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Smart City Coupe (2000 - 2004)

Last updated 30 July 2018

 
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This Smart is one of those that you desperately want to love. But, while it has many redeeming features, driving it isn't one of them.

So let's start with the good. The cabin is fun and funky, chock full of colourful plastics that are pretty hard-wearing. And, even though it's a left-hooker, it could take you a while to notice such is the central feel of the driving position.

But things start to go downhill when you try and get comfy. You'll find yourselft sat too close to the steering wheel (which has no adjustment) in order to get full travel on the pedals. In fact, the first six inches or so of the brake pedal are completely irrelevant, which can make things a little hair-raising the first few times you need to stop.

The non-power assisted steering is direct with a reasonable amount of feel. But try and park the car and you'll be dismayed by the lack of rear three-quarter visability.

Power comes courtesy of Mercedes - a turbocharged 599cc 55bhp engine that never feels as quick as it should (but it can still nudge 84mph if conditions are favourable and the road is long enough). The racing-style semi-sequential gearbox might sound appealing, but in practice it is awful.

Early models suffered from jerky changes that never really went away, but all shifts are slow with the car taking an age to find the next cog. Not ideal when you needed to rattle through the shifts just to keep up with the rest of the traffic.

And then there is the handling. Born while the Mercedes A-class was coming under fire for rolling over, the design team went out of their way to make sure the Smart was as safe as could be. The result? Bags of understeer from the tiny tyres at the slightest whiff of a hairpin.

But then performance wasn't the point of the City Coupe (or ForTwo as it was later renamed). If you needed a small car that didn't cost the earth to run, then you bought a Ford Ka. If you wanted a small car as a status symbol, then you spent £6k on a Smart and put the shopping in the E-class.

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