan on a new, small car for the U.S. market. As described, Smart USA has obtained "the rights to procure and distribute a five-door, gasoline powered, B-segment vehicle" from Nissan.

"The new vehicle will expand smart USA's product lineup, offering five-seat capacity while maintaining the core principles of efficiency and conservation," said Smart USA President Jill Lajdziak in a released statement.

The Smart ForTwo was initially a hot-seller, reaching our market at time when gasoline prices were spiking. Its unique styling, diminutive size, and thrifty fuel economy gained instant appeal and recognition. However, as we found in our tests, there are many compromises involved in buying this tiny, two-seater.

Smart-Nissan-Front

Sure, the three-cylinder car returned 39 mpg in our testing, but it requires premium fuel, thereby offsetting potential pump savings. And the car is extremely slow, dragging itself 0-60 mph in 14.6 seconds. Handling is clumsy, the vehicle is easily jostled by large trucks on the highway, and it has the worst shift quality we've experienced. Reliability has been worse than average, and the ForTwo has the lowest overall test score in its class. (See our small car buying advice and ratings.)

Collectively, we have thought for its price, there are much better five-door hatchbacks available that get excellent fuel economy. With this announcement, Smart is targeting a bigger, more American-scaled small car. The automaker had considered such a move previously with the ForFour, a four-door interpretation of the ForTwo styling package, though in a larger form. By working with Nissan, the U.S. arm will be able to rapidly get a more conventional five-door to market.

Jeff Bartlett

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