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I have a smart for about 3 years from new, it was a fun car to drive despite its faults. The car itself was typical Mercedes build quality very high and only faults really where user damage and a issue with the gearbox which was fixed in a later model.
After reading up on countless cars and looking at what mileage I was doing I brought a smart from a main dealer, the main dealer was pretty rubbish. Not something I will repeat again, generally taking the money and running and not interested in after sales unless they can get some more money.
The car itself had a few options added, the big ones where the fully auto, electric mirrors, side airbags and speaker pack. I brought what was considered to be a mk6 the new peanut lights and larger fuel tank.
The driving position is high and the steering wheel doesn't adjust but its not a problem for me being short. The car has masses of room inside, my 6foot friend had space above his head and could put his feet on the dash.
The controls where pretty standard except the clutch-less gearbox worked in a way that took some getting used too but still worked well, this was fixed on the next model and it works much better. The annoying feature was the turbo, where it gave so much power if you where expecting it the car would loose control on corners.
The front wheels were too skinny, really not enough grip particularly on windy days the control would be scary, again this was fixed on later models.
Fuel was great, costing around 30 pounds fill from empty and do around 275miles before needing more it could do more if driven nicely.
Serving if not done at a main dealer was no worse than any other car, the costly bit was normally the oil, needing about 6 litres at around twenty pounds a litre.
Insurance again is very low and the relativity low performance must all help. The engine was quiet, smooth gave smooth power and you got used to the turbo kicking in at points and drove around it.
The car is fun to drive and run around town but anything more and it starts to struggle but the city is its home and where it will out perform anything around it.
Things to look for when buying a second hand one on top of the warm ones, are make sure its cold when starting, warm engines hide a lot of problems, the diff takes a lot of abuse check its not leaking (the black box between the wheels looking from underneath, leaking is darker patches of oil). The engine makes anything other than a smooth squeakless noise it should be ok. If the dip stick has any signs of plastic bits walk away, its probably a oil pump dead and timing chain needs replacing.
I would not recommend buying a Smart car unless you live within easy travelling distance of a dealership - and these are few and far between in the northwest. I bought a secondhand Smart Pulse - 2006 model with only 18k miles. As I live near a Mercedes dealers I figured there would be no problem in getting it serviced. That was naieve of me I suppose but, although they do sell Smart cars, they do not service them! The nearest to me is Liverpool or Manchester - the only ones in the Northwest. For me in North Wales this means a round trip of over 120 miles plus having to spend the day in Liverpool whilst it is done. It cannot be serviced at any other garages as only Smart/Merc have the appropriate equipment to carry out oil changes! Crafty. It is also going to be expensive on parts I believe - new wipers are over £62!! Economy? Well my Citroen Xsara 1600cc was every bit as economical and far more comfortable. This Pulse 44 reminds me of my first mini - back in the 60's. Basic as they come, no refinements like a glove compartment or even a temperature guage. To see the engine temperature you have to press buttons on top of the speedometer!! Plenty of holders for drinks though - hardly an absolute necessity I would have thought. Although I have had it almost 2 months now it certainly hasn't 'grown' on me as I'd hoped it would. Have tried to trade it in already but would lose £1,000 on its price which I cannot afford to do. For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would rave about this car.
I bought my Smart Car Pulse (2000) in 2001 and kept it until 2008. During this time it cost me barely anything in parts (one link rod replaced (possibly due to me hitting a kerb?), 6 spark plugs, one headlight bulb, one brake light bulb) all general wear and tear items.
I took it to Mercedes to be serviced once, but a Service cost me £350 approx (just for s Service and the standard oil and filters and plugs changed) so I was only able to afford to take it to standard motor places for subsequent services.
Fuel economy is magnificent- a full tank would hold approx 17 litres and would cost me approx £16 (fuel prices permitting). One tank got me all the way from Junction 21 M1 to just outside of Penrith (Cumbria) so approx 170 miles. Smart Cars are limited to 90mph and the first day I got my Smart Car i drove 190 miles on motorways without any anxiety or problems.
Once you get used to how to work the car (ignition key goes where the hand brake is, foot on the brake to start the car as mine was Tiptronic so semi automatic (you can't stall them!), they feel safe and are almost like an optical illusion - look small on the outside, they are deceptively large when you get into them.
I cried when I had to eventually get rid of my Smart car and Smart cars are now the only thing I will buy/ drive because they are easy to drive, they feel like they look after you when you drive, they have a panic button to lock the doors if you stop for instance in town or somewhere and you feel like someone may try to get into the car, they are very economical for fuel, they are cute, they are easy to park and you will fall in love with them.
The negatives for me were: the inside of the windscreen froze up in winter as well as ice on the outside, on mine the electric heating strips on the back window burned out so they didnt work, and in mine- rain leaked into the passenger footwell (soggy carpet after heavy rain) towards the end (possibly perished door rubbers?).
In 7 years- mine had three knocks which were: two in rush hour city traffic- two small bumps and I hit a portion of tree like branch material on the M25 which only split the front panel a small amount (it sounded worse than it was when it happened) the respective panels suffered small cracks which is a lot better than a standard car which would have crumpled and had more severe dents.
In the end at 54,000 miles, one of the cylinders popped on mine and it had "severe engine problems" so I had to sell it to an MOT technician who wanted to repair it as a project for himself. I don't know if this is wear and tear or if it was just one of those things which goes pop (my partner at the time was driving it and he was probably trying to floor it so it isnt a surprise). But to have had seven years without any real issues is remarkable and I will certainly buy another Smart car and I would recommend them to anyone and everyone. Even if you hate how they look- go for a test drive as they will change your opinion.
I bought my 2001 Mk4 Smart Pulse City Coupe in Jan 2004 & have had it for 18 months now, plenty of time to discover the plus & minus points, so I figured it must be time to tell the world to go out and buy one.
For a start it makes financial sense - the depreciation on these things is virtually non-existent. I paid GBP3500 for mine from a Smart main dealer and 18 months later its worth approx GBP3500. Thats a loss of nothing. How many cars does that happen with? In fact, the same dealer is currently offering the same age model fitted with less equipment & higher miles for GBP4000. So you could say I've made GBP500 on the price if you were being a creative accountant. Full tank of petrol? GBP14. That will keep you moving for up to 300 miles. (Approx 60MPG.) Insurance? Group 2E. I live in the centre of Liverpool so I pay a bumper premium based on a myth that we are all theives. (Its actually the safest UK city to live in. A statistical truth for all you fact fans out there!) Imagine my delight when my insurance premium HALVED overnight simply by purchasing one of these fine machines! Road tax. This doesnt effect my car but if you buy a 51 plate or newer your tax is based on emissions so 1 year is about (but not exactly) GBP70 if memory serves. Servicing. DIY & its about GBP25 for the filters, plugs & oil. Otherwise expect to pay normal garage rates of approx GBP125. Tyres are the only thing that have surpised me with their cost, but if you look hard enough you can find the larger rear tyres for as little as GBP42 each. All in all I worked out (because I'm sad) that its cheaper to own the smart than to use public transport to do the same weekly journeys I make. Conclusion here: your wallet is happy.
Secondly theres the image. Even though there are plenty out there these days (its been available since 1998), thanks to its bright colours and smiley grille, its still a sight that makes people smile. Some are laughing with you & others at you, but it doesn't offend anyone! Other smart drivers beep & wave. And as there are loads in every city, this is great if you're having a bad day as it never fails to cheer you right up. You've made their day & they've made yours! My mate had a go of mine the other week and told me he couldn't stop grinning for hours afterwards. Conclusion here: The smart is good for the wellbeing of you and others!
Then there is the cars practicality. What I like about it is it fits a matter of fact lifestyle. Other reviewers have badmouthed its practical ability, my theory on this is because other cars are marketed to be flexible adaptive vehicles in some cases offering 8 seats plus luggage space. Fine. Good for them. Perhaps they should note that the average car driving on the road has 1.4 people in, maybe with their lunchbox & a briefcase. so smarts designers based their car on this fact. I live with my girlfriend but we dont have kids. 2 seats suits us fine thank you. Thats all we need. That & enough space for 6 bags of Tesco's finest wares once a week. So, on a practicality level its simple to work out based on your lifestyle that you will either be able to live with it our you wont.. Its got 2 seats and a tiny boot so the conclusion is simple here: Are you a family? You don't want one then. Single or couple? Get one! It makes most sense.
Reliability & safety. Safety first as they say. NCAP rating is 3. The top supermini currently on the market has a rating of 4 I read somewhere. So its not the very safest in its class, but its safe enough. Did you see that crash test on Channel 5? They smashed one into a concrete block at 70MPH. The safety shell remained intact. Im happy enough to drve a car this small that can withstand that sort of force. If you saw that report I'm sure you would be too. Especially as you are unlikely to be doing more than 40 day to day anyway. Reliability. Quite simply if you follow the service schedules & do as it says, whether you DIY or use a garage, You will have very little trouble. Mechanically, there is a history of common faults with the turbo/exhaust manifold and if seriously neglected the engines have been known to die even on low milages. If you look to buy one used, make sure you get a full service history. If it hasnt got one then find another that has. There are loads out there that have been loved by their owners but sadly equally as many former company cars that have been thrashed & would prove a money pit (a new engine for example is approx GBP800, a new turbo & exhaust GBP450). Now that vaguely brings me on to a good point. You go to the dealer & want a shiny red sporty one but can only find one in tacky white. Other than tht its perfect. There is a red base model there on the forcourt aswell. Ask them to swap the panels. Easy as that. You can pick the colour of your USED car. Fantastic. Anyway.. Conclusion here: these cars are safe & reliable as long as they are looked after correctly!
So there you go! If you like money, like smiling & havent got a family yet then go and get yourself a good one of these!! Truly a brilliant car. I know what my next car will be when I decide to replace this one. Another Smart!
**ADDED ON 05.07.05**
I have got a link to the Channel 5 crash test mentioned above! Check out: http://www.bubski.com/Movies.htm
Obviously I can't control the content of external sites so this site may not work when you try to view.
Working for a car leasing firm I find it increasingly hard to get excited about new cars on the market, however, having just been given a couple of smart cars to whizz about in I think that I've finally found that buzz that I haven't had since driving my first car(a Mini). Okay so thay look a little strange, but no stranger than a Renault Avantime or the new Beetle! Anyway that just adds to the character. For those of you that are unaware exactly what a smart car is or what it looks like imagine a picture of a car that you would have drawn at nursery school. Its a liittle blob with a wheel in each corner and only two seats. It has a little "safety cell" that you sit in and the rest of the body panels are made of plastic. Interestingly enough(especially for us girls as I know that this is important!)these body panels, as well as the interior of the car, are changeable. So if you were bored of the snazzy little metallic blue number you were driving around in you could take it to your dealer and,hey presto, you have a snazzy little red one instead. The interior carries on the designed by a child theme with a clock and a rev counter that sit on the dash and look at you whilst driving like a couple of frogs eyes! One nifty feature is the petrol gauge. It comprises four blobs that are black when full and become hollow as the fuel level drops. I was somewhat worried when I first drove the car as I wasn't sure that when I was on the last blob that meant that I was out of fuel or whether i still had a 1/4 of a tank. No need to worry however as the petrol pump flashes and a message saying 4.5L comes up(a gallon to those still working in metric)! Driving a left hand drive car has never really appealed to me but to be perfectly honest it hasn't been an issue. The only time it is a little hairy is when trying to overtake as you have to edge out quite a bit to be able to see. The other downside is there does seem to be a little bit of
a blind spot on the right hand side which becomes an issue with motorway driving. This is not helped by the racing style bucket seats which are nearly as tall as the car itself. I would agree with those that say that the 6 speed sequential gearbox is a little hard to get used to but I've been driving my little beast for over a week now and I have to say we're perfectly in tune. Not in the last three years have I driven a car that actually puts a grin on my face(okay,apart from the Subaru Impreza turbo but that isn't a fair comparison!). When you drive round the streets everyone stares at you(distinct advantage for an exhibitionist like myself) and be it with disgust or admiration I really don't care. It has just cost a mere 11.29 to fill up with fuel and that will last me over a week. It gets to 60 quick enough and for those that say it crawls from there to 80, what are you doing speeding anyway? We're not on a German autobahn! For what it was designed for,i.e nippy,convenient city driving I'd say that most other manufacturers have a long way to go before they get Smart!
I've seen these buzzing around the city and they look fun, so I decided on a test drive - or two. First of all, I don't have a problem with the design - in fact a car like this needs to stand out and not just try to be a small version of the 'big boys'. There's plenty of room for the 2 passengers too - more than in the front of a Mondeo, so no problem there. Oh, and it's well put together. It may not carry the 3-pointed star, but it's a baby Merc. Secondly, I don't have a problem with the engine size, the original mini was 850 cc and the Hillman Imp 875 cc, so a turbo-charged 600cc in a plastic-bodied 2-seater doesn't worry me. Now, my wife likes the Smart and since we're moving to the country and will need a second car, it seemed a nice compromise ... after all £7000 for a well-specified new car isn't bad. OK, my opinion after the tests.... Test1 - Just me. They didn't have a PULSE or PASSION available, so this was a PURE (no automatic, lower power output etc.) The noise was a bit odd - after all it's a tiny engine, sitting behind and below you - and the SOFTIP sequential gearbox took a bit of getting used to, but it WENT. Yes, it was fun driving around the city .... no problem at all, even the left-hand drive didn't matter - but I wanted the higher spec and my wife wanted the automatic option. So... Test2 - PULSE..... in the country, in the rain, with the wife. Mmmm, less good. The automatic option makes the sequential box seem like a godsend!! When you decelerate for a sharp corner and try to accelerate out ...NOTHING. There is a definite time lag before any power gets to the wheels, which could prove dangerous. Second, the suspension felt like I was running on pram wheels. Narrow road, poor visibility, high hedges and left-hand drive, No. Maybe a test drive in a PASSION?.... Undeterred, I checked out the mundane things like servicing and insu
rance. Now excuse me, but £125 for a minor service sounds a bit steep for a little car ... and I couldn't even get a quote for a major service. I also picked up a few 'hints' that the turbocharger was a bit suspect and might need replacing after 60,000 miles (!). As for insurance, well OK, it's LHD and a novelty .... but everyone I tried quoted me higher than a standard family car to insure. Result ... fun car for the city for one person or the occasional two, but at a price. Not so good for my needs, so I'll keep looking.
What an excellent invention the Smart really is. Up until now there has not really been too much choice when it comes to alternative means of transport. You either had a petrol guzzler or a scooter. But now we have a third choice in the Smart. The Smart is certainly not what we expect in a car, and should probably not be viewed upon as a car in the traditional sense. It should probably be seen more as a scooter with a roof. If you drive a lot of miles or plan to go on long trips then stay away from these guys. But on the other hand, if you only take your car to work, to the shops etc. then this is the choice for you. Cheap to buy, cheap to run and cheap to insure. A small environmentally friendly engine which is good news for the planet. Low running costs and cheap parts. Easy parking is also a very big advantage in the city. If you live in a rural community you will probably want to steer clear of these, but in the city they are invaluable. As a runaround, a second car or a city car the Smart really is ideal