Smart City Coupe (2000 – 2004) Review

Smart City Coupe (2000 – 2004) At A Glance


+It has the style and performance that other two-seat city cars lack. Cheap to run.

-Doesn't handle that well. Gearbox and throttle can feel odd at first. Rear windows aren't thief-proof. LHD only until early 2002.

As carmakers struggled to get to grips with increasing volumes of traffic, emissions, and congestion in the late 1990s, there was a renewed focus on a small-engined city car. While BMW lead the charged with the all new MINI One, Mercedes-Benz teamed up with watch-maker Swatch for a very different take on the future of urban motoring.

The resulting two-seater Smart City Coupe was announced as a triumph of automotive engineering and a marketeers dream. It was aimed squarely at young-professionals with a decent income, a flat in the city, and no kids. Or friends to drive around.

Inspired by the clock company's trendy Pop Swatch (remember them?) which allowed you to change the strap and watch face to match your outfit/mood/ego, the Smart too could also be customised. You might have ordered it in red but if you grew bored a trip to the dealer would see the pop-off panels swapped to a colour of your choosing. Even the interior was customisable, with rev counter and clock all easy to change.

Look beyond the gimmicks, however, and there was some pretty forward-thinking engineering at work. For example, the car boasted a Tridion safety cell that gave it pretty decent occupant protection. In fact, the car got a three star Euro NCAP rating - the same as a Ford Ka.

Now, early models are in demand. There's a dedicated club and plenty of Smart-only events, including one at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. People the world over love their Smart cars.

Ask Honest John

How much is a 1999 Smart Limited 1 worth?

"We own a 1999 Smart Limited 1. I believe there were only 7500 of these Limited 1 specials produced. How many are still-on-the-road today and what sort of valuation could we expect to achieve if sold. Only due to the rarity value, I am thinking of offering it to Smart/Mercedes-Benz UK to add to their heritage fleet."
There are probably now only a couple of dozen Limited 1s in the UK - but the values don't match the rarity. We spoke to Al Young - chairman of the Smart Club. He said, 'No Smart City Coupes (MCC) built before 2001 were ever sold in the UK and that includes the Limited 1. Every smart was LHD and imported, bringing with it some issues around headlamp alignment and rear fog/reverse light configuration. The UK workaround was inevitably messy, which means the final road-going version is not a 'pure' Limited 1. As always, low-mileage cars can bring their own issues in terms of seals, bearings etc on this 20-year-old car. Ideally, this is for someone to garage and keep. Will it increase in value? Probably not. There may be someone out there willing to pay silly money but I believe, as does my committee, that a max figure of double the 'normal Limited 1' would be realistic - so let's say £2000.'
Answered by Keith Moody
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