Smart Cars – Good or Bad?

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  • Smart Cars – Good or Bad?
  • Digger90
    Member

    I’m thinking of buying a Smart Car, circa 2004/5 approx £3.5 – £4k to spend. Ideally a Cabriolet.

    I have heard from some folks that the engines blow up and the Cabrio top, if it goes wrong, can cost £2.5k to fix!

    Is that all complete bolx, or are Smart’s actually quite good?

    Opinions from owners only pls – this is a serious purchase. Not interested in e-opinions from armchair critics thanks.

    Digger90
    Member

    Oh – and can the genuine Smart Bike Rack be fitted on the back of a Cabrio?

    ojom
    Member

    I had one and the rack.

    Loved it but got lots of male attention… even with a lady in it with me.

    ok mpg, crap on motorways, fiddly, but a great laugh and had very good times in it. Even went to skye on a driving holiday with 2 suitcases.

    Scary when windy….. and expensive to look after.

    grantway
    Member

    Not on Dual Carriage Ways or Motor Way driving
    Around town meant to be fine But I would not have one.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    My friend runs one and drives all over the country. It’s had a couple of problems I think but she’s had it years so can’t be that bad.

    Only thing she complained about was extremely expensive tyres for a small car. Oh, and she gets worse fuel economy than either of my full-sized cars which makes it something of a questionable pursuit given she doesn’t live in a crowded city centre.

    Premier Icon rickmeister
    Subscriber

    Assuming the one your after is the little square one, not the longer Roadster (or leakster as it became known)

    We have a 2003 Cabriolet, now with 48k miles, owned for 8 years. Soft touch, not the steering wheel paddles job. Very happy with it and would have another. Build quality is good and it seems to be lasting well. Its an ex Merc pool car, air con (never used), heated leather seats (used a lot). Been very reliable and again, better than you would imagine in the snow.

    Good: Cheap to run and insure though other manufacturers have caught up. Nippier than you probably think. Ok on longer trips (done London from Edinburgh a few times). Surprisingly spacious inside. Good value from the road tax on windy days as you get blown across al three lanes of the motorway (see note on tyres below).

    Not so good: The small wheels crash into pot holes and it understeers pretty badly as the tyres are so thin. We did the mod of putting two rear size wheels on the front and its so much better in every way. When the front light bulbs blow we have to remove the front of the car to change them but we are used to it now. The cabriolet roof has been fine, fits well, weather tight and easy to operate and we have used it a lot. Removing the side bars above the windows is a nice touch too.

    Overall, very happy and would have another (this is our second). We would also look at the diesel instead of the petrol… Good match with our other car, a VW T5 as its very different. I believe they are also better remapped as the software changes the tiptronic gearbox and sharpens that up too though we havnt done this.

    Get a test drive for longer than the usual 20 mins…. look for the service history and all the usual stuff.

    HTH, any specifcs, pm me…

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    air con (never used)

    You do know that if you don’t use aircon it gets knackered, don’t you?

    CountZero
    Member

    Never driven or owned one, but I couldn’t believe how much room there is; I’m 6′, sat in one and scootched the seat back for a bit more room, and I couldn’t touch the wheel or pedals! Had a service engineer at a previous job arrive in an all black one with wider wheels and body kit, and chipped engine. He’d driven from London to Edinburg and back in it earlier that week and was perfectly happy in it.

    Premier Icon rickmeister
    Subscriber

    Molgrips, yes I do know that… switch it on to see it blows cold perhaps once a year…. otherwise leave it. It makes a big difference when its on, you can really feel it kick in and knock the speed off…

    I open the roof if its too warm…

    Premier Icon T666DOM
    Subscriber

    My wife’s got a 2005 Roadster that we’re selling at the mo, great car, fun to drive especially in the snow! Problem is it being only a 2 seater now our daughter has arrived.

    It did leak a bit but got that sorted, I think it was more of a problem for the early models. The major gripe I have with ours is the gearbox, never seems to be in the right gear and can be sluggish on the downshifts, if it were a manual it’d be perfect.

    swampi
    Member

    Right I have just sold mine and have had a fair bit of experience, ideally you want to have a smart specialist/indy near you,I used AL’s autos in heanor,service ranged from £89-189 depending on whether a,b or c, they are great cars for round town,will bounce you around over speed bumps, ace for parking, and if you remap them they go like the clappers.
    Right for the bad stuff, you really want full service history as they are not drive and forget engines,they have small sump capacity so letting oil get low can be very bad for them,turbo manifold can develop cracks,even the later ones with the beefed up manifolds are still prone and a new turbo is around the £500+fitting and the other biggy is oil consumption, the oil control ring seems to get gummed up and allow oil into the combustion chamber eating spark plugs and ultimately valves,(roadsters dont seem to be as affected as they have an oiler cooler which seems help with this issues regarding oil temp etc). The abs reluctor rings are exposed and when they crack you loose tramsission,mine had been replaced just before i bought mine@ 30,000 but its not a big job if using a indy.
    A lot of the costs involved when things go wrong are down to the labour costs as changing things like the starter motor involve a fair bit of labour, there are lots of horror stories regarding them blowing up which is fair enough as they are fun to rag and a lot of people do,shit cars on motorways as you will get blown all over the place like a bag of crisps in the wind so i used to sit with the lorries @55-60 and managed over 70mpg on my trip to wales by doing this, around 55mpg in town, #I miss mine but was always worried about the blow up and when it would come but on the flip side a full engine rebuild with FUDGESMART (the top smart rebuilders) comes in at about £800 and another 500 if ya need/want new turbo,try and go for the 700cc version over the 600cc oh and mine was 600cc coupe,full service history 2003 in a rare colour was £2600 from a dealer so shop around and good luck..oh and make sure it has 2 keys as they are £50 a fob plus £50 to code them to the car and interestingly thats another smart fault, apparently there is a fault in the software that lets them loose sync once in a blue moon lol,there is so much help on all these sites..enjoy

    evilution
    fq101
    smartmaniacs
    fudgesmart

    Dibbs
    Member

    I’ve had a Passion CDi Cabrio for just over 2 years (24k miles) now, the ride is pretty harsh the handling can be scary and the 0 to 60 time could be measured on a calender but I’ve averaged 67.2mpg, it costs nothing in excise duty and it’s surprisingly roomy inside. I’ll probably get another one and the only thing I’d change it to add the foglight option on the next one.

    benslow
    Member

    Great cars.

    Used to hire them all the time when EasyCar existed and went everywhere in them. Fun little turbo in a small car made it feel faster than it was and handling, etc were all good.

    Motorways were fine too until the limiter cut in when overtaking at 83mph…

    And theres more space for the driver and passenger than in the front of an E-Class merc (a sales pitch when they were new)

    Digger90
    Member

    Thanks for the replies & info folks – all very useful! 😀

    hora
    Member

    I had one (and the bike rack).

    You REALLY do need the wider front tyres. It makes a world of difference to how the car drives and feels. Not sure which model it is that comes with the wider tyres.

    In addition, if you want to make good progress you suffer from the drivetrain lurch even more on upshifts. That became really annoying and tiring for me.

    For 4k you can buy soo much better for your money.

    bikebouy
    Member

    Erm, me, me me..

    I have run fleets of them and I still own one, a pulse 700cc flappy paddle one.

    I love em.

    The Pures are the basic ones and arguably the best, I ran 7 of them and they were excellent for whizzing around in. Ave MPG was 55-60 heavy in town driving. I like the Pures better than all of them as thay have the pure ethos of the brand.
    Pulses are the “avantguarde” version with the flappy paddles, excellent fun, zippy enough, good excelleration (don’t know where folks get this notion that they’re slow). Bigger front and rear wheels, holds the road better.
    Passions are the “elegance” version. And the same thin wheels as the Pure (but alloy)and have more ellegant trim options, come with aircon as std.

    Get one witht he upgraded stereo in it, the sound is far better than the std one.

    Having had all versions in the 700cc engine variety I’d say go for this one. It’s more punchy and far better torque than the 600cc one, better mpg and far more robust engine wise (not that there is anything wrong witht he engine, but for some reason folks get in them and floor it expecting it to go like stink for some reason) I’d had cabrios on test only, for me they were a waste of money as all bar one of the cars I ran was for work. I know two folks that have cabrios and they have had issues with sticky retractable hoods where the mechanism has a bit of a sticky fit and needs a helping hand. Only other issue is the seal near the front of the drivers door can leak if the alloy arm over the drivers door hasn’t seated well enough.

    I’ve done lots of mileage in them, all our cars were bought new, FSH by a local independent SMART dealer and 4 I had remapped to stage 1 only. Of those four the kids knew which ones were remapped and always took them to the point I had the remaining cars mapped too. I got better mpg, better pick up and smoother gear changes, I’d do it if you get one, only £100.00 and takes 15mins incl a filter change. As for motorway driving, well this talk of wandering and light steering, it can be a little annoying, doesn’t happen all the time, but if you get a bit of a strong cross wind they can catch it and wander a bit. But for general 65-70mph stuff it’s like any other car.

    They’re easy to look after, I’ve never had any problems with them. All had AirCon and I think needed it, they get quite hot in summer (especially those with the glass roofs). I do have issues sometimes with pot holes too, due to the wheelbase being small you tend to miander around the road dodging pot holes and rough surfaces, we all do it, the ride can be a bit crashy if you hit poor surfaces. But give them a smooth road and it’s like driving a go kart.

    To say which option is better for you (pulse and passion have a cabrio version) is moot, try one, try both. You’ll feel the differance soon enough. As for price, you are looking at the low’sh end if your budget is £3.5k. You may end up getting one with lots of miles and/or the 600cc version, but you pay your monies etc. etc.

    I think if you understand the car and what it’s designed for and drive it accordingly then build up a relationship with it you’ll always keep on.

    I’m about to buy a Brabus one, the new version, I’ve had it on test for a couple of weeks and it’s a real lovely car. I’m torn as to whether I should sell my pulse, it’s an excellent car but I’m getting another so I keep the faith.

    woodsman
    Member

    I drove a new Passion 700cc in 05. It had the paddle shifter and was great fun to drive. I nearly bought one if I had the money at the time!

    Dibbs
    Member

    Ave MPG was 55-60 heavy in town driving.

    The various Smart forums say different, more like low to mid 40’s for petrol models, there are loads of better choices if you want fuel economy and a petrol engine.

    I had one for a few days a while back. To be honest once you forget about being in a small car and drive it like anything else it was great, I did have a moment on the M6 when I was nudging 90 and thought to myself there’s about 6″ of metal separating me from the world if I crash 😕

    The gearbox also took a bit of getting used to but nothing that would put me off buying one. I think there are some good youtube vids of boy racered ones which a worth a look, I think you can put a motorbike engine in them….

    bikebouy
    Member

    Lots of talk about mpg on forums, bit like Orange5’s here.. All Gossip in the Grain.

    I can only talk from experiance of running a fleet of them in That Larndarn.

    dogbert
    Member

    Wife had one for a bit, when it was fine it was fine, it went wrong once in 20,000 miles and Smart were useless, pretty dangerous fault too. She was driving along with an artic behind her then for no reason at all the car went down to about 30% power, this happened a few times, took them 3 weeks to find the fault (a sensor apparently)

    All in all an alright car, handling was abysmal and high winds and motorways were mildly frightening. Would I have another? only if I lived in a city

    29erKeith
    Member

    we’ve had a few, got one at the moment, great little cars for what they’re intended e.g. town an local stuff.
    mpg’s ok but not amazing, servicing isn’t cheap and best keep on top of it, the engines aren’t too robust if you rag ’em we know to our cost.
    wider wheels here and lowered + chipped and stainless exhaust and the bike rack which is great. I’m 6″2′ btw and it’s plenty roomy enough for me

    I would buy another though even with the problems we’ve had, I love it for what it is. oh and we live in the country, but it’s only used locally really

    bikebouy
    Member

    Oh yeah the bike rack..

    Yea I think they fit a cabrio as they only attach on the bottom of the rear subframe with two securing bolts through the rear “bumper”, they don’t attach or hook on the rear window see..

    I’ve been to thse SMART meets (nerd’ist) and seen some very modified cars, some are quite bonkers, but most of them (concours excepted) have had a stage 1 remap.

    Oh yea another thing.. I would look att he front left (passenger) side front spring. As these take all the load of roundabouts and pot holes etc. they have a tendancy to snap the top off them. Then the collar holding the inner gaitor starts rattling around and makes quite a din. It doesn’t affectt he handling and most cars you’d never know if had broken, but listen out for a rattle fron the front left side, coming from the floor but echoing through the dash.

    MrNutt
    Member

    no one mentioning the merc servicing costs then?

    jools182
    Member

    I know 2 people that have had them for a few years

    horrendous understeer but apart from that it was fine

    bikebouy
    Member

    Why Merc service costs? I had miine done at Merc for the first 2years until one of the guys there started his own SMART Indy thing and we went there after that, Merc can’t stop you and if the books stamped within service times they’ll still warranty them. Reason for going to the new lad was simple, it was the cousin of my ex Business Partner.
    Merc weren’t that much IIRC.

    swampi
    Member

    if anyone wants a sports air filter and a coupe bike rack i have them and will let em go cheap 🙂

    coffeeking
    Member

    didn’t they stop making the smart roadster because it was costing too much in warranty claims?

Viewing 28 posts - 1 through 28 (of 28 total)

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