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When my peugeot 206 finally packed up a year ago and I had to think about getting a new car I thought about the things I needed.... I didn't want to be a taxi service for my mates (2 seats helps with this). I wanted something that was relatively cheap to run (as petrol in the old car was about £45 quid a tank) and something that looked cute, not too flash but not cheap either.
Thats why for my the smart, passion was a great choice. I went to the showroom in Loughton and did a test drive, admittedly the automatic took a bit of getting used to, but it was so nippy and spacious inside. The salesman showed me the car was safe (steel cage surrounding the driver) which gave me more confidence. He then told me the benefits of road tax (the bill just came in £20 for the year) To fill up the tank cost about £30 and this lasts me a week doing roughly 200 miles a week. Quite nice to sit higher than a lot of other cars. It does tend to be a bit bumpy when going over potholes but this is because there is quite a low suspension.
All in all I would say this is a fantastic car and something I have recommended to people time and time again. It has been a brilliant way of me saving money, and because it was bought from brand new, Smart make sure there are no issues with the car and I have a call out service with them if anything does go wrong.
Definately one of my better decisions.
I went out and bought my smart car from evan and helshaw because before i had a 07 fiat punto grande and it was using 75.00 petrol a week and i dont do that many miles when i looked at getting a smart car i was told they were excellant on petrol eco friendly and they would bring my car insurance down and everything i was told is true so far and i have had it for two year now i can get 100 miles out of 10.00 which is great my insurance is next to nothing another plus is its only 35.00 to tax for a full year so it has saved me alot of money the only disadvantage to the smart car is it was made by merceades so the parts are quite a bit of money but overall it is great just wished it had more than 2 seats but now you can get a smart for four so watch this space
The smart is an odd little car, it has only 2 seats, only 600cc's and it's pretty much half the length of your average car.
It's not really my thing, I'm into my fast cars, but I do get the point of the little smart. It's so easy to park, I've reversed it straight into spaces I otherwise would have parallel parked into, it's a great little novelty. It is only £35 road tax!!! A huge bonus in today's world, as is the beautifully frugal fuel consumption. it'll do 60mpg all day long!
Now you'd expect the smart to be pretty tacky inside given it's price tag, but it's actually not too bad. It is obvious that everything has been made as simple as possible, and all the plastics are lightweight, and therefore a bit on the, err, plasticy side. But in reality you don't get many rattles in the car, and the seats are comfortable. Another thing that's impressive about the interior is that there really is plenty of space. You get a reasonable boot with top and bottom loading doors, and plenty of room for two full sized adults in the front.
It's worth explaining the model range to aid confusion. The Smart comes in 4 variants:
Pure - This is the base model, it comes with 4 wheels and a steering wheel as standard, but not a lot else.
Pulse - This is one up, the coupe version comes with the nice glass roof
Passion - The one I'm reviewing, comes with the glass roof and air conditioning, with leather as an option.
Brabus - The top of the range, as with the Passion but it's got a more lively 100bhp engine and uprated suspension.
The Smart's engine sounds weedy, the model I've been driving is a 600cc, 70bhp version, but in actual fact the engine is turbocharged, so it's pretty lively and fun once you get going. Performance figures pretty much don't apply though, it's nippy, but not what you'd call quick.
So put your foot down in traffic and you get a nice push from the rear engined, rear wheel drive smart. Come to a corner, and brace yourself, this thing really doesn't feel like it's going to handle! But in actual fact it does ok. Again it's not what I'd call quick round the bends, but you can push it suprisingly far before the wheels start to skid. And luckily they do, as I was worried that the smart would have a tendancy to feel like it's going to fall over thanks to it's height and narrow wheelbase, but it doesn't really.
So overall, the little Smart has a few tricks up it's sleeve. It's cheap, practical and dare I say it, it's a good laugh to drive. However It's gotta be said, the Smart is flawed...
There is no manual option, only a semi auto or full auto. Normally that'd be ok, but the gearbox is actually the worst I've ever driven. It is so jerky that you actually lose speed when it changes, jolting you forwards in the process, and it can take up to 4 seconds to make it's mind up when negotiating roundabouts and junctions. This may not sound like much, but it results in some pretty hair raising moments when you're trying to be quick. There are ways to aid the smoothness of the gearbox, such as lifting the throttle when it changes gear, which doesn't make it any quicker but does smooth the change.
That's not all either... If you do a lot of motorway driving, or even fast A road stuff, forget it. The smart feels sketchy at 60, the slightest bit of wind is enough to blow you off course, and frankly I've felt more stable on a motorbike in gail force winds than in the smart with a mild sidewind. You really need to concentrate to drive it at speed. However if you have to do maybe 20 mins on a fast road and then another 20 mins in town, the smart does make up for lost time thanks to its ability to fit into tiny gaps. People like the car too, so you'll find they're willing to let you through at junctions quite often.
Another flaw is that the engine is right behind you, and it makes a racket! Again being a petrolhead I actually quite enjoy the sound of the flighty 3 cylinder 600cc revving and the turbo spinning away, it's not a bad noise, though it could be quieter. Staying inside the only other flaw is that there is nowhere as standard to hide things. There are plenty of cubbyholes on the dashboard, but none of these have a cover, so unless you pay for the luggage cover, you'll have to take your sat nav etc with you. This is why I've rated driving comfort down. Bear in mind that it's not actually uncomfortable to sit in or drive, but you'd definitely get fatigued by that noise after a while.
All in all though, you just wouldn't buy one if you wanted to do long motorway stuff, and you won't care about the noise, or the gearbox if you're considering it. It's a cool little car, everyone loves them (or at least there's no reason to hate them!), and you can't ignore the B band road tax, the group 2 insurance or that 60mpg figure.
The passion is the one I'd have, in fact it's the one I do have, or at least my mum does. I'd let someone else take the first money hit though and buy second hand. You can pay up to £13,000 for a kitted out passion new, and come on, you can buy an actual car for that! Of course bear in mind that these things are going to be congestion charge exempt as of October, and they don't really depriciate too fast so it'd make for a good investment
Overall then, it's flawed but don't let that put you off. If you can put up with it you'll have a lot of fun in the smart. Just test one out first. The model I've reviewed is a 2003 car, I believe they have sorted quite a few problems on the newer ones.
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. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ The mad cabbie has been aware of these new 'mini' cars for quite some time now, but never had the opportunity to drive one until recently, as they didn't have a distributor here in Ireland. Thus any Smarts on Irish roads were either imports from the UK or the Continent, or driven by visitors to the Emerald Isle. That has now changed, and Smart cars are now on offer to the Irish public through 5 dealerships here in Dublin, and one or two others throughout the country. ~ ~ I really only became aware of just how popular these little dinky cars had become when on holiday over in Rome in June of this year. (2003) It seems like every second car on the Roman streets these days is a Smart. I got a great laugh while sitting having an espresso at a pavement café. A very smartly dressed young Italian male in a Gucci suit (or something similar) pulled up near where I was sitting, and proceeded to park his shiny new Smart nose in to the pavement in a space hardly big enough to take the average pushbike! He then disembarked, all the time talking a dime to the dozen into his mobile phone, which seemed to be permanently attached to his ear. Into the tiny boot of his Smart, and out came an equally tiny pop-up electric scooter, and off down the pavement he went. No doubt to meet up with his equally smartly dressed Italian girlfriend. ~ ~ The reason I mention this story in relation to Smart cars is that the manufacturers (Mercedes) would appear to have targeted the young, single person as the most likely purchasers of one of these vehicles. In much the same way as Austin Morris/British Leyland targeted the youngsters back in the 1960's with the now legendary Mini. What surprises me is that they took so long to catch onto the fact that they have such a HUGE potential market here in Ireland. About 88% of Irish youth in the 20 to 30 year-old <
br>age bracket are single, rising to a staggering 91% in Co. Dublin. And if you are aged under 26 here in Ireland, it's practically impossible to get insurance for ANY vehicle at a price that doesn't involve you in having to rob a bank to raise the necessary spondoolicks. (Cash) So the Smart car, with it's tiny, three-cylinder, 599cc engine offers an ideal opportunity for Irish youngsters to take to the highways, with low price insurance premiums. (Well, lower than normal insurance premiums) Car tax here in Ireland also varies depending on the size of the engine. The larger the engine, the more car tax you pay. So again, the Smart is ideal for the young motorist, as it costs buttons to tax it for a year. (Under Euro 80) ~ ~ OK. So we've ascertained that the Smart is an ideal buy for a young motorist in terms of running costs. But really, that's not a lot of use if the car itself is an absolute dog that makes you wish you'd never given up using the old pushbike! And you also have to take into consideration the actual purchase price itself, which at Euro 12,995 for the entry-level model is far from cheap! ~ ~ The car that I drove was the 54bhp "Passion" model. The first thing that strikes you about the Smart is the styling. It really is totally unlike anything else on the road, and kind of like an updated version of the tiny "bubble cars" that went through a popular phase back in the 1950's. Mercedes formed an unlikely partnership with the trendy Swiss watchmakers "Swatch" to come up with the design of the Smart, and they certainly managed to come up with something completely out of the ordinary and innovative. ~ ~ The Smart is a small car, and only measures 2.5 metres from nose to tail. This is just over half a meter (550mm) shorter than the original mini, but remember the mini had/has seating in the back, whereas the Smart is a two-seater. But because i
t doesn't have any pretensions towards being a four/five seater, the Smart gains lots of room for its intended two passengers. (Well, one driver and one passenger) The amount of interior space is truly amazing, and I had to bring the seat well forward in order to achieve a comfortable driving position. (I'm 5'10" tall, by the way.) So even folks who are six feet plus should have no problems getting comfortable in a Smart, especially since the headroom more than matches the legroom. The seats are big and comfortable, and have very high backs, which are an added safety feature should you ever be unfortunate enough to be "rear ended", as they will help to prevent serious whiplash injuries. Smart have achieved all this extra space by placing all the mechanical components underneath the passenger compartment, in a sort of "sandwich" arrangement. Both sideways and forward visibility is excellent, as everywhere you look seems to be glass. ~ ~One of the major worries I always have when driving a small car is safety. Put in its simplest terms, in the event of an accident there's just not so much metal between you and another vehicle, or your body and the tarmac or concrete. The truth is, I DID feel vulnerable in the Smart, although in reality it scores fairly high in the safety ratings league. (NCAP Ratings) Being built by a renowned car manufacturer like Mercedes helps, as they have incorporated many of the safety features that they include in their standard range, with crumple zones all around, and a "Tridion" safety cell that makes up the core of the interior. Don't ask me what "Tridion" actually means, but presumably it?s a reinforced cell that protects the driver and passenger. The engine being underneath the car also helps in terms of safety, as it means it can't break through into the passenger compartment in the event of an accident, and thus damage your
vulnerable legs and torso. But despite the reassurances from the manufacturer in regard to safety, the truth is that I didn't feel as safe and as well protected in the Smart as I would in a normal sized saloon car. But I had just stepped out of my own very large Nissan Maxima V6, so perhaps this coloured my perception somewhat. The body panels are all removable and recyclable incidentally, so if you get fed up of your colour scheme after a while, then you can order a new look from the manufacturer. ~ ~ Mercedes also make full use of all the available space in the interior, and the Smart comes loaded with little extras that you wouldn't really expect in such a small car. It has a stylish dashboard, which includes a speedometer, a rev-counter and a wee clock. The front seat folds flat to give you some much-needed extra luggage and load carrying capacity, and the tailgate opens up fully by using the rather clever method of having the top window section swing upwards, while the lower section swings down towards the ground. There wasn't that much space in the section behind the seats for carrying luggage, but I reckon I'd manage to get all my golf gear in, (at a push) and I'd certainly have no problem if I had the front passenger seat folded down. There's even a wee bit of extra storage space underneath the seats. Lots of little extra goodies come as standard, including electric windows and mirrors, and air conditioning to keep you comfy in the Summer and help demist the car in the Winter. You also have remote central locking, so you don't forget to lock up the car when you park, and an immobiliser in case some tearaway decides to try to nick it on you. There was a decent radio/cassette player (can't remember the make) and you can have a CD player for a small extra charge. ~ ~ So what's the Smart like to actually drive? The gearbox takes some getting used to, as it's a bit of a mi
xture of both manual and automatic. There's no clutch pedal, and the gears are changed electronically, either in fully automatic mode, or manually by simply clicking the gear lever forward. Initially I drove it using the automatic change, and there was a long lag between the car selecting the gear and it actually beginning to move forward. Then it tended to leap forward with a bit of a lurch, which could easily see you up the back of the vehicle in front of you if you aren't careful. You do get used to it after a while though, and compensate for this. There are six forward gears, and in manual mode you are reminded what gear you are in by an electronic display on the dashboard. It's quite clever though, as the car wont allow you to strain the engine by driving too slowly in a high gear. If you try this, then the automatic box takes over again, and changes you back down into the appropriate gear for the road speed. I believe you can also get a "paddle" gear change mounted onto the steering wheel, but the car I drove didn't have this feature, so I can't say if it's any improvement on the ordinary gear lever. ~ ~ Performance is "adequate", as Rolls Royce used to love to state. With a 0 to 60mph time of around 18 seconds, you're not going to be challenging the boy racers at the traffic lights. But would you really expect to with a tiny 599cc engine? The Smart has plenty of poke to get you around in city traffic handily enough, without frustrating the guy in his 3-litre BMW sitting behind you. And with the turbo-assisted engine, you can hold your own while cruising on the motorway or open road, with a top speed of 84mph. (It's actually capable of more speed than this, but the top speed is electronically limited!) The Smart has inherited many features from its 'big brother', the Mercedes "A" class. There's traction control to stop you spinning the wheels under hard
acceleration, and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) to stop you getting into trouble in event of a skid. ~ ~ No power steering, but as the car is so light you could almost pick it up and stick it in your back pocket (slight exaggeration!) this isn't really necessary, and the steering is both light and very responsive. Smart have made the front tyres slightly smaller than those on the rear, and this also helps to make the steering that little bit lighter to the touch. Road holding is grand, and it corners fairly securely, but does have a tendency to lean into the corners just a little. The suspension is just a tad on the hard side for my own liking, and when you went over one of the many "speed bumps" which seem to have appeared just about everywhere on the Dublin city streets, the old bones got a fair old jolt! Fuel consumption, as you would expect in a car with a (very) small engine is dramatically frugal, and even driving it hard you could realistically expect to get between 40 to 50mpg around town with ease, and more if you were on a long journey. But you will still have to visit the garage fairly often, as along with everything else in the Smart, it also has a tiny fuel tank. But at just over about 4 gallons maximum capacity it won't cost you an arm and a leg to fill it up. ~ ~ Now for the million dollar question. Would I actually consider buying one? If I'm truthful then the answer would have to be no. I'm a big car man to the bone, although I enjoyed the somewhat quirky looks of the Smart, and it WAS loads of fun to drive. If I were in the market for a smaller car then I would have to go for something a little more practical for everyday use, like the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Micra, Ford Ka, or Seat Ibiza. If I were 20 or 30 years younger I might think differently though! I feel the Smart is an ideal car for a young, single person, who wants to cut a bit of a dash and make a fashion statemen
t, and who isn't too concerned about space for luggage. (Or family!) Mind you, I was passed out only today by one of the new Smart sports jobs (the Roadster) on the motorway to the airport. I was doing a good 80mph in my Maxima, and it passed me as though I were standing still! I feel another test drive coming on. (heh, heh) ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Copyright KenJ 2003 ~~~~~~~~~~~~
The smart has sold well as it is like no other car on the new and used car market, Its unique styling inside and out is why it has done so well here on ciao. A family member recently bought a Smart Passion which so far is his best car he has bought new .His previous car a Citroen Saxo 1.1 Forte, has been defeated in every way by his new Smart but there is one thing , just one that the Saxo is better at – that’s pulling away from the lights! Performance *** 3 star 3/5 The Smart has a tiny 3 cylinder 599 cc engine which provides a tiny 54 bhp engine which gets the Smart to 60mph in 17.2 seconds. For a car with only a 599cc engine i think the smart Passion could be a lot worse for example the Smart Pure(entry level) has a even less powerful 44 bhp which arrives at 60 mph in 19.0 seconds!. The performance of the Passion is enough in town but begins to feal strained at more than 65mph Running costs *****5 star 5/5 The Smart is very affordable to buy and to run the Passion model which is top of the range has a on the road price of £7,200 which includes a 3yr/25,000 mile manufacturer warranty and comes with a 6 yr corrosion guarantee and a 1yr's breakdown cover! The Smart is great in town as it has an official combined mpg of 57.5 mpg! On The Road The new smart car cannot be discrbed anyother than a unusal drive.The smart handles well and can be chucked into corners once the speed is achived.The brakes on the smart are not as good as others like the Fiest but good enough for the weight of the car. Equipment **** 4 star 4/5 For a town car the Smart Passion has a reasonably large list especially for £7.2 k standard equipment is as followed .Automatic gearbox .alloy wheels .air conditioning .central remote locking .immobilizer .driver and passenger and side airbags (ThatR
17;s why its good at NCAP crash test!) .abs brakes .traction control .electric front windows .RDS radio cassette OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT .Metallic paint £200 .alarm £220 .electric mirrors £125 .heated mirrors £125 .CD multiplayer £235 Reliability ***** 5 star 5/5 The reliability of the Smart is exceptionally good as the 599cc engine is a Mercedes engine!. Recommendations I would recommend these cars to anyone who drives mainly in town as the small engine can not cope very well with motorway speeds, occasional A road use is a must as town bound cars suffer from sluggish engines and frequent exhaust replacements. I would not recommend these cars to anyone who does a large amount of motorway miles as they are city cars. Thanks for reading :0) Sam
The Smart is a 'Micro Car' or 'Road Legal Go-Kart' if you like. It's produced by MCC (the Micro Car Company), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Daimler-Chrysler group. It's a marmite car; you will either love it or hate it! I personally love it. I have really liked these for a good while now, and finally took a test drive last weekend. The showroom we visited was in Milton Keynes, and is just down the left hand side of the Xscape Sportscentre. Very busy it was too, with many people in and out, all very interested in this unique car. Anyway we hung around and queued for a test drive in a Smart & Passion. I could have bought one there and then, I was hooked before I'd even driven one. Currently the vehicles are only available Left-hand drive, this may put some people off, but given the car is just 1.8M wide, all-round visibility really is not compromised at all. RHD drives will become available at the end of the year or early next year. I do not think residual values of the LHD will be affected as I hear that one and two year old smarts on import are losing very little money. The driving position is quite high in the car, despite its size. I was comfortable quite quickly and put the car to the test for 10 minutes, around a few roundabouts and up a few dual carriageway roads in MK. I was really impressed, the steering was so light, and the engine in the car (just 600cc but turbocharged) was very responsive and certainly much more springier and livelier than my 1.1L Punto! The engine is designed and built by Mercedes Benz, also part of the Daimler group. The car is really well equipped even from standard so whether you go for the Pure, Pulse, Passion or Passion Cabrio, you really get a lot of car for your money. On all models expect ABS, EBD (electronic brake distribution), 6 speed semi-automatic gearbox (sequential and clutchless). If you go for the Pulse you get a more powerful
engine, which puts out 65BHP, as opposed to the 45BHP of the Pure. If you choose the Passion (which I will be doing!) then the engine give you 56BHP, so a little less nippy than the Pulse, but you get air-conditioning and a gearbox which can be moved from semi-automatic to automatic at the mere touch of a button as you drive! If you feel brave you can go for the top end Passion cabrio which has a fully automatic soft-top, it really looks cool, but I?m not too much of a soft-top fan, given we only get about 3 weeks of soft-top weather per year! The car is really economical according to the sales staff, and this is backed up by the brochure and the on line brochure at www.thesmart.co.uk. You should expect 50MPG or more. Perfect, given today?s spiralling petrol costs. The continent has a CDI diesel version of the Smart which may appear over here, but if you want 80MPG and more at the moment then you need to go over to France or somewhere and buy one. Check the international version of the Smart website at www.smart.com for more information. Safety isn't compromised on the Smart, it is clear a lot of money has been invested in the vehicle from the ground up. The car is only 2.5M long and as such is a 2 seater. The seats are reinforced, and the rear of the car has a special safety cell, which looks part of the cars styling, but is in fact helps the car to absorb crash energy in the unfortunate event of a crash. Indeed it's one of the safest small cars around. Prices of the Smart range from the £6200 mark for the Pure, £7000 for the Passion and £9500 for the Passion Cabrio. There only only six dealers at the moment in the UK, but I have been told this will increase to around 100 in a short while. All in all I was really impressed the short drive I took, and have booked a longer test drive on this coming weekend. I hope to purchase one (the high spec Passion) in the next few weeks. I will update my opinion accor
dingly after ownership! For a great independant owners website check www.smart-owner.co.uk ~~~The ratings below do not all apply as I'm reviewing a test drive and my inital findings and thoughts of this car~~~
Availability: I bought a Mark V Smart Passion. This is the very latest model, at the time of ordering there was a bit of a wait. The impression of the showroom was that you can have one in two-to-three weeks, but I ended up waiting several weeks with little or no news. This was because, although the specification of my car was not unusual, there were none in stock in this country. **Update: A new computer ordering system and volume supply of UK Mk Vs has improved this situation**. Options: Some of the options that were available on the Mk IV have gone, some of the options for the Mk V were not available: these were... "speakers upgrade" for the stereo, which is vital to get a good sound **Update: I have had this done at the smartcentre since**; leather/heated seats; alarm system upgrade, although the immobiliser alarm is adequate. All of these were put down to the differences between the Euro and UK wiring looms. All of these will feature on the right hand drive model, though. **Update: leather/heated seats are now available** Left-hand-drive: Until early next year, all Smarts are Left-hand-drive, although all the rest of the features are UK-spec. Many people will not be happy with LHD, because they know it can be a hinderance when overtaking and at car-park barriers, but this is where the Smart is different: its so narrow that the difference between the left side seat and the right-side seat is so small and reaching over for a car-park ticket is no major problem because of the ample room in the cabin. The handbrake and gearshift being to my right is something that I quickly got used to, even when swapping to a Golf and back. **Update: RHD is available from Nov.2001** Impressions: The new interiors remain "funky", but the colours are more drab (dark blue, grey or dark red) **Update: also Pulse now has lime interior!**, although this means fewer distracting reflections in the glass. The ride is a bit hard, as the suspens
ion is particularly stiff to avoid excessive body-roll, but this means that road-holding is very good and although the car is marketed as a city-coupe, it is great fun on the country roads using the semi-automatic 6-speed gearbox. Blustery winds on a motorway have the same effect as on any tall-sided, lightweight vehicle but the solid construction makes it seem safe and sturdy. Having come from a New Golf to a car that is half the price, I was surprised at all the standard features. One of the surprise features is all the smiles that you get from all types of people (not just those who appreciate cars) as you drive it around town. The very worst expressions you get are from people who can make out quite what it is - a puzzled look. You can feel the Mercedes influence around the car in the build and rigidity of the car. Niggles: There are a few things about the car which are disappointing: the quality of the standard speakers **Update: upgrading speakers costs £90 or £220 at the smartcentre, depending on option chosen**; the engine cover catch, which is fiddly to locate; the top-up points, which are difficult to open and fill; and some of the controls are in awkward places: the headlight dip angle control, computer display switch, front fog lights, tailgate release are examples. Performance: During the run-in period from new and whilst cold, the gear changes are less smooth, but once run-in and warmed up, the Mercedes engine is very sprightly. The acceleration is normally adequate and due to the engine being small, the revs have to go quite high to achieve brisk acceleration, but the turbo and twin sparks mean that it does this without making a huge song-and-dance about it. Safety: My car comes with the fully automatic "SOFTouch" gear-change program in the computer, which can be unpredictable at times, but seems to make a sensible choice of gear in all circumstances, particularly in town traffic. The electronic brakeforce distribu
tion, ABS and traction control keep everything under strict supervision. Visibility is interesting, as when you look over your shoulder, you end up looking out of the back window. Depending on the angle you reach a junction, turning left to join traffic means looking around your passenger, but that equally applies to turning right in a RHD car. Accommodation: I am quite long in the torso, so finding a car that I could easily fit into in the past with plenty of headroom was difficult unless I wanted to spend money on an MPV - and I wanted a smaller car. The space for two people in the Smart is vast - like a van - much greater than most other cars of all sizes that I have driven. The "boot" is adequate, for a weekend suitcase or a week's shopping for two and the folding passenger seat means that the car can swallow a lot more than you would otherwise expect. The (optional) under-seat drawer takes the place of a glovebox, which is because of the passenger airbag. The seats are sportily supportive and despite the fact that the steering wheel is neither reach or rake adjustable and the seats not height adjustable, a suitable "upright" driving position is easy to find and comfortable. Like many other unusual cars, it is best to get the opinions of other Smart owners before you buy - and the UK Smart Owners Clubs offers free online membership at http://www.thesmartclub.co.uk
MARCH 2007 REVISION.
I haven't made any major revisions to what I had previously written, as my wife and I are still much in love with our dear little Smarty, but I have added a few afterthoughts as a last paragraph, based on what is now more than 5 years ownership. The good news is that theres little to report thats negative.
Meanwhile, back at the plot......
I wrote this as an owner of one of the first official right-hand-drive versions of the Smart to be seen on the roads of Britain. So there it stood on our driveway, a Swatch*-Mercedes Art Car (SMArt, geddit?), all metallic blue and silver, smiling at me, saying, "aaah go-on, go-on, go-on, take us for a drive. Aaaah, ywill, ywill, ywill!"
I did, and still spend my weekends looking for excuses to do it some more!
*Swatch are no longer part of the consortium, having withdrawn after the design stage. Mind you, you can tell from the dashboard and interchangeable body panels that they just MIGHT have had something to do with it!
Surprise, surprise, prices were up about 10% on the new RHD version, although as a small sop to us Brits, more equipment, like the tachometer, clock and basic stereo were standard. Apparently, the floor pan needed a major reworking, as the seat runners are staggered to put the driver ahead of the passenger. Ours, which just so happened to be available from existing stock, came to £8600 with the existing extras, like metallic paint, side-airbags, upgraded speaker system and electric mirrors. A quick peruse of the current price list reveals that it doesnt seem to have gone up in price.
I always did like the slightly oddball things in life, as long as they are not too expensive. The exception being my wife who tends to be both.
The Smart (+Passion version) however, seemed to fulfil BOTH these criteria with a will.
They have been described as Marmite you either love em or hate em. The salesman at Smart Chiswick claims he originated that phrase, mentioned it to some "journo" from a lifestyle magazine and the rest, as they say, is history....
These are my impressions of what ownership is like.
Im a six-footer (thats my height, dummy) but I had no problem getting comfortable. The two doors it does have are enormous, the legroom is, well, roomy, requiring me to move the seat quite a way forwards, and the high-back seats are very reassuring. In fact, Ill stick my neck out here and say its the largest two-seater Ive ever been in. Not bad for something thats about 2.5 metres long. All you have to remember is, that theres b****r-all car behind you, and not a lot of it in front either! Mind you, my previous experience had been with MG Midgets and Bs. Even so, the Cabriolet version is still arguably the cheapest new open 2-seater by a l-o-o-o-n-g way. With its huge windscreen and all-glass sunroof; it's like the cockpit of a two-seater helicopter without quite so much the glass. Its amazing how much this improves a dull day, like the one on which I took my RHD test drive.
The substantial ignition key (small car, big key!) inserts down by the hand brake and gear stick. The gear stick has very little movement to it, being electronic. There is no H-gate to shift through, you merely press on the stick forwards for an up-change and, yes, you guessed it, back for a down-change. Neutral and reverse are accessed by a click to the right and rearwards respectively. When driving in manual (you need to if youre going to get anywhere near to top acceleration) you get a reminder on the dash of which gear youre in, thank God, as with SIX of the little blighters, it would be easy to lose count. There's even an indicator to show when an up/down change is needed! Even in manual, the little engine protects itself from being laboured in too high a gear by forcing a downchange. Thus if you brake to a complete halt, youll be in 1st gear to pull away again
This all seems very similar to the Tiptronic system available in Porsches, including the lack of a clutch pedal, and the fact that you can leave the thing in auto, although this does make a nonsense of having a tachometer fitted still it looks nice!
Unlike conventional fluid-coupled automatics, there is no low speed creep, which, ironically, some find useful in traffic jams. These cars retain a friction clutch, with a little man in the gearbox doing all of the clutch pedal work for you. As a result of using a conventional straight-through drive with no slippage, there is no efficiency (or m.p.g.) penalty to having an automatic here (unfortunately, DVLA dont seem to know this and charge more VED for it). Even in automatic, it pays to anticipate the gear change and ease off on the accelerator, so as to effect a smoother change like you would if you were stirring the pudding yourself, otherwise theres a sort of surge forward like you get with learners who havent got the knack of matching revs to road speed.
As you would expect, you have to be going quite fast, or driving very gently for 6th gear to kick in at all, especially in an urban environment.
The 54 b.h.p. engine (turbo-charged 599 cc 3 cylinder, twin-spark) in this version is surprisingly nippy well I suppose it ought to be bearing in mind the weight of the car (approx 750 kilos). (The +Pulse version is 60 b.h.p., achieved by increasing the turbo boost a tad). Incidentally, if you really want to impress a techno-freak, show them the engine, which proudly bears the legend Engineered by Mercedes Benz. Let me see now: wider wheels at the back, rear engined by Mercedes, 6-speed sequential box sure its not a McClaren?
The adequate power output makes longer journeys a practical proposition for one person, or two as long as long as they take the minimalist approach to baggage, on their way to a naturist holiday or the Eurovision Thong Contest, perhaps! Joking apart, Im sure if you experimented to find the optimum luggage shape, you could get a full holidays worth in.Iit wouldnt be the first car to need tailor-made bags. Stacking crates look favourite to make the most of the floor space. Im surprised that amongst all the twee little accessories complete with Smart logo, there isnt a tailored set of bags.
Steering is light and positive, thanks to the weight again, plus the fact that the front tyres are only a 145 cross-section job, so theres not a great deal of rubber on the road at the front.
It would be unfair to compare "0-60" times with other cars since it is not designed to zoom up to the motorway limit in a trice, more up to the next set of lights and stop again. For this, its acceleration is fine especially thanks to the the point-and-squirt nature of the automatic gearbox. With a town car like this, the ability to KEEP UP is what matters; otherwise youll never get into the right lane at Marble Arch!
Fuel-consumption is amazingly low I seemed to get over 60 to the gallon without trying too hard on long runs. You still visit the petrol station as often though, because like a lot of things on the Smart, the tank is half the usual size (22 litres with a low fuel warning at 5 litres). At least each visit doesnt cost as much. Theres a diesel version, which does about 85 to the gallon, presumably with a 0-60 time equivalent to "sometime next Wednesday"!
Note: Newer Smarts now have a larger fuel tank
Despite being tall and thin, handling and cornering feel pretty stable, except when the bow-wave from a passing or passed truck hits. The suspension is quite hard in a sporty sort of way, to keep that body roll to a minimum. The seats have a fair degree of sporty side-support to complete the illusion.
The car bristles with the electronics passed down from its big brother, the A-Series Mercedes that helped the latter eventually through the Swedish swerving-round-an-Elk test. Name me a system for limiting skids and wheel-spin, and the Smarts got it. Theres anti-lock brakes with distribution system this alters the braking done by each wheel to allow for sporadic grip, theres a proper traction control that will simply refuse to let the driven wheels spin - very useful on snow. Theres even a sensor that can tell if you suddenly lose the back end which then reduces the power.
Well dont be, the shortness of the bonnet leads a lot of people to assume that they are death traps in a crash. Far from it, they come almost on a par with the VW Polo in the NCAP Ratings. You sit higher up, which helps with side impacts, and being Mercedes designed means that crumple-zones have been given a lot of thought and even the front wheels have their part to play in softening the blow of a frontal impact. Those high backed seats are all part of the rear end protection, since their steel shell is continuous right up to the head rest as one complete pan. The mid-engined layout also prevents any penetration into the passenger compartments in the event of a frontal collision.
Combined with all the crash-avoidance gadgetry, they seem pretty safe to me.
GETTING TO LIKE
...the flat-folding passenger seat for those large parcels that would otherwise cost £5 to have Comet deliver. It would be interesting to see if a pushbike with the saddle down would go in here, or the paraphernalia of a mobile business. (AND its got a cup-holder on the back!)
...the split tailgate the window swings up, and the lower part swings down to form a smooth loading deck with a considerable weight capacity. It wouldnt be legal to drive like this as the number plate disappears in the process (remember the first Minis with their hinged number plates? I do, but then Im old!) Leaving the rear window open would be ideal for carrying planks etc, in combination with the folding seat, but keep the car well ventilated otherwise youll suck exhaust in through the back, and be away with the exhaust-poisoning fairies before you know it.
...the tinted glass roof with sliding sunshade for my bald patch. There is a sliding shade, which can be positioned to keep the worst of the heat out.
...the under-seat lockers, one of which had the CD auto-changer in it, in the test car. In fact, all available space seems to have a job. After a while, you get to thinking, hey, I dont remember seeing the engine yet! This is under the boot floor with easy access to the dipstick. The radiator is still at the front. At the time of purchase, they have forgotten to re-work the underseat brackets for the RHD version, so over a period of 5-years Ive kind of lost interest in bothering with a CD changer more of why later.
...the quirky but stylish dashboard the clock and the tachometer look like a cartoon frog peering up above the dash.
...the plastic door panels, which are bound to come off best in a supermarket duel of the doors. Some of these are coloured all the way through, so some scratches can just be buffed away. The fancier paint finishes with patterns are sprayed on. You can even give the car a complete makeover with a change of panels.
...the raunchy wide-wheeled stance, at least from the back. The moped wheels at the front are a bit wimpy, but if they were the same width as the back, youd be more likely to want power steering, or a bigger steering wheel.
...the equipment level in this particular Passion version, which included intelligent Air Conditioning, electric windows, electric/heated mirrors, remote control locking/immobilising, decent stereo (the CD changer is an extra).
...the performance, which is surprising. The car has been limited to 84 m.p.h although it would do 110 m.p.h. if left unfettered the mind boggles.
...the combination of tiny engine size and low-ish CO2 emissions, which means that whatever flavour of polluter-pays road tax is in force, the Smart will be down at the bargain basement end. Even the automatic qualifies for the £100 VED although some are as low as £40!
Initially, my insurance may have been slightly marred by the stigma attached to the first wave of UK Smarts being LHD, but even the RHD, at that early stage created a problem for my insurers because they thought it was a special, not having heard of the official version yet! Its not a problem now though.
GETTING TICKED OFF ABOUT .
...the lack of a spare tyre. Yes, I know that the back, and front wheel, are different widths but really...pull over and use your cell-phone? What kind of a solution is that? No wonder the price included one years roadside recovery. You can get a roadside repair kit, which includes a gas canister and sealant solution, but this would only work with "nail" type punctures, not a catastrophic "blowout".
Incidentally, dont buy their Emergency tyre kit at £85, when an aerosol of Tyre Weld and a 12v compressor cost £20 in Halfords! As a further belt and braces, Im investing in dosing my tyres with Ultraseal at £28 per car, which is a sealant that remains in the tyre at all times, and is capable of sealing a 6mm hole! It still doesnt embrace the problem of a catastrophic blowout, but in 400,000 miles of motoring, Ive never had one, so I assume theyre quite rare.
Apparently, Smart are addressing this problem with a narrow spare, which goes behind the drivers seat (and a jack, presumably) more of this also later.
...the cost of a bike rack. Its almost cheaper to buy a folding bike and put it in the boot.
I did. The big question was; did we replace my 2-litre Chrysler saloon or Mrs. Ns Micra? I could forsee see the fights ..No, me want da Smart, and Ill thout and scweam until I get it! .
Still, I did hold the REMIND me, WHO paid for it? trump card!
As it happens, we did get rid of the Neon, but partly because of other circumstances, relating more to the buyers needs (my uncle) than ours. We now have the Smart and a Yaris T-Sport, which Ive already featured on u-rate-it.
GETTING IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE
Seriously though, a week with one of these does lead you to take stock of your existing arrangements.
For example, just how useful was my 5-seat saloon compared to the hatch-back Micra, which has room to take stuff to the dump, whilst the saloon didnt?
My day-time need for a car is largely limited to the need for personal transport and if I can do this in a fun way, with minimal fuel consumption, then so much the better.
We dont take motoring holidays, unless you include driving to Gatwick, so as long as we have one car that has luggage space for the two of us, what the hell?
And think of the effect on the environment if we all had cars suited to our needs rather than our status in life or as a substitute for a short thingy.
AFTERTHOUGHTS 2007 STYLE
Around town fuel consumption a little disappointing at "only" 45 mpg, although under economy run conditions at a near constant 50 mph, we achieved well over 60 mpg - you just need to take official figures with a pinch of salt. Shell V-Power petrol, although dearer, does improve mpg and therefore the range of the minuscule tank. On a VERY frugal run to Norfolk, I achieved 73 mpg (once!)
On delivery, the driver's door hinge was binding on the front wing making a hideous noise. I could have booked it into Smart, Brentford, but choose to loosen a few screws, pull up on the wing and do them up again. Problem solved without losing a day and all that signing for courtesy cars! Up until March 2007 this was the ONLY thing ever to go wrong with the car at which point the electric mirrors both failed to operate. Sensing that this felt like a new switch was needed, I bought one (£30 for a bit of plakky youre avin a laugh!) but at least it did the trick without letting the workshops loose on it, no doubt with an hours labour and diagnostics thrown in.
To be fair, other accessories seem very reasonably-priced and some are "user-fittable", like a pair of cassette holders which stack beneath, and match the rubbish bin - £30 the pair including the screws and colour-matched caps for them.
There are plenty of after market accessories too. I recently bought a connecting harness for an mp3 player which fools the radio into thinking that the CD changer is installed. It cost £14.99 and lets the iPod sit in the glove box totally hidden very neat and it only took about 5 minutes to install.
The much-criticised (by the motoring press, not by me) automatic gearbox has somehow smoothened out, and I've got better at meeting it halfway by encouraging it to change with judicious use of the right foot. Driving manually is even better.
The sporty-looking seats are fine, but you need to realise that there is no recline mechanism on the passenger side - it's already back further than the driver's seat by design, so there would be little scope for it to lean anyway. This is a bar to longer journeys if two are travelling.
There are a few tweaks that can improve pulling power without compromising the warranty, one being to buy a new K&N air-filter which is reputed to ease the air flow, and add about 5 bhp to the engine, making 6th gear a more frequent proposition. This alone restores the output of the Passion version up to that of the Pulse. Of course, once the 3 year warranty (now two years) were up, I was free to patronise a whole tweaking industry out there waiting to make it more powerful, but thus far, I never have.
The tyre sealant is working fine in 24,000 miles Ive not so much as had one puncture yet, but it also maintains tyre pressures perfectly by keeping the rims better sealed too. That said, I never did like the idea of not having a spare, so thanks to eBay, Ive just bought a matching alloy front wheel and tyre although I wont leave it in the car all the time only on long journeys.
Inevitably many Smarts are doomed to be second cars, shopping trolleys what-have-you. As such the tyres look like they could go on for ever mine seem only half used. However, beware trying to make them last 10 years. They may age in other ways than mere tread wear would dictate. I think Ill be replacing mine soon for safety reasons
If I had a major gripe, it would be servicing costs which I guess were always going to have Mercedes price tags these range from £200 to nearly £500 once an MOT is added to the more expensive C service. Now its out of warranty, Ill be looking around. Being a low mileage car, you still end up paying out once a year, which can add as much as 10p a mile to my running costs.
New models are now known as Smart ForTwos (with a 700cc engine) to differentiate from the ForFour (a joint venture between Smart and Mitsubishi and built at Nedcar in the Netherlands using many parts in common with the Mitsubishi Colt) and the Roadster. Ironically, these havent sold well enough, and Smart are retrenching to their core business of producing town car two-seaters.
To further economise, theyve closed the high profile showroom in Chiswick W4, making the nearby Brentford service facility double as a showroom. Thats fair enough you either know you want a Smart or you dont.
I just so happens that I do.
We were amongst the first buyers of a Smart Car officially imported by Smart Car UK through the Birmingham dealership. Though many people have either imported privately or bought through a dealer who has privately imported. See www.thesmartclub.co.uk for a map of ownership (registered owners). We have a 2001 Passion model purchased just before Christmas 2000. It was purchased as a second car, primarily for my partner (Dani) to use for travelling to and from work. A perfect 'city' of course, but don't discount it for that, if like us you are not city people. I love to use it whenever I can especially for local runs, preferring it to my Volvo V40, this car is relagated to runs to the tip or DIY stores. Dani has recently taken a job 45 miles from home and commutes each way daily. She would have been the first one to say commuting was not for her, and that she wouldn't be able to cope with left-hand drive, but she has no issue with either point now, thanks to the Smart and has clocked up 7,000 miles already (March 2001). These cars are unbelievable value-for-money, starting at £5,400.00 and when they finally are avai;able in right-hand drive they will sell like hot cakes, I'm sure of it. But don't let left-hand drive put you off trying one, nip down to a showroom and test drive one; but don't go if you don't really want to buy one, because I'll bet you will if you do! N.B. Cross the Channel by Hoverspeed for the same price as a motorbike and two people i.e. as much as half price. This has officially been negociated by Smart. LATEST - We had to phone SmartMove Assist (Breakdown Service). We didn't actually breakdown but the 'Check Engine' warning light came on, in the dashboard. So we called SmartMove, they sent out a recovery vehicle, took our car to the Birmingham Smart dealer (120 miles away), sent us a hire car, a Vauxhall Corsa :( , fixed the problem and returned our car by transporter. The only downer was it took from Thursday morning until Tuesday night, but all at Smart's expense. This was due only to the fact that the dealer was so busy and could not get to look at our car until the Tuesday. LATEST - Same problem re-occured, the car was with them for 10 days as they had difficulty tracing the fault, then getting the new part (computer stuff)?? LATEST - The problem was rectified with a new Engine Management 'thingy' chip. Ran beautifully ever since. 10,000 miles done since Christmas 2000. My faith restored - Go and buy one now, you won't regret it!
The first time I saw the smart it made me laugh. I then decided to test drive this strange little car - amazing - I NEEDED one! Now I own a smart car and everytime I drive it (even after one and a half months) it makes me smile. It has a feel good factor about it. Everything about the car is unusual, even the rev counter is positioned in a funny place and you can change the colour just by swapping the pannels over. All the features are very, very practicle. In the cabin everything is positioned where you would want it - the ignition is so much easier to access in the centre mounting. Inside the car seems quite spaces, never cramped even with two very large people! The smart is great to park - you can just drive upto the curb and forget about having to reverse park! The only problem I have found, is that the automatic gearbox is very jerky and takes years to complete a change. Apart from that I think the smart car is fantastic!
Hi there, just a brief note to anyone slighty interested in the SMART. I am an Owner of the SMART Passion, I have been since April 2000. And what do I think ? Well I think it's a great car. I used to have a Vauxhall Corsa, and was originally thinking of getting a Vauxhall Omega, that was till the price of running it suddenly occured to me ! The SMART looks great, is a joy to drive, and everyone smiles when they see you. OK it's not great for long distance drives, or for areas which have really bumpy roads as the suspention is very firm. But the engine is great, and really does sound difference to a bog standard car, there is A LOT of technology in the car, and it's very safe, dispite it's size, and if don't believe me, the current top gear titles show a crash test if u look quick enough ! This car is great on fuel though which is one of the main points I got it for, it doens't have a huge fuel tank, just 22 litres, and the petrol refil reminder flashes about 2 days before u need to fill it ! But if u put in 15 pounds u get about 280 miles. The car does fill very well built (well being a merc it should !), and it has a lot of attention to detail. Some people think this car is small. The couldn't be more wrong, here's a test for you if u ever have the pleasure of sitting behind the wheel. Sit down on the drivers seat and TRY to touch the bottom of the window screen, u just CAN'T do it !! That's how big the car is !, it's very airy too , lots of head room, and the boot is ideal for a weeks shopping of a batchelor like me ! If u have any questions, let me know and I'll do my best to answer them for you.
Samrt cars, what a cracking idea. I'm sick and tired of seeing the usual four seat boxes on the road, it's good to see a car that is a little different and vert practical as well. How many people drive their cars every day on their own? Most cars have at least four seats and the back seats are almost never used, what a waste. It costs more to build and needs more fuel to carry round all that excess weight that is not required. The Smart car has just two seats, so it is lighter. It therefore needs a smaller engine so is more fuel efficient, which given the state of our oil reserves and what we are doing to the environment has to be an advantage. I hope moe manufacutres will come up with some new ideas for the car to help the environment and make life a little more interesting!
When I recently took up my new position I was offered a company car. When my managing director discribed it as a smart car with a mercedes engine. I hadn't heard of or seen the car. I asumed that he meant a smart car meaning a cool, impressive vehicle! Little did I know that this was what he was offering. As soon as I saw photos in the brochure and had a look at the car, I hasten to say I declined the offer. The tiny little car looks sweet I guess, but it isn't practable. Hardly any boot space, no back seat and very little room! I do however like the interior, the dials are very modern. A big No! No! and a major disadvantage is the fact that is a left hand drive. I can imagine that it would make a good big city car. It's compact and easy to park, which is a real asset. And for those who like to be noticed, it is a real head turner. Perhaps not in the way that you might want it to be but you certainly get noticed in it. My MD's wife drives one and I see the turning of heads at it as it goes past and the smirking!!! It certainly will not be able to compete with other cars of the same price.... £5,400 to £7,100 Full marks to Swatch for the novel idea, but better luck next time!
Designed by Swatch and built by Mercedes (now Daimler-Chrysler), these little cars are a really good idea. When they were first released in the UK, you could only buy them in lefthand drive so they were slightly difficult to insure, but this has now changed and right hand drive vehicles are available (although they are still quite few and far between). It's a shame really as, due to the size of these vehicles, the left-hand drive option is certainly no disadvantage at all. Your average driving position would have been somewhere near the middle of a normal car, offering better viewing than a normal car! The range of models available is more varied than you would expect. You can buy a basic lead-in model, or an executive model with a higher trim. You could have a cabriolet for about £6000 and you can choose automatic or manual transmission. There are also a whole host of different options that you can choose from and these cars are built as standard in silver metallic. You can then buy various differently coloured clip-on fascias for the car. Just like mobile 'phones. Cool idea isn't it? These cars are sold from anything between £5,000 and £7,000 depending on the type you want, but all versions share basic similarities. They are cheap to run on fuel. They will not do more than 80 mph. They are a great town car but I would not feel safe on the motorway in one. They are so little (2 seater with no boot) that you can put them in a standard parking space sideways. Great for towns and cities but you wouldn't want to go far in one. They are essentially the scooter version of cars. Think carefully before buying one as I would want to know whether it was possible to get a week's grocery shopping in one before I bought. By the looks of things, if you have a passenger, you won't be able to.
I recently bought one of these at a Internet Auction. They are one of the new breed of City Cars,2 seater,shorter than a Mini with all the goodies,electric windows,4 disc brakes,ESP,Anti lock,700cc twin turbos, designed by Swatch and built by Mercedes excellent build quality and the body panels, made out of plastic are changable. 84 mph and 50+mpg. I've already got a Merc E class and a Rover 600 diesel so a fair variety of driving to choose from. I use the Smart to go to the office and back, 40 miles a day on the M1 during peak times. It keeps up well,slides in and out of traffic and is a doddle to park. Merc are going to sell them officialy in the UK from October. For the work run they are ideal. They are left hand drive but they are so small I swear the right hand side door is nearer than in my E class. You can get them with leather,Climate Control,faster and with alloys but that seems to rather miss the point,but the diesel version with 80+mpg looks interesting. In central London it's a joy for ease of parking. You have to get used to everyone staring, usually smiling and going to the petrol station can take a while as people want to climb all over it. There is a Smart Owners site but you will need to take a view as to if these people need to get a life as fun as it is, it's only a car. Contact me for more info but I think something like the Smart may be the way ahead