We like the stuff knocked out by Smart here at Not £2 Grand. We’ve never owned a Smart, Pollitt probably can’t fit in one and we’re pretty sure if we did have one we’d lose it, what with them being so small. But still, we love them for their cheekiness, their strong emphasis on fun and of course, the fact they’re now under £2000.
Look at his happy, GIANT face. Though it’s not giant, it’s just a small car.
The Smart Roadster and Coupe were released in 2003, though there had been a hell of a lot of planning before that. Smart had been looking at future designs only to one day come to the conclusion that the chassis and engine from the company’s main bread winner, the City Coupe, could be used in other applications. Most notably that of something a little more sporty than the taller would-be chassis donor.
The City Coupe’s lower innards certainly provided sporty credentials. Rear wheel drive, turbocharged, six-speed sequential gearbox – all exciting stuff. The fact the engine to be used was about as big as the one you’d find in a Kenwood blender was very much beside the point. Besides, a small engine is only a problem if it has to lug a large load around. Enter stage-left, Smart’s REDUCE TO THE MAX design ethos. Make it really bloody light, basically.
In the end though, the production car used a stretched ForTwo floorpan. But don’t worry your pretty head over what floorpan it has, just focus on the fact it’s a damn good one, and one which handles brilliantly. That’s the main thing.
A Smart Coupe and, er, a Roadster.
So, what’s it made of? Well, fibreglass, there’s some aluminium in there, some foam in the seats, some air, some… we don’t know. It’s light though, very light. If this thing ran over your toes it wouldn’t generate enough pressure to harm you. Honest. Though, er, don’t try that. Just take our word for it.
Being light was good. Lightness meant the 698cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine could hustle it along at a fine old pace. The Roadster was available with either 61 or 82 PS (that’s 61 or 80bhp in normal speak), while the Roadster Coupe only came in 82PS flavour. Either way, it was enough to hustle the little pocket rocket along.
When it came to cog-swapping, there was no manual option available. Though for those drivers who were convinced they were channeling the spirit of Senna, a flappy paddle steering wheel was available. A nice touch, but a double clutch DSG it was not. Still, nice try Smart.
Inside had space for two people, but the fixtures and fittings were made from the kind of plastic they make those runners for on the walls of hospital corridors. Or melted down Transit van bumpers. Or old tyres. Whatever it was, it wasn’t particularly brilliant. But, as with everything else on the car, it was bloody light, which once more tipped the scales of the Smart Roadster and Coupe’s mission statement firmly over the side of handling. Plus, the dash had sticky-uppy dials like a race car! That sort of made up for the poor plastic.
Once released the car was a huge commercial success, smashing the sales targets set out by Smart and it’s big brother, Mercedes-Benz. Owners loved them, the motoring press gushed over their driving prowess and pure grin factor, it was applauded for its economy (40-50mpg even when being a right kicking on your run to pick up the Chinese takeaway) and feedback from anyone to so much as step near one was good. Until that is, they all started breaking. Lots.
We say breaking. What we mean is that they sort of, well, stopped keeping water on the outside of them. A problem you’d assume would have been addressed under warranty, and you’d be right, it was. Thing is, the average cost to Smart was around 3000Euro. Per car. That’s a lot of money.
It was canned in 2005, despite people being really rather fond of it.
So, why should you buy one? After all, it wasn’t built for very long and it liked to impersonate a pond. The latter being something you should probably avoid in a car.
Well, you see, it’s like this. For us, the Smart Coupe and Roadster are bucket list cars. We wouldn’t suggest you buy one and drive it for the next twenty years, far from it. We just think that if you’re even remotely interested in cars – and you’re here, so you must be – something like this shouldn’t be allowed to slip under your radar. Buy one at the start of summer, enjoy it with the lid off, thrash it around some country lanes, giggle like you did when you were a child, then sell it on at the end of the summer. Or just stick in the garage and save it for the days when that illusive ball of fire in the sky shows its face again.
Okay, so it wasn’t built for very long, but that’s because it was an economic flop for Smart, not a commercial flop. The company just couldn’t cope with those warranty claims coming in left right and centre. The silver lining for you, you beautiful budget motorist, is the fact that cars on the road today have probably been fixed, so you have nothing to worry about.
All you have to do is buy one and enjoy one of the purest driving experiences available. Besides, if it does leak there’s always bathroom sealant. What? It cost less than £2000, what’s a bit of silicone between friends… and roof rubbers.