Smart fortwoFor years Europeans have enjoyed the tiny Mercedes Benz-developed smart car, a vehicle so tiny that Americans who traveled abroad frequently mistook it as a toy as they thought of their Escalade waiting at home.

While fuel prices in the U.S. still aren’t as high as they were in Europe five years ago, Americans are definitely not the ones laughing anymore. With fuel approaching $4/gallon and most SUVs struggling to go 15 miles on that gallon, the idea of being green and efficient has finally started to catch on in the U.S.

And, thankfully, so too has the smart car.

Smart’s fortwo (as in, for two people) is slowly rolling onto American streets, starting at modest $11,590. The 1.0L, 3-cylinder engine is dwarfed by those found in even some motorcycles, but with 70HP it’s “fast enough”, topping out at 90 mph and taking you from 0-60 mph in a leisurely 12.8 seconds.

Fuel economy is rated at 33/41 mpg (city/highway) using the EPA’s 2008 standards, which means you’ll very likely see those numbers in the real world, if not better (using the EPA’s 2007 standard, fuel economy jumps to 40/45, but that’s based on less-than-realistic driving parameters).

Keep in mind that despite its Benz roots, the smart car is totally bare bones. Extras like AC ($600), radio ($350-$495), and power steering ($450) are standard on virtually every car today. But there are some luxury options, too, like heated seats ($220) and a panorama roof ($350).

Or, for a few grand more, smart offers two upgraded models of the fortwo: the passion coupe for $13,590 that includes a list of popular options many would want, and the passion cabriolet, which sells for $16,590 and can lose its roof when desired.

The smart car is available in a number of color options and easily removable door panels means you can even mix and match them down the road. And for those concerned about its dimensions, it’s more spacious inside than you’d think. This one’s a grow-er, not a show-er.

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