To be clear we are talking about the Smart brand and not the adjective smart. Nevertheless the brainchild of German Mercedes-Benz and Swiss Swatch has a lot to offer to tech fans.
Buying a car is both a practical and an emotional decision, regarding the Smart’s appearance and price, I would say emotions play a larger role than usual.
I have owned a Smart and it started off as a love-hate relationship but the little beast grew on me very fast. It is worth mentioning that I am 6’6” and was living in Berlin Germany at the time. The car is definitely for city dwellers, if you are living in rural America there are better choices. To help with any decision making we will go over a few facts. You can weigh the pros and cons against each other and decide depending on your own priorities.
The Smart car is not a cheap car, depending on model it can cost around $30,000, by nature something designed by the Swiss and made by the Germans is never cheap. Nevertheless you can find a decent used model $10-$15K.
The annual maintenance and insurance expenses are average. Looking around the internet, for insurance it costs about $600 per year and average repair costs are around $450. Of course maintenance and repair costs will vary depending on your service provider, generally independent service shops are cheaper than dealerships.
For DIY enthusiasts, the Smart is built for easy maintenance. Changing brake pads or other parts is made as easy as possible, you do not even need to jack up the car to change oil. If you feel comfortable getting your hands dirty then you can save the hassle of going to a service shop for routine maintenance.
Fuel consumption is another cost factor that is often mentioned when talking about ownership costs. Gas prices in Europe are more than double the price as in the US, so fuel consumption is more a financial factor than an ecological one. No matter what your priorities are, less is always better. Officially you can get up to 42 miles out of a gallon, practically you will not get more than 34-36 mpg. That is still low compared to most cars but there are lots of small cars that can do a better job.
The gasoline-powered Smart has a three cylinder, 1L, rear-mounted motor that can produce 70 horsepower. That does not sound like much but with less than 2,000 pounds weight it is enough to reach approximately 90 mph. The Smart needs about 10-14 seconds to reach 60 mph from 0, depending on model. That is not impressive but comparable to the competition.
The outer dimensions are 106.1”L x 61.4”W x 60.7”H, the small size is great for finding a parking space but the height ratio makes the car wobble a bit in high winds or when overtaking a truck on the highway. That is why I believe it is not the best choice for rural residents who might need to drive longer distances now and then.
With nearly 40” headroom and slightly over 41” legroom the Smart is surprisingly comfortable for tall drivers. The 7.8 cubic feet storage space is fairly tight, just about enough for a few grocery bags.
The car’s original designer was a Formula 1 engineer who put a lot of emphasis on safety. The passengers are protected by a roll cage and four airbags each. In spite of its small dimensions and light weight the Smart has done quite well on most safety and crash tests.
When it comes to features the Smart comes with the whole package – air conditioning, ABS, stability control, traction control, automatic transmission plus paddle shifters and even a security system. Different models come with extra perks, like a see-through roof panel, climate control, heated mirrors, leather seats to name a few. There is also a special Brabus sports package for those who want the extra kick.
Now we will go from the objective facts to the subjective ones. Looking at the numbers the Smart has a lot of things in its favor but also a lot of facts that make the competition more practical and attractive.
The only reason I kept my Smart was that it was fun to drive. I read somewhere It is like driving a go kart with a/c, heating and weather protection. The car has the charm of a Swatch watch but at the end of the day it is a Mercedes. As I have mentioned a few times before, you’ll enjoy driving it through the city. The car needs some time to get used to your driving style but after a few days it will run like a charm. Climbing in and out of the car is so easy, especially for tall people and you will love squeezing into the smallest places. I suppose the Smart is something like the opera – you will either love it or hate it.