Smart Car impressions

I’ve been driving Sanjay’s Smart Car for quite a while now. I’ve formed some impressions.

  • Highway driving is no problem. I’ve had it up to 120km/h, which is my normal driving speed, no problem. Smart says it can do 130km/h. It does tend to be buffetted by winds more than most cars, so a firmer grip on the wheel is necessary.
  • The air-conditioning is woefully underpowered. It’s okay on the highway. But in the city, it really sucks. The computer disengages the compressor every time you need to accelerate, which is quite often in stop-and-go city driving. Whenever the compressor is disengaged, the blower starts sucking in hot, humid outside air. The only way I have found to make the hot Southern Ontario days bearable is to leave the blower on recirculate all the time.
  • Sucks to have to pay $60 for a cup-holder. Cup-holders should not be an option. This is a $60 tax, plain and simple.
  • There’s a 120VAC power outlet hidden in the passenger footwell. When we found this, my heart sang: a built-in AC inverter! But alas, no. It’s just an extension of an AC jack on the front bumper, and only live when the car is plugged in. The whole deal seems kinda pointless.
  • Mileage is great. In the first 1100km, it’s been averaging 5.6L/100km, or 42mpg. That’s mostly city driving, much of it with the A/C on. That’s Diesel fuel, by the way. It’s a three cylinder turbo Diesel.
  • The fuel tank is very small, about 18L. Given the mileage, I’m finding I need to stop for fuel about once a week, same as in my Dodge Dakota V-8. But with the Smart Car, it takes like 30 seconds to fill up. And I’m out of there for about $15, instead of $70.
  • Lots of people find the little Smart very amusing. Generally, they love it.
  • Except for one woman at a stoplight who asked, “If you got in an accident with an SUV, who would win?” Well, nobody would win, really. But the Smart has generally done very well in crash tests, so I’m not in fear for my life while driving it. Any side impact is almost certainly going to hit either the front or rear suspension, possibly both. They absorb most of the energy. Rear impacts will push the engine under the passenger seats. The chassis completely surrounds you, basically the car is a roll-cage with wheels. It’s really very safe.
  • Didn’t see many other Smarts on the road at first. But recently, I’m bumping into other Smart drivers more often. Always a smile and a wave. We’re a very exclusive club.
  • From what I’ve read, there’s no oil drain plug. Oil apparently has to be siphoned out. The complexity of the whole operation apparently makes oil-changes much less of a DIY project, much more of a Mercedes dealer-only job. That sucks.
  • The latch that holds the engine compartment shut can be difficult to engage. The metal clip that it screws into gets bent easily, and then the latch won’t grab. Fortunately, the clip can be bent back into shape… a few times. Eventually, it will break, I’m sure. Should be very easily replaced anyway.
  • At first, I felt really blind when reversing. The passenger seat, when positioned normally for a passenger, completely blocks the rear side window view. Now I don’t feel quite as uncomfortable as before, but it still seems pretty bad.
  • It’s really bloody difficult to fold down the passenger seat. You need two hands lifting the locking levers on both sides of the seat, and another hand to push on the seat back. I usually lean in the rear window, and push the seat down with my head.
  • I have no idea where the battery is. Not that it matters. But if it ever needed a boost, it would be troublesome.
  • I’m so tempted to start pulling off body panels to get a better look at the insides. But Sanjay would scalp me.
  • The way accessory holders screw onto the console is very cool. Assemble your own custom assortment of CD holders, tape holders, etc, etc. Just what you need. Great potential for cool aftermarket stuff to screw on too.
  • No power steering. No need for it. A little bit of effort to turn the wheel when stopped (which you shouldn’t do much anyway). No problem when moving.
  • I don’t like the brake pedal. Most cars have the brake pedal pivot at the top. The Smart Car has the pivot down below the floor somewhere. It feels very strange. Accelerator pedal is normal, though.
  • The car has some kind of automatic clutch. But it really is a clutch, not a torque converter like an automatic transmission would have. The computer controls the clutch and the gearbox. It feels a little weird when first starting, but you get used to it.
  • The computer holds the brakes on for a split second after you release the brake pedal. Normally you don’t notice this, but it really does help for hill starts. No rolling back.
  • Gear selection is done by tapping the stick in an up or down direction. Apparently race style steering-wheel mounted paddles are available as an option. On the base model, up-shifting is manual, but the computer will shift down for you (though not always as quickly as one might want.) Apparently fully automatic shifting is available on more expensive models. This seems silly to me. The computer is already controlling downshifts, and the code exists to do upshifts too. It would cost them nothing to include it in the base model. Seems to me like they just artificially crippled the base model to “add value” to the higher models. Sleazy.
  • 1/10 as expensive as an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. 1/13 the horsepower. Seats the same number of people.
  • Closing the doors is harder than most cars. They are so small and light, they don’t have enough momentum close properly if you throw them. You actually have to push them all the way until they click.
  • No clock included in the base model. Not even built into the radio. The radio does have a digital display, how hard would it be to put a clock on it? A clock is available as an option. It’s a primitive-looking analog clock in a plastic ball that attaches to the top of the dashboard. One wonders whether it needs to be wound up every few days.
  • I could park six of these in my garage. Plus god-knows how many in the driveway.
  • The body panels are all interchangeable (though I haven’t actually removed any.) You can change your blue smart car to silver on a whim. And change it back to throw off your pursuers. Vehicle ID Numbers include digits that identify the colour. For all Smarts, it says “black”. This is because the chassis is the only part you can’t change easily, and it’s black.

5 Responses to “Smart Car impressions”

Leave a Reply