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Let me start by saying that this car was perhaps my favourite at the age of 13, when it was released. I can remember my grandad taking me to the Mercedes-Benz garage and lying to the salesman that I was driving, just so that we could get more information on the car (and so i could sit inside it).
Having joined the forum for Roadster enthusiats on www.theroadster.net (a great resource for anyone interested in the car) I began pursuing my obsession with the car in the hope that one day I would own it.
At this moment i have a 2005 registered Smart Roadster Brabus Coupe Xclusive in Jack Black on my driveway. Almost definately the best colour and almost definately - although notchback owners will disagree - the best model.
The roadster was made to turn heads, it simply is not the normal 2 seater sports car. Despite being around for 7 years now - the roadster still turns heads and I get people come up to me to ask about it. The most prominent feature is the Tridion Safety Cell that runs the length of the car and comes either painted in black or stripped to the bare silver, not only does it make the car look stunning, it serves a safety purpose too. The coupe model has an extra glass section on the back (or as the community like to refer to it as - the 'greenhouse') which aids aerodynamics but adds to the weight of the car.
The Brabus Xclusive has the best interior of all the models, leather heated seats with a black leather dash and a silver trim. The plastic inside feels much better quality than some other European cars too. It also comes with a 3 spoke steering wheel with paddle shift gears, general advice is to upgrade to a V6 Brabus wheel but this can cost an arm and a leg, but is all that the interior needs to make it complete. The leather heated seats are comfotable and they can burn a whole in your rear with the heat! The driver's side is adjustable for angle whereas the passenger one can simply slide forward or backwards. There is a small glovebox that can house not much more than an Ipod and the front boot release.
Two Pods sit on the dash which really add character to the car and display engine temperature and boost level - always a talking point if you have a passenger in the car! The Gear knob in the brabus has a push start button on it which makes you feel like you are really driving something special. This is a small car and you should not expect to have all the room in the world, the width is rather restrictive and you will most certainly be fighting over the middle ground but legroom comes as standard and you would have to be very tall indeed to find that you couldn't drive the car comfortably (Jeremy Clakson found it fine!)
Whilst perhaps looking like a fast car (and sounding like it in the case of the Brabus) you might expect a shred of speed to come from the roadster. Whilst Mercedes and Brabus have done extremely well to get 101 bhp out of a 700cc engine, the car still only manages to get to 60 in 9.8 seconds and like other smart cars, this is down to the simply dreadful gearbox. Lag between gears will have you extremely frustrated and is the largest downfall of the car when you first drive it. Over time however you don't really notice and to compensate for the slow gears all that is needed is for you to think ahead a second or two to what gear you may require (made easy by the paddle shift gears). Once in the correct gear however you will find power very quickly over 3000rpm and the turbo does a treat of complementing the engine.
Handling in the car is extremely good, the low centre of gravity, low weight and wide tyres make the car more than adept at going round corners at speed. Look no further than youtube for some videos of factory stock roadsters keeping pace with some very expensive cars just because of this thing's cornering abilities!
The tridion safety cell is a proven godsend and if you have seen some of the smart car smash videos online or on TV you will know that these things will keep you safe in the event of an accident or collision. Not only this but repairs to the car's bodywork are relatively cheap due to the outer panels being made of plastic and being split into secitons!
Most reviews on this car on the internet slate the roadster for being too impractical, this needs to be set straight. With 186 litres of capacity in the roadster you might feel like space is at a premium when it comes to luggage. A large case can fit in the rear of the coupe with little effort, the front boot can take either a medium size bag or a custom made bag for the roadster. Behind the seats is plenty of room for suits (can be hung on some rails that are behind the seats) or even a few bags. And if - like me - you travel mostly alone. The passenger side is more than adequate for taking anything up to 3 large hold grips as i have done on occassion.
On long journeys on motorways you would do well to have cruise control (can be easily retrofitted by a specialist garage or MB) to make the journey that little bit more comfortable. There is a central armrest for comfort and the seat can get a little uncomfortable afetr 3 hours or more driving. It is the noise that may strike some people the most. This is a loud car at 70mph, thanks to the engine bay and bad insulation but I find i can live with it as long as i have some music on.
Certainly the car's Ace card. 55mpg even from the Brabus is what i can consistently get with Super Unleaded (Shell V-Power recommended), there is extremely low emissions also. The 35 litre tank can get you almost 350 until you should think about filling up and even then will set you back little more than 30 pounds. Bagain. Good on insurance too - though i wouldn't know anything about cheap insurance yet being under 25.
If you've come to this review you're probably looking for reasons not to buy this car. You've either seen it on the street or you have a friend who has one and now are telling yourself that buying one is a crazy proposition. The forum i mentioned above is full of people like this who have taken the plunge and never looked back, despite the cars shortcomings and it is important to note that no car is perfect.
The roadster has earnt the nickname 'leakster' since 90% of them will leak or have done prior to modifications. This is due to incorrect materials on the car as well as poor drainage design on the seals. Some leaks are just annoying like the one down the inside of the windows after (very) heavy rain or a good wash. Unfortuneately there is a leak which is the bane of most owners. The water in the wiper tray can leak onto the car's SAM unit and render it unserviceable, giving you a £300+ bill to ge a new one. There are fixes for all of the leaks if you are willing to put the time and effort in - like I have - to stop them from occuring.
The wheels buckle on the Brabus. I have gone over some nasty potholes and have been very lucky not to have this common problem with the Brabus wheels, each new wheel can cost £350, there is no fix for this unless you change the wheels.
The ABS reluctor rings corrode after time - this can be put right by a decent set of rings - available online.
The Air Conditioning - another large fault that MB continues to deny the existence of even today, the Air conditioning will almost certainly crack or break at some point due to a design flaw - a permanent fix is in the pipeworks at the moment but a warranty should sort you out fine.
Above are the most common problems with the car. You will know about them before you buy it, it will not suprise you when it happens. Will it put you off? It didn't put me off at all.
The roadster is an individual's car with so much character that you will buy one as soon as you test drive one. This can be the problem with finding one for yourself as they tend to go off the market extremely quickly! They are also doing very well at holding current value (even gaining in someinstances) if in good condition simply because they are a desirable summer convertible and they are so cheap to run - yet so rare!
The car is so much fun to drive and just be in! It may not be that fast but take it on an empty B road and you will understand what the car was made for.
I've had 2 roadsters now, the first I bought during the initial release of the model in 2003. It was a brilliant little car and I had a lot of fun unfortunatley an extra that wasn't optional was the leaking joints!
During any rain you could guarantee to have a little stream of water running from the roof behind the seats and collecting under the seat.
If you look up 'leaking Smart' on Google you can find loads of sites that refer to this common problem. This was one of the reasons the model was discontinued. Even the last models suffered.
I ended up taking the car back in to Smart so many times that, 18 months later, they eventually agreed to give me my money back less £500 for wear and tear! Not bad really as it meant I paid £500 for a car for 18 months.
I bought my current Smart in April. This one is the Brabus model with pretty much every extra included. It's a later model (2005) but it still has a slight leak problem on both doors where the mirrors are.
Apart from the leak though it's a great car. I had a BMW 3 series before this so going from a quality 5 door down to a 2 door go-kart was pretty strange at first but you quickly get used to it and I still can't help but drive with a silly smile on my face!
I've driven plenty of prestige and sports cars (from Mercedes C-class, CLS55 AMG, Porsche Cayman S a BMW 330 Cab and even a Mustang GT to name a few!) This has still got to be one of the most fun cars I've ever driven though. It may not have the pulling power of a Porsche, the engine roar of a Mustang, the elegance and quality of a Mercedes or a reputation like a BMW.... but this little car is fantastic.
Ok so there are a few draw backs with the car - lack of space compared to other cars available, expensive servicing, minor faults and leaks, expensive insurance. Thats all I can think of and they are not that big of a deal really. You may think they are expensive but that's only because they are worth it.
On the plus side - It has a dedicated fan club, it's fairly easy to service and fix any problems yourself (with thanks to a site called evilution.co.uk), very cheap to run, feels very quick, good looking car which catches the eye!, rare so you wont look like every other generic car on the road! oh, did I mention reliable? The engine is Mercedes and (touch wood) starts and runs perfectly every time!
So in conclusion, if you want a 2 seater, convertable, fun, cheap to run with a dedicated cult following, an attractive and different car then this is definitely the car for you.
If you want a generic looking 2 seater or something with more space, a bigger engine with higher running costs, something over-rated and boring then get your self a Mazda MX-5 or a saloon.
This is the most fun you can have in a 2 seater car without having to spend shed loads on a super car. It looks great and is reliable with cheap running costs (I got from Liverpool to Edinburgh on £30!). Put up with or fix the minor leaks and your ok. It really is a car lovers car and is very under rated compared to other cars in the group.
If your unsure then take one for a test drive and if you don't have a smile on your face and your addrenaline pumping the first time drive it then get a Ferrari! I had the choice of any car under £20k and I chose a Smart Roadster, still knowing it leaked - I'm still happy with my choice and I'd make it again tomorrow.
Having owned a smart roadster for a few years I can hapilly give an honest review of my experience! Only recently changed it for a smart fortwo deisel which i will also review!
Amazing handling, funky looks - although an aquired taste!, very cheap to run, unique, more space inside than you would think - its like a little tardis. Easily modified, great online and offline smart community with yearly events run by mercedes and local meets.
Insurance can be expensive if you are young as its group 11. service costs can be expensive but there are a number of independant smart garages around to get it cheaper. typical yearly service ranges from £110 - £200 at my local independent. Leaks can be a problem! as can rattles.
daily driving is fun! cheap modifications can make for a unique car and there are loads of online enthusiasts to help and give advice. Its one of those rare cars that people still stare at when you drive by!
I got my smart Roadster Brabus three years ago, shortly before they ceased production in November 2005. Despite the car selling well in Britain, it wasn't selling in the rest of Europe, and so the car was pulled from production. Such a shame as the smart Roadster is a truly wonderful car, a joy to drive.
smart (with a small 's', not a spelling mistake) is an acronym for Swatch Mercedes ART. The idea for smart first came from Swatch (yes the watch people) who wanted to design an eco-friendly car using innovative features and be affordable to young people. Many other car manufacturers considered the plans before a joint venture between Swatch and Daimler-Benz was agreed in 1994.
The joint venture experienced heavy losses and disputes over the car as Mercedes-Benz were unable to design the type of engine that was envisaged by Swatch. This eventually led to Swatch withdrawing from the joint venture. Losses at smart continued (reported to be up to 4 billion euros between 2003 and 2006) until smart was liquidated in 2006 and its operations were absorbed into Mercedes-Benz.
Brabus is a German company that specialise in getting the maximum engine performance by increasing the horsepower and torque of the engine. Brabus also offers other upgrades to cars, such as changing the exhaust system, bodykits, alloys etc.
smart and Brabus work together on a range of cars to make them even more powerful.
The Roadster was introduced to the UK in 2003, based on the original smart forwo car. The car was lengthened and had a Mercedes-Benz 698cc turbocharged engine, capable of delivering 81bhp.
The smart Roadster was available in two styles, the normal Roadster having an electric softtop with the coupe version having a removable hard roof.
As with other smart cars the Roadster is mainly made from plastic panels with a steel safety cell frame which protects the car and occupants from serious damage in the event of a crash.
smart Roadster Brabus
The Brabus version has the same 698cc engine but delivers 101bhp, compared to about 74bhp for a normal smart Roadster. Add to this the lowered body, the 17" Brabus alloys, double exhaust, heated leather seats and Brabus accessories throughout the car, and you have a great looking, powerful car.
The ignition is beside the gear stick rather than beside the steering wheel. On the version that we had, the engine could be started be either turning the key or by pressing the start button on the gear stick, which fired the engine into life with a roar.
The car was manual, with the option to press a button and go into automatic mode which is better suited for urban driving. The automatic mode was very easy and enjoyable although at times the gear changes were a little slow. I found the best way to combat this was to slightly ease off the accelerator when the gear change was happening, and this seemed to help.
smart cars come without a clutch, so driving in manual will be like no other manual car. To change gear, either give the gear stick a brief push forward and the gear will change upwards. Pull it back to go down a gear. There is no need to take you're foot of the accelerator when changing gear. The car will automatically go down gears even when in manual, or you can do it yourself if you need more power, overtaking for example.
The smart Brabus also comes with F1 style paddles on the steering wheel which allow the gears to be changed up or downwards.
Our Roadster Brabus had an electric soft top which folded down into a space behind the seats in a mere 8 seconds and can be used whilst driving. To make the car look even better, the roof bars can be removed and stored in the luggage compartment in the front of the car.
Now, in case you didn't know, smart cars have rear mounted engines, meaning, in the Roadster, that the front bonnet area can be used for carrying your shopping, luggage etc. Also, in the back above the boot is a small luggage area. Although the total luggage space is small, I never found a problem getting weekly shopping or bigger items in. For a small car it had a surprisingly large storage capacity.
The car comes with a factory fitted immobiliser, which locks the gear stick in place until the key is inserted. This means that even if someone does hotwire the car, they can't put the gear stick into drive mode, and can't therefore steal the car.
Due to the lightness of the car, the Roadster Brabus is very efficient. I travelled from Glasgow to Manchester and back on just over a tank of petrol, which I think was about 25 - 30 litres.
Also the efficient engine means that emissions are low, resulting in cheap road tax, although the Brabus version has slightly higher emissions and falls into a slightly higher road tax category.
I sold this great car just over a year ago, and in that short time I've had two cars, a VW Beetle and a Fiat Bravo. Neither of these cars had the power, the looks or the excitement of the smart Roadster Brabus. Tomorrow I get my new smart fortwo Brabus - I can't wait!