Opinion

Who needs a big car?

In the race to make eentsy-weentsy cars, the Smart Fortwo is the current U.S. title-holder.

When it first goes on sale in the United States in January, it will be the smallest car available in the nation. But don't count on buying one any time soon; production already is sold out through much of 2008.

This tiny two-seater is more than 3 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper, which makes it shorter than some cars are wide. It also gets great gas mileage, meets U.S. safety standards and is relatively inexpensive, with a price range from $11.590 to $16,590.

This short car also has its shortcomings. It would not be a pleasure to drive on a long trip, and carpooling the kids is out. It won't hold much luggage or many professional basketball players.

But it is easy to park and easy to maneuver in narrow places. For a short urban commute, it might be perfect. And it is distinctive enough to get you ogled.

Not long ago, it seemed Americans were intent on buying the biggest, brawniest thing on four wheels they could find, whether or not they actually needed all that size and power. But the car-buying public can be fickle, and with gas topping $3 a gallon, small may be the new big.

The initial demand for the Fortwo may be the result of the buzz and the unique appearance of this cuddly little car. But people may come to enjoy the attributes of a small car as they did with the Volkswagen Bug, the aforementioned Mini Cooper and other diminutive vehicles.

When it comes to traveling sensibly in the city, small, once again, may be beautiful.

Tiny Smart car is smallest car available for sale in America, and it is turning heads.

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