SMART CITY COUPÉ

Good things come in small pack­ages – but how smart is buy­ing a Smart?

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling - WORDS Richard Kil­patrick Pho­tog­ra­phy Magic Car Pics/Richard Kil­patrick

‘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.

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