'Nightly News': 36 Miles a Gallon Not Quite Good Enough

      “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt test drove a Smart Car – popular in Europe and manufactured by German automaker Mercedes-Benz – on the January 27 program. Although the fuel efficiency of the Smart Car is a higher-than-average 36 miles to the gallon, that didn’t quite cut it for Holt.

     “For a base price of about $12,000, you get a lot of pricey stuff – four airbags, electronic stability control and a reinforced passenger safety cage,” Holt said. “What you don’t get is amazing gas mileage. According to the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], the Smart manages just 36 miles per gallon in mixed driving.”

     According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average fuel efficiency of a passenger car is 22.9 miles per gallon and 30 miles per gallon for a new passenger car. The Smart Car far exceeds those numbers.

      However, Holt had much higher expectations.

      “When I see a car like this I'm thinking it should be getting 50 to 60 miles a gallon. It doesn't quite do that,” Holt said.

     The lower gas mileage number is due to the change in the way the EPA calculates gas mileage according to the Smart Car’s Web site:

“The vehicle is designed to achieve 40 city/45 highway mpg according to 2007 EPA standards and 33 city/41 highway mpg according to 2008 EPA standards. The mpg rating for all vehicles will decrease in 2008 due to new calculation methods that the EPA has adopted.”

      Holt’s expectations fall in line with the fuel efficiency of a hybrid automobile. The version of the Smart Car being introduced in the United States is powered by a 3-cylinder, 1-liter gasoline-powered engine, according to the car’s Web site.