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Smart Roadster

Broadcast date : 25th April 2004

For some reason the makers of smart insist that the name of their product be spelled with a lower case "s".

Whatever the clever idea behind this bit of marketing-mumbo is, we have to say thereís nothing low-level about the smart roadster. Apart from its overall height, of course.

The smart roadster measures just shy of one comma two metres in height, even with the hood in place.

And at just three comma four metres in length and a width of one comma six metres, itís obvious that getting in and out of tight spots is a big plus for this little car.

Although Daimler-Chrsyler would probably not admit it, the smart roadster is conceptually very much a Caterham Seven, the racer- for-the-road we featured on Car torque last week.

But whereas the Caterham is hand-built in cottage industry style in Britain, this is a modern production car.

What the Caterham and the smart have in common is an ability to put an instant smile on your dial!

This is all about in-your-face driving!

Initially we had concerns that the tiny three-cylinder engine may not pack enough punch to give it real sports car credentials.

The little triple displaces just 700 cee cees, but thanks to a Suprex turbocharger, which has some of the low torque characteristics of a supercharger, there is impressive power for its size.

The smart boasts 60 kilo Watts at a fairly low-revving five thousand two hundred and fifty rpm and a hundred and ten kilo Watts at three thousand rpm.

Weighing in at under eight hundred kilo grams gives the smart roadster a useful power to weight ratio.

However performance is sporty rather than spectacular , with a zero to one hundred sprint time in under 12 seconds and a top speed of one hundred and seventy five

The down side in South African conditions, with our wide open spaces, is that the engine is going to be working hard for much of its life. But with a 6 000 rev ceiling it should prove fairly durable.

Being a three cylinder, one of the most appealing aspects of the smart is its sound. The engine note is similar to a baby Porsche 911, as the harmonics are similar to that of a flat six cylinder engine.

Entertaining handling is what its all about in the smart roadster. With a low centre of gravity and useful amount of rubber on the road, the recipe is there for high cornering grip.

DaimlerChrsyler has seen fit to equipe the roadster with electronic traction control and corner assist devices. This is great for the novice driver. But the real enthusiast would like to be able to switch these off to indulge in the odd tail slide - in safe conditions of course!

Unfortunately, traction control is here to stay on the smart roadster and there is no dial-out button.

At a price of two hundred and six thousand the smart roadster remains an expensive toy, an indulgence for the wealthy man or woman who wants something different.

It is a lot of fun, but it is rather like buying a Vespa instead of a real motorcycle. Being seen to be cool, that is the reason for owning a smart roadster.

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