Smart introduces 2nd generation

by Volker Weber


Smart has introduced their second generation car which hits the market next April. It is a wee bit larger, promises better handling and more boot space. I enjoy driving our current Smart car, and the new one might very well be a future purchase.


Smart is FINALLY coming to the US!! I saw them on the docks here over a year ago (Charleston is a major port for import/export cars), but for some bizarre reason they aren't being released until 2008. I'm not sure what that's about.

Charles Robinson, 2006-11-10

Charles, I am not sure you would want one in the US. I mean it does more than 80 mph, so it would not be too slow. But there is hardly any suspension at all, so your roads don't go well with a Smart. Then it is a full meter shorter than a Mini, which helps tremendously in our cities, but is unnecessary in yours. You either have no parking at all (like Manhattan) or spaces that fit a Town Car.

Volker Weber, 2006-11-10

Charleston was one of only three European-style walled cities in the New World, so we do have some extremely narrow streets. There are places in town I can't go with my truck. My interest is mostly driven by fuel economy (my truck gets 6km/L), and they're just so cute! :) I would love to have a Mini Cooper S convertible, but I can't justify the $30K+ price tag.

Charles Robinson, 2006-11-10

The "wee bit" is 19.5cm or 7.7in, which I think is a pretty big increase considering that the current Smart is just 2.5m long. That's about 8% longer than before. Perpendicular parking will be more difficult, despite other claims by DaimlerChrysler. I assume that the design had been "fixed" very early on. When new specs had to be integrated, such as US-specific stuff, pedestrian safety features ans so on, they just kept on adding those to the initial design.
New cars are usually bigger than their predecessors, but the Smart is in a segment where smaller is better, and parking spaces unfortunately do not grow by 10% every 10 years. DC is lucky not to have a direct competitor for the Smart.
But most importantly, thank you DaimlerChrysler, for continuing the development of the Smart. The concept is great and you should be making good money with those cars.

Moritz Schroeder, 2006-11-10

The shorter the car, the better the car.. only German engineers at Benz, started thinking, how short is too short, and how small is too big, and then added 6 inches to the length of the car :)

Villi Helgason, 2006-11-10

The United Car Group (Roger Penske) will establish a retail channel with 300 outlets and they try to start service before december 2007 .

The smart concept is/was great, but the details are horrible (long time quality, fuel consumption for such a small & leight car, TCO especially services, which could only be done by smart center and they the nearly the same rate per hour as mercedes benz, a free service dealer like atu won't support you if the car gets older ) and it's a question of time when the management will kill this product(line) because they'll never earn money due to low sales. The factory & product were calculated for an average production of 200.000 (p.a.) and they real production is about 100.000. They have a horrible cost position in comparison and due to the low produtction they'll never reach break even.
They reduced the effort for development, sourcing, sales marketing and there's no doubt that they'll need someone who'll buy the complete business.
And you should know that your favorite has a engine made by and where ?
Believe it or not: It is a chrysler engine from brasil (economy of scale because BMW has no small engines)

The plant is in a part (Elsaß Lothringen) of france where the workers get little bit lower wages. But the real cheap production nowadays is in romania where the Renault/Dacia Logan will be produced.
The smart has horrible traction in winter even with winter pneus. The used car price is even lower than other german small cars.

We have a smart for 7 years and the service costs are exploding much higher than the previous VW Polo. Pare part prices are at merecedes level or higher.
The product didn't got a real evolution, the half automic gearbox needs a long shift time and so on. We will return to Volkswagen and buy a used polo or golf .
The only disadvantages is the bigger parking lot.

Make a long testdrive over a weekend (or rent it for a week) and be sure to make a long distance trip, use it during rush hour, look for the fuel consumption. This is a very special car with limited usage and fun (only in cities, young kids).
As I wrote the concept was great but during its way from a concept to mass product it lost too much - only parking has been fun (OK acceleration is also quit good).

Wolfgang Andreas Bischof, 2006-11-10


Smart Cars have been on sale in Canada for at least a year now. The smart Canada dealers are usually associated with Mercedes-Benz dealers here. Perhaps the ones you saw in Charleston were destined for the Canadian market.

Ken Porter, 2006-11-10

There are some interesting models available in Europe that are not available here in Canada. Only two models are available in Canada; the smart fortwo coupé and the smart fortwo cabriolet [link]. The smart roadster-coupé is not listed on the Canadian site, nor is it on the US site. It sure looks like fun!


Ken Porter, 2006-11-11

Ken, unfortunately the roadster/coupe (and the forfour) are already dead, i.e. not being produced anymore.

Joerg Michael, 2006-11-11

Thanks for the info, Wolfgang. I first came across Smarts back in 1997 and have been intrigued with them ever since. As you said the concept is spot on, but it sounds like the devil is in the details and they're a bit off. I honestly have no intention of doing anything other than going to/from work and doing errands around town. And as I said, my big motivating factor is the fun, not the practicality. :-D I'll test drive one when they become available here and see if I still want to buy one. I appreciate your insight as a long time owner.

Charles Robinson, 2006-11-11

Charles, our experience is completely different. The car has not developed any problems at all. Fuel consumption is pretty low, but could be lower. We need about 5.5 l/100 km, which is better than 40 mpg. The Diesel powered Smart burns less than 4 l/100 km which is almost 60 mpg.

However, you won't get nearly as much fun as in a Mini. Steering is not direct, the car under steers. The sequential gear box is slow, and the suspension is very hard.

I have also driven the Mini Cooper and the Cooper S. Both are fun to drive but real gas guzzlers. The Cooper is underpowered, the supercharged S is fast enough. But fuel consumption has been as bad as 15 mpg when fooling around at full throttle.

The new New Mini will change that. They are getting a much better engine which rev's up faster and has more torque. It will yield much better mpg with the same fun to drive.

Volker Weber, 2006-11-11

I have a car from DaimlerChrysler (PT Cruiser 2004 model) that I bought new. I have not had a single problem with that car. Contrast that with the BMW I had before - the electric windows stopped working, the gas gauge broke and the door handle came off. I may have been unlucky, but it seems like the German quality is faulting a bit. The most reliable cars are now Japanese, and if you buy an American car, you no longer find a Budwiser can under your seat when you drive it of the lot :)

Villi Helgason, 2006-11-11

5.5l / 100km - that surprises me I must say. Seems too high for a 700cc car, but then again they are turbo charged aren't they? A fascinating little car which we saw a lot of when in Europe. We have them in NZ and I must say they're quite a head turner (which isn't so good when you're actually in the thing! ;)

Colin Williams, 2006-11-11

Our Smart has 88.000 km and an average of 7.2 l which is for a two seat car too high especially if you compare it with an Mercedes A Class 140 (Automatic) which my mom is driving with 7 l under similar conditions.
If you go above 100km/h (high speed is limited by smart to 130 km/h due to mprecise steering and worse brakes (high speed)) the fuel consumption is going up pretty much and the tank is too small (but fortunatelly the expanded it above 20 l). You can drive it with 5,5 l but therefore you have to go out of the city with no stop & go traffic at a speed of 80km/h. But for a 2 seater with such low weight it should be better.
The Smart had similar problems as the A-Class (called "Elch Test") which results too a delayed introduction. Unfortunatelly they couldn't use the ESP of the A-Class and developed a similiar system which doesn't work as good as the ESP. That's why you can have trouble during the ice & snow period. We bought that car as a city commuter to get parking lots whereever you are and that worked perfectly after the marketintroduction.
Now we have more Smarts and you have to look longer.
@Volker: The problems occured after 5 years & 50000km and then you have to go to the smart center and pay their price tag that's part of the problem (wait until you get trouble with the exhaustion & the electronics of the KAT and they tell have a special offer fpr you about 1200€). If you have a Polo or Golf or Focus you have a choice if the car is out of guarantee to get the repair which is payable if you look at the present value. And you'll find many similar things in smart chat rooms.
The Mini is a much better choice even as a used car especially the Supercharged version - it makes really fun to drive through the alps and it searches for every curve.

Wolfgang Andreas Bischof, 2006-11-11

I'm sorry to say that, but if you are burning 7.2 l/100 km, the problem is not the car. In a supercharged Mini you would burn twice that amount.

Volker Weber, 2006-11-11

@Wolfgang: If your smart is 7 years old, you got a "first" generation one. Many of the original probs had been addressed with the 2003 facelift. The suspension is still quite stiff, alhough much improved, the semiautomatic has become much smoother, engines were constantly improved... Check out the the model history and this article (both sites are in German).
Especially early Smart owners have often a story to tell, owners of later models are usually quite happy, that might explain the different experiences of both Volker and you.

Moritz Schroeder, 2006-11-11

@Volker, you mentioned "But fuel consumption has been as bad as 15 mpg when fooling around at full throttle"... I would think ANY car will yield bad fuel consumption at full throttle. :-)
For best fuel economy, drive from 1.7rpms to 3rpms, for best performance, drive 3-5k rpms, and have fun over 5 - but you can't honestly expect good mileage over 5k rpms.

In a MINI Cooper S, with a 12 gallon tank, I average 29MPG. (I usually end up refilling at 350 miles.) And that's a combination of highways and back roads, with enough high revs to push the envelope a little, and I have plenty of engine mods to suck additional mileage. I think a lot is to be said about driving style too... I found I got better mileage once I started paying attention to proper shift points, clutch techniques, etc. I think it was just more efficient overall.

Granted, my back roads are still nothing compared to those of my overseas counterparts, I definately concede that! :-) Your roads will demand more throttle/braking, which will suck mileage, that's probably a large part of it.

@Colin - a turbocharged car will get WAY less gas mileage than a supercharged car if you pound on it. Turbochargers get their primary power source direct from the exhaust line directly, which means you'll burn more gas while its kicking in.

Jess Stratton, 2006-11-12

@Colin, ignore that last comment, that was your point exactly! D'oh! :-)
This is why I always go back and re-read.

I'd love seeing those Smart cars here in the US. I think even *I* could manage to finally park a car correctly. And yes, I am saying that you'd think I'd be able to park a MINI well, but I still can't. ;-)

Jess Stratton, 2006-11-12

Jess, you are not a mechanical engineer. ;-) A supercharger is driven by the engine, a turbocharger by the exhaust. Guess which one is free.

As for the mileage, I agree with you. The driver makes all the difference. Also take into account that you would be driving the Cooper S at speeds exceeding 100 mph here. And you would not even feel particularly fast. I have actually driven one stretch of Autobahn with the foot on the floor for 20 minutes at 150 mph. No, not with a Mini. ;-)

Having said that, the old New Mini has a terrible engine by today's standards. Everything but the S is clearly underpowered, although on paper they look good. This changes completely with the new New Mini.

Volker Weber, 2006-11-12

Jess, with a Smart you don't have to learn to parallel park it. You just drive up to the curb. It is not longer than an SUV is wide.

Volker Weber, 2006-11-12

Okay, now you have to explain that first statement,I'm still learning! We're talking gas mileage here, not engine wear though. I understand that exhaust gases are free otherwise (they are there with or without the turbo), but what I meant by pounding on it is that I thought a turbocharger doesn't kick on unless you hit a certain RPM (the turbine kicks in), and if the RPMs are up anyway - buh-bye gas mileage. Unless I'm totally wrong about that, and please correct me. Like I said, I'm still learning and I can't believe I've been missing out on all this fun stuff my whole life.
It took a car I could finally feel comfortable in to really start enjoying it!

I'd love to be able to enjoy roads like that - I was never able to get in a full track day here, but I am going to make a point to try for next season. That's the closest I'll ever get over here to roads like that. :-)

Jess Stratton, 2006-11-12

Forgot to mention in that last post, I saw a preview (albeit a quick preview) of the new MINI. It's a completely different car, it seems! I can't say I'm thrilled with the way it looks. It almost looks *normal*. I think I have a problem with that. :-)

fyi - apparently, and I learned this recently from some Mini purists, the old Mini is a "Mini", the newer one is a MINI. :-)

Jess Stratton, 2006-11-12

Jess, your general idea is right. Superchargers work best at low RPMs and turbochargers at high RPMs. However, it depends very much on the size of the turbocharger. Smaller ones spin up quickly, larger ones compress more air. That is why some german cars have two turbochargers, some have a turbine with variable geometry and now Volkswagen has a small engine with a supercharger and a turbocharger. Supercharger kicks in at low RPMs and then is disengaged for higher RPMs where the turbocharger takes over. Why? Because the supercharger gets really expensive at high RPMs in terms of fuel consumption. Why is that? Because it eats more and more of the engine torque. In the new MINI (see, I learn) they replace the supercharger with a turbocharger.

On the intake both do the same magic: Press more air and petrol into a small displacement.

Volker Weber, 2006-11-13

Thanks Volker!

Jess Stratton, 2006-11-13

hiya we have juist bought a 2003 smart coupe gab all seems well untill when changing up from 3 to 4th gear the car appears to lose power and wont go above 60 mph some one told me that it was a built in safe mode to protect the engine from over revving, by taking the positive lead off of the bat and leaving for 10 minutes the car goes back to normal but again cuts back when going up the gears can anyone help with this prob

anthony bainton, 2008-03-09

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