The Smart Fortwo's Tridion steel safety shell

Image courtesy ©1998-2006 DaimlerChrysler. All rights reserved.

Smart Car Safety

The Smart Car has a unique appearance -- it looks almost like a cube on wheels, with the front edge trimmed down. However, that high length-to-width ratio helps the Fortwo corner with a greater degree of stability. The Smart Car's designers also gave it a three-cylinder engine that provides enough power because the car only weighs about 1500 pounds (the updated version of the Fortwo, slated for a 2008 release, will have different stats). It's easily one of the lightest four-wheeled vehicles on the road.

One of the major problems with very small, light automobiles is that they can be unsafe in a collision. The Smart solution is the Tridion steel safety shell. This hemispherical steel "cage" encloses the interior of the car and also forms the bulk of the Smart's chassis. A small energy-absorbing crumple zone at the front of the car lessens impacts, and the engine lives in the trunk of the car instead of the front. While a 1,500-lb. car will never be as safe for the occupants as a larger vehicle, the Tridion shell holds up remarkably well in crash tests. A 70 mph crash test conducted by British TV show "Top Gear" revealed that the Smart Fortwo's body remained mostly intact when compared to that of a conventional subcompact car. A sudden deceleration from 70 mph will cause injury of the occupants in just about any vehicle.

The Tridion frame also provides a distinct element of style to the Smart Car. Most of the frame shows through to the outside of the car. The rest of the Smart's body comprises replaceable, recyclable body panels. They are so easy to change that Smart owners can quickly change the color of their car when they get tired of one color scheme.