As a step-up from scooters and motorcycles, microcars were a common sight in Europe shortly after World War II because many inhabitants were not able to afford larger cars and many manufacturers could not afford the research and development costs of large passenger cars. The Iso Isetta is one such microcar, originally coming from Italy. The car was also picked up by BMW and was one reason the struggling German carmaker was able to maintain a little bit of profitability. The Detroit News thinks that the Smart is a bit like those old "bubble cars", as they were known way back when. Similarities include the distinct styling, small size, small engine, two passenger arrangement and even the sliding canvas roof option. What may be more important, though, are the differences. While the old Isetta was known in Germany as a "coffin on wheels", the Smart was designed with safety in mind. Also, although a small engine is used, highway speeds are attainable in the modern microcar. Like the Isetta, the Smart gets pretty good gas mileage.
Like the old Isetta, the Smart has a "buzz" surrounding it, as mentioned in our source article. I imagine that the world will look back on the Smart in a similar way as they do now with the Isetta. The question now is whether or not the small "microcar" idea will stick here in America. The success, or lack of it, of the Smart will go a long way towards answering that question.
[Source: Detroit News]