Manford Nordsving of Harmony stands next to his 2008 Mercedes-Benz Smart Car that gets 42-plus miles per gallon
Manford Nordsving of Harmony stands next to his 2008 Mercedes-Benz Smart Car that gets 42-plus miles per gallon
Most folks in the area know when they’ve met Manford Nordvsing of Harmony in his bright blue Smart car. Nordsving has been driving the diminutive European coupe for nearly 10 years, and he wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I was looking for something like this for some time,” Nordsving said. “My daughter told me there was a Smart for sale at the Mercedes dealer in Des Moines. I drove down there, took a look at it, took it for a ride and bought it right then and there. And I love it.”

Nordsving’s Smart is powered by a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder “triple” that produces 70-horse power. It has a five-speed automated manual transmission.

Much like transmissions fitted to far pricier performance machines, the Smart’s gearbox mirrors that of the much more expensive Mercedes-Benz. Because there’s no clutch pedal, the Smart offers the option of letting the system shift itself like a traditional automatic, or using the push/pull shift lever (or optional steering-wheel paddles) one can run through the gears like a manual clutch transmission.

“I’ve got the paddle shifting in the steering wheel, but I don’t use it that often,” Nordsving noted. “But it’s got all the options.”

“All the options” include heated driver and passenger seats, sun roof, heated mirrors, rear window defogger, air conditioning, cruise control, a tachometer, six-CD player, traction control and a motor and drive train set up to run the Autobahn at 90 miles per hour.

“Oh, it will get up and go,” Nordsving said with a smile. “I’ve had it up to 90 before. But it wasn’t on a windy day.”

The rear-wheel-drive car is quite stable, weighing in at 2,250 pounds. However, Nordsving did admit that meeting a large semi while battling a crosswind will move it around on the road somewhat.

Nordsving’s two-seater has a wheelbase of 73.7 inches and an overall length of 106 inches. It’s 65.5 inches wide and 61 inches tall. The three-cylinder motor is located right behind the seats and right above the rear axel, which provides for plenty of traction. The Smart comes with wide, 17-inch rear wheels, which give it quite the sporty look.

Parking is a breeze, according to Nordsving. “I don’t even have to use reverse when I parallel park, getting in or out of the parking spot.”

When Nordsving bought his Smart in 2008, he noticed there were two gray models motoring around the Lanesboro area. “We used to wave at each other all the time. But I haven’t seen them around lately.”

Nordsving reported that he averages about 42 miles per gallon, combined highway and city driving. The Smart has an eight-gallon fuel tank and Nordsving said the car runs better on high-octane gas.

The Smart has a back hatch with a window that lifts up and tailgate that drops down. With the front passenger’s seat folded down, he’s been able to haul eight-foot long lumber in the little rig.

The longest trip that Nordsving has taken with his Smart is to the Twin Cities. He said he didn’t have any issues motoring around in “big city” traffic.

The Smart was the result of Mercedes-Benz and the Swatch Watch Company developing a vehicle nearly two decades ago to solve Europe’s overcrowding woes. The first Smarts sold like hotcakes to Europeans dealing with shared storage areas and nose-to-the-curb parking. Nearly a million Smarts were sold “across the pond” since the brand’s debut, offering an inexpensive, fuel and space efficient, safe commuter vehicle.

The Smart was first introduced in Canada in 2004 and DaimlerChrysler launched it in the United States in 2008.

The price tag for the Smart ranges between $13,000 and $16,000, depending on the options.