SMART CITY COUPÉ
Good things come in small packages – but how smart is buying a Smart?
‘The Smart is as handy as a Fiat 500, but without the discomfort’
Blending Mercedes know-how with design flair from a trendy watchmaker was also going to be a brave move. The MCC Smart was a bold move when it was launched 20 years ago - and it’s been rewarded with a growing following in the classic scene, with a loyal following and marque events.
Swatch and Mercedes-Benz joined forces in 1994 to develop it. Swatch wanted to translate its funky and flexible affordable fashion and experience with plastics into a car as an appliance, and Mercedes had been researching city cars (including a tiny shortened Mercedes 190) since the 1970s.
The resulting MCC Smart was revealed in 1997 with a rearmounted 599cc turbocharged three-cylinder engine and sixspeed sequential gearbox - and its 2.7m-long structure showcased some incredible engineering.
Its Tridion cell exceeded crash test standards and the unstressed plastic body panels were easily changed and – surprisingly – relatively inexpensive. The original Type 450 has transverse leaf spring front suspension with a De Dion tube and coils at the rear. The ride is stable but it struggles with urban potholes and speedbumps, which makes driving the Smart hard work in the very environment in where it should excel. Clever design touches abound. Accessories attach to the dashboard with screws located in the ‘a’ of the Smart logo, and can be swapped around. The breathable seats are mesh-backed, and the full-length glass roof – which opens as part of an option package – was unusual at the time. It’s an excellent attempt at creating a fun, small car in the Mini/Fiat 500 mould. It’s picked up a devoted following since - and low prices make it a gre at bargain modern classic.
Funky cabin is a fun place to be – especially parking in a space too tiny for other cars.
access to the turbocharged 599cc three-cylinder rearmounted engine is tight.