Rooney: The Smart Car

<B>Andy Rooney</B> Takes Car Out On The Town

The automobile was one of the great inventions of any age. It allowed us to go quickly from where we were to where we wanted to get to.

It worked well for a while. We built all these concrete paths for cars, but the dream's over.

What we have now is a traffic nightmare -- too many of us trying to get to the same place at the same time.

We own 140 million cars in this country. The average car is 16 feet long, so bumper-to-bumper, our cars would stretch for 4 million miles.

The other day, Daimler/Chrysler loaned me one of their Smart cars to drive around New York. It's half as long as a normal car -- 8 feet and a couple of inches. If all our cars were that long or short, lines of traffic would be half what they are.

Up until now, the Mini Cooper has been the shortest car. … Considering how small it is, I was surprised that it didn't feel small sitting in the driver's seat.

I don't do car commercials, but it's OK for me to say nice things about the Smart car because you can't buy one in the United States.

In Europe, they cost about $15,000.

Most of the space they saved is behind the driver. There is no back seat. No trunk.

I'd have to change my habits if I drove a Smart car without a trunk. I use the trunk of my car like a bedroom closet.

Driving in traffic, I had a few tense moments. The car attracts a lot of attention. First, I thought they were all looking at me, but they were looking at the car.

I tried to find out whether a parking garage would charge less for a car that takes up half the space.

ROONEY: How much would it be to place this? Half?

MAN: Oh yeah!

ROONEY: How much would it cost to park this? The same?

WOMAN: Half!

Parking the Smart car on the street is easy, though. I saw one real small space. I started to park parallel to the curb. I couldn't quite make that.

All right. I quit. What did I do? I didn't parallel park. I stuck it in backwards, perpendicular parking. The Smart car isn't much longer than it is wide.

They say it gets 40 miles on a gallon of gas. The tank holds five gallons, but I pulled into a gas station, anyway.

ROONEY: Fill 'er up. I need four gallons.

I was curious about the engine. It's 75 horsepower right behind the driver's seat. It looks like a lawnmower engine, but they say it'll go almost 100 miles an hour. Not with me in it, thanks.

If you want to buy one of these from your friendly local Daimler/Chrysler dealer, tell them Andy Rooney sent you.
Written By Andy Rooney