SMART or What!
© Simon Lawrence
This article first appeared in T'Times motoring section
I was sitting in long queue of traffic, trying to get back into the New Forest from the hustle and insanity that is our motorway system, when a bright orange car in someone’s drive caught my eye. It was looking pretty forlorn; sitting on blocks with its once shiny wheels missing, a large crack in its fiberglass bonnet and the canvas doors gently moving with the breeze.
It was potentially a bit of a classic now, called the Bond Bug, a familiar sight in the 1970’s and 80’s; if you can think back that far – unfortunately I can!
The irony was that I was about to road test what could arguably be its reincarnate, the Smart Car, now as much an unusual, albeit familiar sight on our roads as the Bond was all those years ago.
I have to confess the thought of testing a car that boasts of being the smallest in its class (just 2.5 metres long) – in fact it’s the only car in its class! – and is propelled by an equally tiny motor, has to do more than just turn my head; as I have a preference for large, noisy, gas guzzling monster cars – but that’s not hip and trendy these days I suppose!
Normally when a test car is delivered I’m so keen to climb aboard I let personal hygiene take a back seat – no shaving, hair gel or leg waxing for me – just straight behind the wheel and I’m off. But this was different! The Smart was delivered yesterday evening, and to be honest this morning I climbed out of bed and peered from my window hoping someone may have stolen it in the night – but it was still there! Grinning at me from its stubby little face.
So, I shaved, showered, trimmed my nails – ummmm; perhaps I could do with a haircut? Ironed my shirt, my trousers, my smalls – polished my shoes till they shone – breakfasted like it was my last. By then the neighbours had all gone to work.
I slunk from the front door, feeling it was a crime I was about to commit, climbed reluctantly aboard and with a twist of the key spun the wheels from my drive, heading for a quieter part of town where I was less likely to be seen.
Once clear of any passer-by who may point and stare – I drove and drove and to be honest the further I drove the more I liked this little car. What did first feel like some kind of go-kart for the year 3000 – soon changed to delight as I buzzed around with it’s tiny 3-cylinder turbo charged engine somewhere beneath my nether regions. Built by Mercedes-Benz the engine is surprisingly responsive, and would you believe returns around 49 miles to the gallon; which if I get my calculator out, equates to driving from London to Edinburgh on one full tank.
The Smart deserves praise too for its innovative design, the interior has snazzy dials, plenty of storage space and you get a slick leather steering wheel, comfortable seats and a great view of the road from the high driving position. As for the rear seats – well there aren’t any!
Its got all the safely features you would expect on a modern car – and so many add-ons you can personalize it like you would your mobile phone. It’s also very well put together. On the outside you soon acclimatize to its cheeky stance – this car is full of those intangibles that entice people into making rash decisions; in fact my son’s now decided he wants one when he’s old enough to drive.
If you want to find out more log onto www.smart.com/uk or call Free on 0808 000 8080. Here you will also find the nearest dealership – there’s one in Poole and Southampton too, where you can see one in the flesh. Prices start from £6775 on the road.
© Simon Lawrence