Tiny car gives big advantage for refueling

News editor

Connie Isaac of Hillsboro drove a Ford Festiva for about 20 years and enjoyed having a compact car that could fit in tight spaces.

“The Festiva was small, and I just enjoyed it,” she said.

She also appreciated its good fuel efficiency, and when she decided it was time to replace her Festiva, she wanted to stay with something compact. In 2007, she and her husband, Don, took a closer look at a Smart Fortwo — a tiny two-seater — and she considered the prospect of buying one for two years.

“I like the look of it,” she said. “I like the design.”

Isaac bought a black and white Fortwo in 2009, and she has been happy with the results. The microcar is able to fit into parking spaces that even a normal compact car couldn’t squeeze into.

It is 8 feet, 10 inches long and 5 feet, 1 inch wide. It isn’t an exaggeration to say you could fit two in the same space as a single sport utility vehicle. A Chevrolet Suburban from the same year is long enough to fit two Fortwos in, with 8 inches between them.

Fuel efficiency is the most common question people ask Isaac about her car.

“People ask me that all the time, and I do not know,” she said.

The EPA estimates it gets 33 mpg in town and 41 on the highway, although Isaac never takes it out of town — when going out of town, the Isaacs take Don’s Ford Fusion. She drives it around town about twice per day.

“I would say I fill it up three times a year,” she said.

Isaac said other questions she gets about her car are whether it uses gasoline, diesel, or is electric — gasoline — and what kind of engine it has — three cylinders. On two occasions, a high school student has asked to borrow it for prom. Isaac was happy to say yes both times, because she knew the teen would wash it and clean the inside to impress a date.

She said she doesn’t mind having a unique car, but it isn’t the reason she bought it, and for all its benefits, there are some drawbacks. Its short wheelbase — 6 feet, 1½ inches — mean city streets feel bumpier than they are. Because she bought the basic model to save money it doesn’t have power window.

Her biggest concern is about maintenance. It hasn’t given her any problems so far that required major repairs, but when it eventually happens, she is afraid she’ll have to take it to a dealership in Kansas City or Tulsa.

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