Product Type: Smart cars
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Great fun little car, though it's flawed.
Smart & Passion
Member Name: Jonny_L
Smart & Passion
Advantages: Dirt cheap to run, looks funky, nippy round town, comfortable, can be parked anywhere!
Disadvantages: Noisy, awful gearbox, horrible on fast roads.
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.
Summary: Good round town, not so good elsewhere, if you can live with the problems, you'll enjoy it.