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Photos: Smart Fortwo

The first Smart Car models go on sale in the United States this week. Manufactured by Mercedes parent Daimler AG, the two-seater Fortwo is powered by a 1-liter, 71-horsepower engine. CNET Car Tech recently visited Rome, the Smart Car capital of the world, getting a glimpse into what we might expect our streets to look like soon if this little car makes it big over here.

Kevin Massy
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U.S. customers will initially get the choice of six colors for their fortwos: silver, gray, black, yellow, blue, and red.
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The entry-level Fortwo "pure" comes with a starting price of $11,590 and without much else (the base-level car comes with manual crank windows and has only "provision for radio installation"). The upgraded Fortwo "passion coupe" (starting price $13,590, pictured) comes with a host of extra goodies including nine-spoke alloy wheels, a single-CD radio, a leather sports steering wheel with steering wheel shift paddles, a panoramic glass roof, and power windows. The Fortwo "passion cabriolet" starts at $16,590 and comes with manually-opened sunroof and a six-disc CD player.
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The Fortwo is built around a "tridon safety cell"--essentially a steel frame--which, according to Smart, combines longitudinal and transverse members that dissipate the force of an impact over a large area of the car. For those who want to jazz up their Fortwo, the black outline of the safety cell can be upgraded to metallic silver for an extra $175.
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The three-cylinder Fortwo gets an estimated 33 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway, and is rated as a ULEV vehicle by the California Air Resources Board. According to Smart, the car's dashboard and wheel housing covers are made from 100 percent recyclable synthetics.
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The Smart Fortwo is 8.8 feet long, 5.1 feet tall, and 5.1 feet wide. It has a top speed of 90 mph and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 12.8 seconds. It comes with a single choice of transmission in the form of an "automated manual" five-speed gearbox. As-standard safety features include an electronic stability program, antilock brakes, and four air bags.
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One Smart Car model that we won't be seeing this side of the Atlantic is the Forfour, a four-door version of the Fortwo. Smart has canceled production of the Forfour--as well as its Smart Roadster--worldwide.
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It's no secret that the compact Fortwo is easier to park than other cars. However, be careful before you park it perpendicular to the curb Italian-style. Some U.S. ordinances state that both right wheels must be within a certain distance to the curb.
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According to the Lonely Planet, Rome is the Smart Car capital of the world. Smart sold nearly 100,000 Fortwos in 2007, two-thirds of which were bought by customers in Italy and Germany.

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