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Smart are a statement car. They say "look at me, I am modern and concerned about being nice to the world". The shame about it is that you sacrifice any practical functionality to deliver that concern. This is what I noted through three years of driving a natty little German rear-engined, two-seater back and forth to London three times a week for three years.
They have a tiny engine mounted under the rear floor which for the size and weight of the car should really deliver a lot more performance. The rear (boot) space is tiny - about big enough for one suitcase or three bags of shopping. Leg room is amazing - it is huge - I am 6'2 and a neighbour who is 6'4 and I both sat in comfortably. Although quite narrow, the seats are staggered so you aren't rubbing shoulders with each other.
The eco stop-start is badly thought out. As soon as the vehicle gets below a slow walk (not necessarily stopped) the engine cuts out, there is no delay. Then when you take your foot off the brake it starts, but the start is not terribly quick - over a second. It may not sound much but if you are creeping forward in traffic, this makes your stops annoying and intrusive. It would have been far better and so simple to have a two-second delay so you only turn off the engine when you really mean it - i.e. when stopped for a prolonged period. I am not convinced the feature really saves that much fuel as the energy to start the engine isn't free and often is more than that saved with a momentary stop of half a second. More often than not I turned it off in traffic as it made the car un-responsive and annoying to drive. The engine mounted right behind the seats also made it a very noisy.
On the subject of un-responsive, we come to the gear box. The gear changes are unbelievable long - I reckon close to two seconds each - no BS! The gearbox wakes up in automatic mode and when accelerating hard there is this prolonged pause in power followed by a lurch as the next gear up engages. Not a pleasant drive and often the subject of exclamation from amazed passengers. Also the gearbox is not pre-emptive; (i.e. as you decelerate, it should guess what gear you'll be needing next and be in it with the engine revs in mid-range) it is always in the ideal gear for the road speed - even down to the bottom of the rev range. I found this to be down-right dangerous... you could float up to a busy junction (say a roundabout) see your gap and jump in it... at which point the gearbox would kick down and you find yourself trickling across the junction with a HGV bearing down on you while the gearbox went through its nasty two-second tea-dance. Scary! Then there is the (un-turn-off-able) traction control. This nearly marooned me in the snow three times on one journey! Sometimes you need a controlled wheel-spin just to dig down through a bit of fresh-but-churned-up snow to get to the road surface and get you up that hill... not a chance... soon as you try, you get a flashing yellow triangle on the dash and the EMU is deciding that what you really need is a cold, desolate, late-night walk to the nearest civilization. If it got really bad it even cut the engine! Positively dangerous. I have a flat road approach to my house but when we had 5" of snow a few years back, I had to park on the main road because I could not push through the ridge of snow between car tracks to turn into my street! The EMU would not let me - I approach the turn nice and slow, little bit of power to push through the snow, Oh No! bit of slip and there we have the flashing triangle and the transmission disengages. I might add my current car has this feature but I can turn it off at the touch of a button - Vauxhall (and many other manufacturers) at least recognise that sometimes drivers need to step outside what is conventionally accepted. Desperate times and all that...
The gearbox could be put in a manual mode - sort of... it had a + and - sprung position so you could sort of drive it like a manual. To be honest I rarely did because the rev-range of the gears (where this would be useful) was finished so quickly because of having to keep the almost torque-free engine in its comfort zone. The up/down function was also mimicked by flappy paddles either side of the steering wheel but the design of these was ridiculous - not the paddles themselves but the fact they were mounted on the back of the steering wheel - that's right... not the steering column - which meant they went round with the wheel... you could never tell where they where! Ridiculous and poorly thought out. Between the engine and the gear-box, a long journey left the car feeling weary and me needing a coffee!
On the slightly more mundane, the interior was very basic - I mean really basic. Even the wacky little pods couldn't hide the poorly thought-out design... take the coin slot in front of the gear selector - just right for a few quid coins for the toll right? WRONG! these slots were only wide enough for a tupenny piece! Really Smart? you couldn't have worked out the width of a one or two pound coin? This is a small point but totally indicative of the good ideas badly executed that made running this car for three years a disappointment bordering on embarassing.
The glove compartment... there was no lid so all your stuff on the shelf became a tornado if you had the window open - another thing you couldn't use. This also meant you had nowhere to keep the owners manual so when you needed it, it was at home and you were stuck in the bundoo wondering what that light means and why the damned thing won't start!
Windows were the annoying "tap me for all the way, hold me for your desires" - the worst choice - you could never just open the window a crack. It was always down and then back up to where you wanted.
Fuel economy: OK, you don't own a Smart for its panache and the use of the word "Smart" is evidently ironic but they pay dividends in the fuel department right? Wrong again!!! I am not a cautious driver but I do settle down and give in to the commute - resigned to the whims of the M1/A41. But... to attain the booked 85MPG you would have to be the most annoying person to follow... never making progress, miles of traffic stretched out behind you, the empty road ahead beckoning as you pootle along at 35MPH everywhere out of town. The best I ever got out of it was 55MPG... to be honest that is downright criminal from such a tiny engine in a car that weighs virtually nothing... but that is the problem isn't it? The engine is so feeble that you have to DRIVE it to get anything like normal performance from it and then the economy joins the coin slot - a good idea but not something that is realistic. I am getting the same MPG from my Astra - that has a 1700cc engine can carry five people at a push and has a proper dashpocket.
Without wishing to sound negative, this car was a 3 year experiment and I am struggling to think of anything I liked about it... even the legendary parking ability has been watered down by the lengthening of the chassis to try and improve the pogo-stick like ride quality (and failing). Ummm... suspension was very stiff - cornering was good, but then the tiny wheels made every pot-hole a terrifying, bone-jarring slam of an experience. Honestly I expected to have sheared a wheel clean-off on more than one occasion.
Hmmm.... what DID I like..? cheap road tax... and that is about it.
Ideal city car! It's gets into any space, it's light and nippy you really don't notice the small engine size because of how light it it. Very high vantage point, lots of glass so reduced blind spots and good visibility. Pretty comfy really, has all the nice luxuries like heated leather seats, sat nav, ability to play ipod etc. Doesn't guzzle fuel, the eco engine is great, being semi-automatic is excellent too, as is the anti-roll back on hills. Has never let me down so far.
Only cons: Not enough radio pre-sets! Touch screen radio is very hard to operate whilst driving, very dangerous if you try to switch radio channel whilst driving as you can't feel any knobs/buttons - you actually have to look at the touch screen. Also the sat nav never lets you put the full postcode in. Last minor complaint would be the heated seats, no option to just have back warmed - it's either back & bottom, or just bottom! Why not just back!? Also a heated windscreen would be amazing for winter but it doesn't have this.
This is my 3rd Smart car. I am impressed with the comfort and space inside and it's compact design (smallest car) outside.
First time passengers are always surprised at the amount of head and leg room ('it feels just like an ordinary car - better than mine'.....)
Safety design is excellent (based on egg shape)
Fuel consumption is impressive. Performance is nippy -although not as good as previous, slightly larger and sportier, engine.
This model has Eco setting - engine cut out under 5mph braking. Restart is faultless (thus far)and excellent for fuel saving in town driving.
One disappointment - the inbuilt satnav / radio / sound system (Pioneer) USB iPod lead is fine but programming screen for radio and satnav is not intuitive and the satnav display is poor. I use my portable TomTom for long or complicated journeys - especially as I recently used it throughout 2000 miles of driving in France (not in the Smart, although I did take the previous one )
I have been running a diesel Smart for 4 years and generally find it more practical than I expected. It's not at all uncomfortable on journeys of up to 150 miles or so, and the luggage space is adequate for most purposes. As you'd expect it's economical, though not to the level of the official mileage; I have achieved almost exactly 60mpg over 4 years, with mainly urban but occasional longer motorway or cross country journeys.
It has some idiosyncrasies (like the need to be very careful to fully engage the handbrake when parked on a slope) and is slow to accelerate, and although it's happy enough on the motorway at 75mph, you shouldn't expect to go any faster. The slightly elevated driving position is a plus; I like the precision of not having power steering and not being too heavy to handle; the stereo system is surprisingly good.
I've had most vehicle types in over 40 years of motoring, from motorcycles to Land Rovers. I bought the Smart car as a convenience when my main vehicle was a Jaguar. The Smart has proved so much more flexible, easy to park and cheap to run, not to mention fun to drive, that I've now sold the Jaguar.
Everyone needs a runabout, for which the Smart is ideal - I'm waiting for an electric one, but from now on when I want 4 doors, or long distance cruising I'll hire something appropriate. The convenience of being picked up and dropped back by a hire company, and all for a reasonable cost is saving me thousands of pounds per year - particularly when you factor in the biggest cost in motoring - i.e. depreciation. Taking out low cost insurance for the excess in a car hire situation, often referred to as collision waiver makes sense as well.
I love this car even though it's like driving around in an old mini metro in terms of ride and comfort. It's cheap on petrol costs but servicing is hideously expensive. The main problem is that the moment it turned 5 years old Smart/Mercedes stopped properly supporting the car. It's no longer possible to buy new baby car seats for it (you have to use the one made especially for smart in this model, so now you have to endanger your baby buy buying a second hand car seat or sell your car). Also when the drive shaft broke I had to wait 6 weeks for a replacement part. The garage made Merc give me a hire car, but still, that's pretty rubbish, especially when you wouldn't expect a broken drive shaft in a low mileage 5 year old car under normal circumstances.
I have a 75 mile each way trip to work daily. I have driven Smart Cars since a left hand drive W Reg. They are economic and on the whole very reliable.
For a second car in the family they are ideal. As comfortable as many large cars and the boot is big enough to take 10 full standard supermarket carrier bags so you can shop two.
As a family we had three at one time. The family car is a 7 seat Mitsubuishi Grandis. It's low mileage as it only gets used when more than two need to travel
A very deceptive car.it is much faster than most people realise and has more room for the driver and passenger than my last car which was a 5 series BMW.
It cost £20/ year tax and is a remarkably reliable and inexpensive vehicle to run.
I regularly drive it to both Germany and to Edinburgh and one forgets after the first few minutes about its size as it just feels like any other medium sized saloon car.
It is not a good car for pot holes in third world countries such as the UK however.
The biggest thing people get wrong with the smart 4 2 is they think its got to be small inside, it?s the back that?s missing the bit that?s almost always empty so why have it if you don?t use it loose it, parking is much easier as you can get in those spaces that are always left. It?s very nippy and as comfortable on long journeys as most cars I have driven. And most importantly its FUN, I know lots of people wouldn't drive one just because its a small car all I say is its their loss.
I love my Smart. It's small enough to fit into parking spaces most cars would not, but the boot holds an amazing amount. It is of course only a two seater, but those two seats are roomy and comfortable.
However, it is the second car of the family, and I would not recommend a Smart as an only car. Certainly, I never take mine out of the garage when it snows - it gets stuck immediately.
But as a second car, I love it.
Over the last 35 years I must have had over a dozen cars, some from new, some used,including Honda, Escort, Morris Minor, Fiat, Mini (x3) Daewoo, Spitfire, and of them all, the Smart is by far the favourite. I would hope to buy an ex-demo model to replace the existing one in the next 3-3 years. The only negative is that the suspension is a little hard. I would recommend them to anyone wanting a small 2 seater car.
I had this after owning a BMW 5 series from new.
The smart has neither the suspension or comfort of the BMW but it is a spacious inside and certainly more economical.
I have been to France, Belgium, Holland and Germany in it twice and have travelled from the south coast of England to Edinburgh twice.
It handles and performs just like any other car and is generally better all round.
A rollcage on wheels with very comfotable seats. Performs very well and is extremely economical. However,once it reaches approximately 75,000 miles or above there is a good chance you will need to replace the engine. I bought my smart as a runaround until my range rover was repaired that was seven years ago. I am a fan of the Smart.
Excellent small car for around town & medium length journeys,
very practical & easy to park, has a deceptive load capacity, excellent back up & service, highly reliable.
I don't do many miles now I am retired and was fed up with high running costs of my Mercedes SLK so I sold it & got a Smart Car 60mpg, £30 road tax & easy to park.
I am very pleased with my car and it is very cheap to run and service. Also the tax disc is free.
Small and not the best for motorway, but cheap to run, easy to park in small spaces.