Fun to drive can be defined an infinite number of ways. The sports car driver will say power and acceleration, braking and handling are the main contributors to fun to drive. There is also the element of sexy head-turning styling ringing the sports car driver’s bell. The sport utility driver will add functionality to that equation. A smart fortwo driver may think its quirky styling, minuscule size (even with its funky transmission) add to the fun to drive experience.
The most fun to drive vehicles in AutoPacific’s New Vehicle Satisfaction Research – those with 85 % or more of their drivers totally satisfied with its fun to drive characteristics include:
1. Chevrolet SS: We can certainly understand this one. Fully loaded 4-door sedan with a Corvette V8, the SS is a great value and adds sedan functionality to a high performance platform. Not a big seller, the SS buyer certainly understands the special car they are driving. One hundred percent of the respondents were totally satisfied with its fun to drive characteristics.
2. Chevrolet Corvette: Corvette is the quintessential American sports car. Big with dramatic styling and powered by a large displacement push-rod V8, the Corvette not only has the dynamics for a fun to drive winner, but also the looks.
3. Porsche Cayman: Curvaceous styling with Porsche DNA, German precision and sprightly dynamics have 94% of Cayman drivers totally satisfied with the fun to drive of their car.
4. Porsche Panamera: The most expensive of the fun to drive vehicles is the Porsche Panamera 4-door sedan with 93% of its owners totally satisfied. Sometimes criticized for its ungainly looks, it checks the boxes for fun to drive. Panamera is in the top ten in power and acceleration. Panamera is top ranked for braking. Panamera is in the top five for handling. Not bad for such a large car.
5. smart fortwo: There are fifteen cars that score 85% or higher in fun to drive. Surprising is one of them is the smart fortwo with 92% of its drivers totally satisfied with its fun to drive. Acceleration and powertrain performance clearly are not strong suits for the fortwo. Only 28% of fortwo owners are totally satisfied with power and acceleration, so there are other things contributing to its fun to drive. Maybe it is handling? – 72% are totally satisfied with its handling. Maybe getting good fuel economy is a contributor? – 76% are totally satisfied with fuel economy. Maybe just fortwo’s quirky styling just puts a smile on their face?
6. Porsche Boxster: The first of the “baby” Porsche entries has sometimes been called a chick’s car, and maybe it is if you watched the episode of Two and a Half Men where Alan buys one, but its owners 91% of its owners are totally satisfied with how fun to drive it is. Owners rate the Boxster in the top ten of totally satisfied with power and acceleration, braking, and handling – all strong contributors to fun to drive.
7. Nissan 370Z: A “classic” sports car, 90% of Z-Car owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes. It is in the top ten in power and acceleration, but comes up shy in handling ranking 12th and poorly in braking where it ranks 53rd.
8. Jaguar F-Type: Jag’s new sports car entry has 90% of its owners totally satisfied with its fun to drive. F-Type is in the top ten in power and acceleration, 11th in braking and 25th in handling. Clearly, F-Types powertrain strongly contributes to its fun to drive and combined with its classic styling owners score the car very strongly.
9. Subaru BRZ: The BRZ may be a new category of sporty coupe. It is built to be extremely maneuverable and fun for a young person. Small, rear wheel drive, and with the ability to drift around corners, 89% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive. In the case of the BRZ, its power and acceleration does not deliver on its looks or fun to drive image. Only 30% of BRZ owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration ranking it 225th. About 56% BRZ owners are totally satisfied with its braking. Where BRZ shines is in handling with 84% of its owners totally satisfying. It appears that Subaru could improve the standing of the BRZ if engine power was increased substantially.
10. Chevrolet Camaro: A classic American muscle car, 89% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes. Camaro ranks 17th in power and acceleration with 73% totally satisfied. It ranks 18th in braking with 77% of its owners totally satisfied. Camaro ranks 10th in handling. These are solid results for a sporty coupe showing Camaro succeeds not only on the basis of its iconic image and styling, but also on dynamics.
11. Ford Mustang: The outgoing Mustang still has a lot going it with 88% of its owners totally satisfied with its fun to drive. Mustang owners rank its power and acceleration 28th with 68% totally satisfied. Mustang falls to 95th in braking with 65% totally satisfied. It is 55th in handling with 71% totally satisfied. Clearly, style, image and reputation have gone a long way in contributing to Mustang’s position among fun to drive cars.
12. MINI Paceman: The wierdly styled MINI Paceman is totally fun to drive for about 88% of its owners. 46% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration ranking 156th, other MINI entries rank substantially higher. About 67% of its owners are totally satisfied with its braking ranking 52nd. About 75% of owners are totally satisfied with its handling – 27th. Head-turning styling and image strongly contribute to the fun to drive aura of the MINI Paceman.
13. Mazda Miata: Miatas, or MX-5s, are famous for how fun to drive they are. About 86% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes. Miata is not supposed to be blindingly fast it is supposed to be fun and most owners recognize that. Still, ranking 109th, 53% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration. About 68% are totally satisfied with its braking – 48th. About 64% are totally satisfied with its handling – 29th.
14. Mitsubishi Lancer EVO: The last Lancer EVO ranks 14th in fun to drive with 85% of its owners totally satisfied. Generally, a car sold for its performance never lives up to the expectations of its owners in power and acceleration, but the EVO seems to be an exception. About 71% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration – ranking 22nd. About 78% are totally satisfied with braking – 13th. About 78% are totally satisfied with handling – 15th. This is a pretty good all-around performance for dynamic attributes. Sayonara EVO, you will be missed.
15. Scion FR-S: The FR-S is the Scion version of the Subaru BRZ. About 85% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive. Like the BRZ, FR-S owners want more power and acceleration – only 33% are totally satisfied – ranked 222nd. About 52% are totally satisfied with its braking – ranking 178th. About 73% of FR-S owners are totally satisfied with its handling – that is what the car is designed for after all – ranking 37th.
Top Ten Fun to Drive Brands: The ranking of brands includes the fun to drive results for all their entries. The top ten brands are: 1) Porsche, 2) MINI, 3) BMW, 4) Audi, 5) Jaguar, 6) Fiat, 7) Scion, 8) Cadillac, 9) Lincoln, 10) Mercedes-Benz.
Tata Motors of India announced its Tata Nano micro car today. In Tata’s press release they refer to the Nano as “The People’s Car”. Priced at $2,500, the Nano is minimalist transportation at best. Designed to carry five, the Nano is described by Tata as an “all-weather car” which should tell you something. At 122-inches long, 59-inches wide and 62 inches tall, the Nano will not take up much road. As a comparison, the smart car which will soon be sold in the USA is 106-inches long, 62-inches wide, and 61-inches tall. But smart is a two passenger car with staggered seating and no pretension of seating four or five.
With Nano’s dimensions the seating position will be very high, very upright and very tight for five… but Tata says it will “comfortably” seat four. Nano is a rear engine, rear wheel drive conveyance with a 623cc 2-cylinder engine. As in the Mitsubishi i, the engine is mounted horizontally below the rear cargo area.
Beyond The People’s Car, Tata has been in the news recently as the front runner in the bidding for Ford’s Jaguar and Land Rover units. If Tata should land JLR they will surely have the market bracketed – cheapest to among the most expensive. Remember, Tata also owns Tetley Tea and some other well-known brands.
See the new smart fortwo on the road and you’ll probably love it or hate it as it definitely stands out from the crowd. Drive it and you’ll find things that you love and things that you could definitely like more. But ultimately, the launch of the smart fortwo in the U.S. in January 2008 will excite the image-conscious, environmentally-focused, and parking space-constrained consumer.
The shortest and most compact automobile currently in production is scheduled to enter the largest automotive market in the world next year. Who is smart? smart is a member of Mercedes-Benz cars and the result of a 1994 joint venture between Nicolas Hayek, the inventor of Swatch watches and Mercedes-Benz.. Smart is engineered and manufactured in Europe.
Defying the two-seater image
A compact car that is currently only available as a two-seat vehicle (get it – for two), the fortwo doesn’t feel like you’re driving a two-seater. The vehicle only measures 106 inches in length, roughly 9 feet, yet the spacious cabin provides enough leg and head room for those taller than average. The openness of the cabin and forward placement of the instrument panel eliminate the cramped and constrained feelings of other compact cars, however, the reach to the center stack controls suffers, requiring most drivers to lean forward uncomfortably to adjust the air conditioning, change the radio station, etc. The cargo space, located directly behind the front seats, is easily accessible by the driver, combating the lack of a center console, and provides enough openness behind the driver to increase the level of comfort with the small amount of space that exists between you and the traffic behind you. The passenger seat folds flat for extra space for large items. Elbow and shoulder room is limited, but the smart engineers thought of that too, offsetting the passenger seat behind the driver seat by 5 inches and avoiding shoulder-to-shoulder positioning. If you’re comfortable with your passenger, you won’t mind grabbing his knee every now and then when you overreach for the shift knob. If not, it may take a while to get used to the closeness of knob, both to you and the seat next to you.
Traditional storage areas like map pockets in the door and a lockable glove box exist, as do cubbies to the left and right of the steering wheel that easily hold a cell phone, sunglasses, and other small items that you may typically store in a center or overhead console. A slanted floor and a forward lip help to keep the items from sliding out when accelerating and cornering. Two cup holders located on the floor under the instrument panel are sufficient for their purpose, but difficult to reach.
Small City Car Concept Revives Rear-Engine Layout, Explores the Future of Interior Displays
At an event the evening before the official start of media days of this year’s Frankfurt auto show, Volkswagen revealed their latest city car concept. Small outside and big inside, the up! takes a layout similar to the first Beetle, with a rear-mounted engine (though VW did not specify what engine might be packed in back there).
Cute and clever, VW may consider bringing the up! to the U.S. market in a few years. At less than 136 inches long, up! is about 30 inches longer than the smart fortwo, but about the same length shorter than the current New Beetle. Instead of a traditional center stack, up! offered a seven-inch touch screen that VW called “the way that future human-machine interface will look and operate.” Not only a touch-screen-based system for controlling navigation, climate, audio, and phone, a proximity sensor reacts to hand gestures. Once the element you wanted to control shows up in the menu, a simple wave of the hand brings up the specific control screen. Glad they cleared that up for us! Instead of gauges, there is an eight-inch screen in front of the driver, displaying all the relevant information. This small concept offers seats for four, with all but the driver’s seat removable and stowable. Described as similar to a self-inflating mattress, a valve allows air to be released and the seat adjusted for maximum comfort for any passenger.
Many of Volkswagen’s concepts find their way into production eventually, and VW continues to explore solutions for a low-cost city car that is environmentally friendly, economical, affordable, and still profitable. Whether or not we see up! in the States, a four-door version is likely to find its way into production in a few years.
Sure does remind me of the Mitsubishi i… looks more substantial, but the concept is very similar.
We brought you the news back in June (click here) that there is a tiny city car making its way to the U.S. market. In early 2008 U.S. buyers will finally be able to opt for this small and economical package. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice have some of the first pictures of the model, and here they are. Though we won’t get the car until early 2008, European buyers can pick one up beginning in April 2007. At the smart USA website, you can keep current on the events smart has hosted to familiarize us with the car or sign up for monthly newsletters about the car.
How small is small?
The new smart is only 106.1 inches long, with a wheelbase of 73.5 inches. It is 61.4 inches wide, and a relatively tall package at 60.7 inches. Just to put this in perspective, smart is nearly 64 inches shorter than Chevrolet’s smallest offering, the Aveo. The 2008MY MINI is nearly 40 inches longer, the Mazda MX-5 about 51 inches longer, and even the Toyota Yaris hatchback is almost 44 inches longer. The smart could find itself an instant favorite among some circles. It has a unique personality, with its small size it fits anywhere, it is light, and it offers very economical powertrains. Wanna feel like you’re helping the world and create your own parking spot on Rodeo Drive? Buy a smart.
The 2006 Mondial de l’Automobile has arrived, and VehicleVoice correspondents and AutoPacific staff were on hand, gathering information to bring to you. Our first notes are here, but you can count on more to come over the coming weeks. One of the most important of the international auto shows, the Paris show happens every two years. While many of the products shown at Paris are not expected to cross the pond to the United States, it is fun and interesting to take a look at the automotive market in other regions.
Persistance Pays Off
Though once abandoning a plan for U.S. sales, automaker smart didn’t give up on us like they have on the use of capital letters and two of their European entries (smart roadster and forfour dropped by 2007MY). An exclusive agreement with the United Auto Group dealers, headed by Roger Penske, has been forged to bring over the next fortwo in early 2008. Reports are that optimistic DaimlerChrysler, parent of smart, would like to see sales in the States at about 20,000 units.
Having never really given up on the States, smart has shown off its fortwo at several occasions, including an exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and as a lead vehicle for the New York City Marathon and a sponsor of the Boston Marathon. Groundwork for creating interest and enthusiasm for this tiny city car is well laid, and rising fuel costs only add to the hype.
The current fortwo was never meant to come to the States, due to problems meeting U.S. emissions regulations, though importer and electric car company ZAP has sold about 200 Americanized fortwo
s through May 2006, and sales in Canada reached 4000 units with months-long waitlists.