Let’s be Smart

CityPress - - Trending - Trend­ing@city­press.co.za Mercedes-Benz Smart Find the Supreme Woman col­lec­tion at rhu­maa.com

Pric­ing: From R174 900 I re­cently ran over 30 min­utes late for an im­por­tant meet­ing, cir­cling the in­ner CBD of Cape Town in a bulky SUV, look­ing for park­ing. My des­per­ate what­sapps of “give me 5, just park­ing” to a po­ten­tial em­ployer who I’d been hop­ing to bowl over with my im­pec­ca­ble time-keep­ing, were less than con­vinc­ing. By the time I sat down for the meet­ing, the pre­ordered cof­fee was as cold as his frus­trated scowl. Need­less to say, I didn’t get the con­tract.

As cities get more crowded, I have be­come some­what ob­sessed with traf­fic. While some peo­ple watch an­i­mal clips on YouTube, I reg­u­larly find my­self stream­ing traf­fic jams. My most viewed one took place in China back in 2010, last­ing a brain-numb­ing 12 days along the Bei­jingTi­bet high­ways where com­muters ex­pe­ri­enced a 99km back-up.

I’m not the only one ob­sessed. Lo­cally, park­ing and traf­fic con­ges­tion have be­come the bane of many South Africans. Ac­cord­ing to the Num­beo’s Traf­fic In­dex 2016, South Africa is now the fifth most traf­fic-con­gested coun­try in the world, with com­muters liv­ing in Joburg, Cape Town and PE wast­ing an av­er­age of 43 min­utes be­cause of traf­fic, go­ing one way.

So when the Smart Fortwo and Smart For­four were re­cently launched by Mercedes-Benz in Cape Town, I was all ears. Touted by its man­u­fac­turer as the wun­derkind of ur­ban mo­bil­ity, the mi­nus­cule Smart is de­signed to slip into tight park­ing spa­ces and weave through traf­fic, while other bulkier rides get left be­hind. There’s no doubt that when it comes to looks, the lat­est 2.69m Smart Fortwo and 3.49m Smart For­four are funky to the core. Com­bin­ing eye-catch­ing colours and com­pact, ex­pres­sive de­sign, aes­thet­i­cally the Smart is in the league of the trendy Citroën DS 3 and Fiat 500. In­side, it’s all clean lines, with sur­faces cov­ered by high­qual­ity fab­rics, while the cen­tre con­sole and in­stru­ment clus­ter, with their 8.9cm screen, are im­pres­sively func­tional. Com­fort-wise the two-tone seats are sur­pris­ingly high and of­fer am­ple sup­port.

But are chic looks enough to make one in­vest in th­ese tiny wheels? To be hon­est, I was al­ways a bit dis­parag­ing about the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion Smart when it came to safety. The al­most com­i­cally mi­nus­cule Smart did not re­ally take off in South Africa, with lo­cal driv­ers prob­a­bly hav­ing the same reser­va­tions as I did.

My safety con­cerns were, how­ever, al­layed at the launch by way of a video demo in which the Smart’s cabin stayed in­tact as it col­lided head-on with the mighty Mercedes-Benz S-Class. An in­no­va­tive safety sys­tem, by way of a trid­ion safety cell, has been in­tro­duced to the lat­est-gen­er­a­tion Smart. Ba­si­cally, just like a nut is pro­tected by a hard shell, the trid­ion safety cell, made from 75% high­strength steel, acts as an ef­fec­tive cage to keep the oc­cu­pants of the car safe.

Added to that, there are five air bags, ABS, EBD, Brake As­sist, and trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol, plus a host of pre­mium Mercedes-Benz op­tions like lane-keep­ing and for­ward-col­li­sion as­sist.

But it was when driv­ing through the CBD on to open roads that I truly got the feel of what the new Smart was all about.

Both pow­ered by a 1.0-litre 3-cylin­der en­gine that emits a rather hum­ble 52kW of power and 91Nm of torque, I was sur­prised at how well the Smart For­four made its tran­si­tion out of the city. Over­tak­ing was easy and, de­spite windy con­di­tions, the Smart For­four han­dled well.

On the open road, I was less im­pressed with the Smart Fortwo, which re­ally is a tiny tot and didn’t han­dle the wind as well as its big brother. It’s in the city that the Smart Fortwo shines, trans­form­ing into a mas­ter of ma­noeu­vring with its turn­ing cir­cle of just 6.95m.

Price-wise, Mercedes has come in at a very com­pet­i­tive R174 900 for the Smart Fortwo, and the cars come stan­dard with a three-year/60 000km ser­vice plan.

You’ll be smart to con­sider this baby.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

WUN­DERKIND There’s no doubt that the lat­est Smart cars have funky looks

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