Smart Cars make up for lack of brawn with brains

Renato Viscuzi can't take his car anywhere without drawing a crowd.

When my wife and I go to a department store, we come back to the car and there's almost always a group of people surrounding it, said Viscuzi.

That's because Viscuzi is one of a select group of motorists in the Capital District who get from place to place in the Fortwo, the tiny car with big benefits to consumers who are being hit hard by rising fuel costs and the prospects of filling the tanks of their gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles.

Viscuzi, who owns Renato's Barbershop in Rotterdam, hails from Casarta, Italy, where he first saw a Smart Car 10 years ago.

"I fell in love, and each time I'd go back to Europe and see one, I'd fall in love again," said Viscuzi. "I've always enjoyed driving a smaller car. I had a Fiat, years ago, so when they (Smart Cars) became legal in the United States, I reserved one right away."

Viscuzi said he gets more than 40 miles per gallon out of his Passion Cabrio convertible model. He said the car's size allows him park it almost anywhere and that when he rides up to Saratoga Springs on Interstate 87, he has no problem getting the car, even with its 1-liter, 3-cylinder engine, up to speed.

"I even got pulled over in town the other day," said Viscuzi. "But the police just sort of laughed it off and let me go. They were checking out the car."

Viscuzi's car is nearly one year old, but has only 750 miles on its odometer. He said he plans to drive the car more in summer and will likely take it with him to Florida this weekend.

Viscuzi purchased the upgraded model for about $17,000. A base model of the car has a sticker price of $11,590.

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