Brace for a Smart at­tack

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By CRAIG DUFF Rat­ing: Price: War­ranty: Re­sale: Ser­vice in­ter­vals: Econ­omy: Equip­ment: En­gine: Trans­mis­sion: Body: Weight: Ba­rina Spark Rat­ing: Price: En­gine: Trans­mis­sion: Body: Thirst:

THE Smart was so far ahead of the curve it missed the ball-game when it launched here in 2003.

Aus­tralians at that time were not pre­pared to con­sider a mi­cro car and it did not em­u­late its Euro­pean suc­cess, where the Mer­cbuilt model was a pop­u­lar city com­muter. Fast-for­ward to this year and small cars in­creas­ingly are in vogue. So, is the two-seat run­about a smart choice now? VALUE: A $19,990 sticker price does not look like a smart buy in a mar­ket where the Holden Ba­rina Spark, Suzuki Alto and Nis­san Mi­cra un­der­cut it by $7000 or more. They have back seats and a boot. What the Smart does have is rear-wheeldrive and the best fuel use of a con­ven­tional-en­gined car at 4.4 litres/100km and CO emis­sions of 100g/km.

The lim­ited edi­tion ‘‘night orange’’ model seen here was a sell­out, de­spite cost­ing an ex­tra $2800. In the UK, As­ton Martin can­not make enough of its Toy­ota iQbased Cygnets, even at $55,000, so there is a mar­ket for up­mar­ket city cars. DE­SIGN: The 999cc three­cylin­der en­gine is mounted

three stars $19,990

Three years/ un­lim­ited km

55 per cent 20,000km

4.4 litres/100km (95 RON), 100g/km CO

Four airbags, ABS with EBD, trac­tion con­trol, hill start as­sist Crash rat­ing: Four stars

1-litre triple­cylin­der, 52kW/92Nm

Five-speed au­to­mated man­ual Two-door hatch

750kg di­rectly above the rear wheels, so the 200-litre boot is up front. The dash plas­tics are as good as any­thing in the class and the over­all cabin qual­ity feels bet­ter than its ri­vals, but so it should. The ex­te­rior shape is three years old, but still edgier than any­thing else in this mar­ket and is a big part of the rea­son the Smart ap­peals to young Euro­peans, Mercedes says. TECH­NOL­OGY: The mi­cro car con­cept is the gamechanger here. Mercedes had no com­pe­ti­tion when it launched this car in 1998. The de- sign was widened and cen­tre of grav­ity low­ered when the Smart in­fa­mously failed a sim­u­lated rollover ‘‘moose test’’. It is the only car in this seg­ment us­ing an au­to­mated man­ual trans­mis­sion but the five-speeder shifts slower than a politi­cian in front of the cam­eras. SAFETY: There is not much room for crum­ple zones in the fortwo. In­stead, Mercedes de­vel­oped the trid­ion safety cell — the black or sil­ver bit that runs from the A pil­lar to the bot­tom on the doors. It is a triple-lay­ered steel cell with slid­ing beams front and rear to ab­sorb small im­pacts with­out dam­ag­ing the cell it­self. There also are four airbags and safety soft­ware you ex­pect in small cars. EuroNCAP gave it a four star rat­ing. DRIV­ING: The Smart is great fun driv­ing around town and ac­cept­able on the free­way runs that con­nect the city to the burbs. Cross winds will push it around, but it is no worse than a high-rid­ing SUV. What does hurt is the auto trans­mis­sion. Its slow shifts ex­ag­ger­ate the car’s habit of pitch­ing for­wards un­der a gearchange and then back-

Three stars $12,490

1.2-litre four­cylin­der, 59kW/107Nm

Five-speed man­ual, front-wheel drive Three-door hatch 5.6 litres/100km, 128g/km CO2 Good rather than great, but Holden badge is the clincher wards as the drive en­gages. It is with­out peer in in­nercity laneways and the tight­est park­ing spot is yours for the tak­ing, with lit­tle fear of door and/or panel dam­age. VER­DICT: The car that started the pop­u­lar mi­cro car trend is over­priced but a more en­gag­ing drive than some of its ri­vals. It was made for city own­ers and is an ideal city run­about. The car was con­ceived by Ni­co­las Hayek, of Swatch watch fame, as a city car that could be per­son­alised just as his time­pieces were. VW teamed up but that part­ner­ship fiz­zled and Mercedes launched the Smart in 1998.

A 2011 New York In­ter­na­tional Auto Show vis­i­tor ad­justs her make-up with a mir­rored Smart car and, in­set, the new Mercedes Benz Smart F-Cell at the IAA Frank­furt Auto Show in Ger­many last month

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