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Smart Four Two.

After Gordon Brown savaged my pension, I needed to continue being a petrol head but save on the outgoings. An impossible task but I put a lot of thought into it. What did I need? No rust please, it costs too much to keep at bay. Reliability, just want to service it, not have to fix, replace, adjust or repair. Some ťlan? Going from a funky little sports car to a Daewoo diesel Deckchair was not an option. We needed cheap Road Tax, Insurance & lots to the gallon! It sounds like a Smart then.

Smart's project idea was originally supported by Swiss watch manufacturer Swatch, and was nicknamed the "Swatchmobile". The name SMART stands for Swatch Mercedes ART. The car was supposed to use innovative features (such as a hybrid engine) and to be an affordable car for young people. Similar to the objective for the Citroen 2CV in the 1940s, its purpose was to "transport two people and a case of beer" (later replaced by a case of water. We have got to be PC nowadays).

Providing adequate passenger safety was a challenge to the designers. To solve this and to provide a rigid frame, a solid steel "Tridion" frame, left visible at the exterior as a major design element, completely surrounds and protects the passenger compartment, and defines the basic shape of the car as well. Interchangeable plastic body panels complete the exterior. It was often seen that early Smart owners would meet in car parks & exchange panels. Bizarrely, the colour of the car on the log book, is defined by its Tridion shell. There is an astounding array of body panels out there. You should never be surprised at any colour combination you come across.

In reality, my motoring costs were halved, on two spectacular journeys on the motorway, I got an astonishing 70+ to the gallon. It has halved my road tax & insurance. It is extremely comfortable on any journey, although the auto/sequential gearbox was not that smooth, this was improved by re-mapping the engines computer. It is smoother, faster & consumes even less petrol. It has a tiny tank giving only about 200 miles between fill ups. (the later models improved with a bigger tank). With a weight of 730 kg and a 600cc turbo engine, it is one of the lightest cars in the European market.

I have been disappointed by the small things that go wrong. I am used to Japanese reliability. The air bag light is on, the air conditioning has a leak that costs too much to repair, the drivers side door has a mind of its own when it came to opening, and the electric mirrors don't adjust. Its using very little oil, (not a thing you expect from a Mercedes) but on the other hand I don't thrash the turbo. Its is stunningly quick when you want it to be, but handles like a Silver cross pram if your not careful. Handling can be vastly improved ... but at a cost. Driving a Smart is very reminiscent of a 1960s bubble car, bumpy, fun & different. It only holds two people but this time, it's in supreme comfort. It will take your Tescos shopping or a small amount of luggage without a problem.

Its very good at doing what it was designed for.

An all singing, all dancing car, it ain't!

After a series of small but expensive niggling faults (Doors that broke or jammed open, airbag warning light on. air con defunct through a tiny leak, wing mirrors that went to manual and lastly, lights going out regularly) I decided, while it was sellable with low miles with just two owners, I decided I should look for a replacement.