Dinky and perky, the Smart proves a small car can still make a big impression, says Martin Love
Sunday February 12, 2006The Observer
Smart £6,810 to £14,620
Top speed: 94Mph
Cost per mile: £0.34
Good for: Scrum halves
Bad for: Prop forwards
The Smart car, the ground-breakingly novel city runaround which shows you don't have to be 'square to work in the Square Mile', is a class-leading vehicle. Having said that, it's pretty much the only car in its class. How many other tiny two-seaters with boot space [trunk space] and an eerie resemblance to a Dyson [vacuum cleaner] are there? It's a great strategy. Want to be a winner, invent your own class. Want to take gold at the Winter Olympics, enter an event no one else does. How many 'Nordic Combined' athletes have you heard of? Not many, I expect. The sport combines the seemingly unrelated disciplines of cross-country skiing and ski jumping. If they'd thrown in ski-boot throwing you could have the field to yourself.
With its Smart, Daimler-Chrysler has done what few other manufacturers have done in recent years, and dared to think outside the box. The box in this case being the homogenous, play it safe, multi-pack approach to car design. As all other cars get bigger - middle-age spread affects the long-running models as much as their drivers - the compact, Mercedes-made Smart stands out from the crowd. The Golf, Polo, Focus and Clio are all now up to 20 per cent larger
than their debut models. In an overcrowded island, surely a palm-sized car that takes up half the space of a family saloon is to be applauded. You can fit two in a normal space, as well as parking it at right angles to the kerb. If we motorists are to find ways to reduce our environmental footprint, a Smart will shrink you from a size-12 wellie [wellingon boot] to a size-4 stiletto.
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