Sam came back from testing drive the Smart car last week grinning like an 80's acid house yellow smiley. He's avoiding the reality of our family seating requirements and put another toy on his wish list! Here is the review he wrote for Riddle.
Smart Motoring Amidst Ridiculous Turning
My son and I stood in front of the new Smart car, the day before its UK launch, grinning like a couple of kids on Christmas morning. I tossed him the keys and we jumped in our new toy and took off into the horizon.
Of course I didn’t really let him drive. He’s only six and I’ve been dying to drive a Smart since they we’re launched back in the care-free 1990s, when we didn’t care about space for children or the dog and had more time in our lives than ‘bags for life’.
I’ve always liked this ingenious little car, which was born from watch royalty Nicolas Hayek’s vision to create a city car with the same sense of fun, individuality and style as his Swatch watches (the late Hayek was co-founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Swatch Group). His idea pushed the conventions of the motorcar, and found and filled a new gap in a saturated market – albeit a fairly small gap.
The Smart soon gained a loyal following amongst in-the-know urbanites, but I’ve always thought this cleverly engineered car hasn’t been appreciated as much as it deserves. Granted, there were a few handling issues and perhaps the styling was a little too… stylish. It didn’t have a lovably cheeky face like the Mini, or the desirable Italian chic of the Fiat 500, either of which might have helped us overlook its niggles and really take it into our hearts.
But this has all changed with the new Smart – which is bulging with character, whether you opt for the three-door version we tried out or the four-seat version, the Smart ForFour, which was also launched on 1st of March. It’s got attitude: you almost suspect it might suddenly bite your ankles, chase you home then demand to be let out to chase Fiat Cinquecentos around the park.
Inside it feels rock solid. It’s well designed, and from the lofty seating position, looking down on other motorists, it’s easy to forget how small the Smart is. I was almost disappointed at how substantial it felt to drive, although that all changes when you turn a corner: as on previous models, the new Smart has a spinning-top turning circle that makes a black cab seem like an ocean liner. Ignore all the talk of how easily you can fit your Smart in the smallest of spaces: instead, find your nearest multi-storey car park – preferably one with the fancy resin painted, squeaky floors – then have the time of your life parking in the furthest away spot you can find.
The new beefed-up shape is derived from a requirement for increased safety for both occupants and pedestrians should the worst happen. The length is the 269cm as its predecessor, but the width has spread slightly (by 11cm) giving much improved stability and handling. We drove the 71bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, which was zippy enough around town. A more powerful turbocharged 90bhp 898cc unit is also available and, lets face it, every car is improved with a Turbo sticker on the back.
Among the technical improvements are electronic stability control and a cross-wind assist system – were it a highway, you can drive this vehicle to the fun fair end of Brighton pier without getting blown into the Channel. The boot still has the wonderful split tailgate, like a Range Rover, which means you have somewhere to sit and pull your wellies on when you take your greyhound for a walk. You could fit a labrador in the boot, although it might get a little snug with the wellies too. There is space for a bag for life or two, but this is what Ocado was invented for.