smart roadster Review from Portugal

2007 smart roadster 60 kW 0.7 turbo

Year of manufacture2007
First year of ownership2009
Most recent year of ownership2009
Engine and transmission 0.7 turbo Semi-Automatic
Performance marks 10 / 10
Reliability marks 9 / 10
Comfort marks 8 / 10
Dealer Service marks 5 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 9 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
8.2 / 10
Distance when acquired21000 kilometres
Most recent distance25500 kilometres
Previous carRover - Austin 200

Summary:

The most stylish, amazing and cheapest approach to a genuine sports car

Faults:

It leaked two times, one at each side, after spending many days parked outside with no trouble; nor did it leak under several downpours on the motorway. It appears to me the problem here is rain plus side wind.

Some connection bits appear at each cleaning day; poor built construction.

General Comments:

Amazing is the best word to describe this car. For anyone who does not believe, just drive one for a bit.

First impressions were a laugh: noise insulation is a joke, it is loooooow and every reaction is so honest and simple you just have to fall in love with it. The way the engine sounds, the way it steers, the way it corners, the way the gearbox changes gear in (horrid) auto-mode, all are worth a laugh. Not to mention the way it looks. Mine, all-black, is almost a cartoon-batmobile!

It is a toy, no other word, because it’s fairly hard to live with it in a daily-basis, even for me, the biggest admirer this car has. I spent an entire month solely using it, but as I drive a lot (more than 2.5k kilometres per month, mostly on the motorway) and as every journey starts at 6:30 am, I started to feel tired of its (strong) personality. Parked it in the garage, reserved it for the weekends and vacation and it all made sense. This is not a car for when you have to drive, but one for when you want to drive.

Fuel consumption is another thing to celebrate: mine never dropped from 50 mpg, but I recognize I don’t push it hard most of the time. It uses premium 98 octane petrol though.

Room is good: two adults fit well, even if tall, the downside being getting in and out. Boot space is limited, the front one being the most usable. Together, they allow two laptops (rear), a couple of (not very long) travel bags and not much more (front). Interior storage spaces are almost non-existent and there is 95% of plastic, most of it looking rather cheap.

Equipment depends on the initial (expensive) options list, as it came almost naked. Additionally to the 45 kW version, 60 kWs added leather steering wheel, sporty seats and gorgeous 15” 6-spoke alloys with 185/55 Bridgestone’s. Air conditioning, additional instruments for the turbocharger pressure and engine oil temperature and radio with CD-player are, for me, the only relevant options. Power steering is not necessary with these tires, as they are narrow and the front is light.

The driving experience is like nothing else I had ever experienced, and I already drove many cars. It is so responsive and direct I cannot avoid laughing sometimes. Its cornering abilities are perfect, and it does not come at the expense of comfort. It is no Rover 200 comfort though, as high-frequency irregularities come mostly intact to the occupants.

The engine is very responsive, especially in the first (ultra-short) 4 gears. Over-steer can appear easily, depending in the road and weather conditions. Attention is needed, especially while driving in the wet, because it appears suddenly and requires very fast steer movements, ESP taking time to understand what’s going on. I already saw the road ahead from my side window a couple of times…

Overtaking is effortless in all but 6th gear, suitable mostly for cruising. The softouch gearbox (sequential + full-auto mode) can be either a great laugh or a source of anger. Full auto-mode (softouch) is the mode automatically selected after turning the engine on. If you leave it there, it revs the engine so much it bothers me. I suppose it wants the engine to heat as quickly as possible, but 4k rpm in first gear are just not necessary. A touch in the gear lever the forward-motion way and it changes to 2nd gear and sequential mode. Here, it will still not do always what you request (it does not allow sub-1500 rpm nor red-line), but avoiding both situations and learning to use the accelerator to smoother gear changes leads to a very nice progression. This applies while cruising or when hard-driving.

Brake feel is the only letdown, as the pedal feels mushy, pretty much like in an old Merc, but braking power is very good.

A final word for maintenance: it is frequent (every 10k kilometres, no matter how you drive) and main dealer servicing is expensive and, very often, rubbish. From what I read here and there, it (unfortunately) happens in most European countries…

Note: all of this applies in Portugal, so please inform yourself about your country; photos can be seen in my portuguesepetrolhead weblog.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 21st June, 2009

17th Oct 2009, 18:17

Totally agree. It's a wonderful driver's car. It feels more alive compared to the Brabus, too much rubber.

27th Nov 2010, 18:45

(Ownership update)

The car has now covered 31 500 kilometres. It is now a second-car, a weekend toy, and is driven around 100 km per month.

Due to the lack of use, the right rear drum cylinder got half-stuck (I always parked it with the handbrake on...), so both rear drum cylinders were replaced at a German specialist.

Fuel consumption is now around 53 UK mpg (5,3 l/100km) - premium 98-RON petrol. Still respectable, as the car is driven enthusiastically sometimes and doesn't do long trips anymore.

Leaks were remedied using a lot of silicon spray on the rubber seals. Car washes are no drama, nor is rain.

General thoughts remain the same. The roadster is a perfect second (or third) car, cheap to run and astonishing to drive! I see no real point in using as an everyday runner, as it's just like a baby dog: always wanting to play, and a little tiring to live with everyday. But just as rewarding.

I wouldn't trade mine for anything!

Cheers!

6th Jul 2013, 15:47

(Ownership update)

The car has now around 35k kilometres (22k miles). Only problem so far was the folding roof, but I believe it was caused by lack of use (10 consecutive months retracted) - it misaligned itself and wouldn't fully open or close. Not very hard to fix, if you don't mind losing some time.

Apart from that, still as thrilling as in the first day of ownership. It really knows how to turn a journey in an event! Very cheap to own, as long as it is well taken care of. Otherwise, problems will arise soon, starting with the engine.

I like it so much, that last year I added a Brabus Xclusive to the fleet! Both roadsters are more different than you might think, but both are very special.

Average review marks: 8.2 / 10, based on 1 review