Monday, November 27, 2006

Car Smarts

So, I’ve now got one, a Smart Car that is. Have poodled about, tested it limits, tried every knob and button (of which there are very few), and feel eminently confident at reviewing said car. My summary verdict? It’s not that bad.

For those who haven’t mat one, or can’t be bothered to look, let me describe the Smart Car. It is a tiny 2 seater full of pretensions (indeed, it could be argued it is a car for pretentious people, of which I must sadly include myself). It is tiny, a true noddy car. Between the driver's seat and the front and rear bumpers there is only a few feet. No long gliding bonnet, no boot big enough for two sets of golf clubs (and just why is it boots are measured in sets of gold clubs). It is two seats, sides, front and back with the bare minimum of controls to drive it.

Next, it almost doesn’t have an engine. In an age when motor manufacturers revel in hundreds of horse power and dripping litre upon litre of engine size, my little Smart car has an engine of 590cc. Most motorcycles have larger engines than that.

Yet some boffin has actually worked miracles with this. It will never win an F1 race, but it gives a modestly satisfactory kick. For city driving it gets off the start as good or better than your neighbour, and there’s just enough oomph to feel the car’s not slowing you in getting from point A to point B. With all that it turns in an average 60 mpg. This marvel of technology has only one real failing, it whines. To get that power it has to run at very high revs, and there’s no soundproofing, you hear this constant whinge as it struggles to keep up.

It has a rather odd not quite automatic not quite standard transmission. There’s no clutch, but it doesn’t change gears by itself. You’ve got to click the gear shift forward and back to change up and down (or in the case of mine, there are flappy paddles at the steering wheel, very F1, but a bit silly). I’m still getting used to that, but other than a fairly rough change from 1st to 2nd, its remarkably smooth.

That’s about it really. The interior is very unfussy, I quite like the styling in its minimalism. It has a big downside in that the stereo is awfully tinny (one thing I will have to change, I can’t stand not having good sound as I drive). Everything feels pretty plasticy but holds together (ie nothing is falling apart), and the heated seats are very nice. Mine has a soft top, which is a bit useless this time of year, but I’m quite looking forward to.

So, all in all, its not that bad (which is different from being very good). To get me to the station and back it will do, it will save a bit of cash, and its different enough that I don’t feel my pristine image is abused to drive it. You can’t ask for much more than that.


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