DaimlerChrysler's U.S. distributor for the tiny Smart fortwo has taken more than 20,000 reservations for the upcoming minicar, with customers paying $99 upfront for the privilege of being one of the first in the country to own one. With base models expected to start below $12,000 and rising up to roughly $17,000 for a convertible version, the cost effective model took less than four months to tally up its pre-release orders.

Set to go on sale in January, the new Smart will likely be sold through a network of dealers under Roger Penske's United Auto Group, with a bulk of the cars selling through Mercedes-Benz stores.

The tiny two-seater is, in fact, built by Mercedes and features a 0.7L three-cylinder motor. The car has yet to undergo U.S. crash testing, but it's expected to do much better than the previous model, which scored just three stars our of five in Europe's NCAP tests. There's still no word on whether the recent micro-hybrid Smart will come to the U.S.

[Source: The Detroit News]