Fleet News

smart roadster

Smart

Review

Roadsters don't form the core of fleets, but user-choosers wanting something a little bit different should definitely consider the new smart roadster and roadster-coupe. As figures demonstrate, smart's offering is unlikely to seriously dent fleet budgets as some fuel-guzzling sports cars might.

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Jeremy Simpson, head of smart's UK arm, says the new model's generous combined fuel consumption figure of 55.4mpg and CO2 emissions of just 121g/km make it a worthwhile fleet contender for user-choosers.

The smart roadster will compete against vehicles such as the Ford StreetKa, Peugeot 206CC, Mazda MX-5 and the MG TF. Price-wise it is £1,000 more expensive than the StreetKa, with the roadster starting at £13,495 on-the-road.

For an extra £1,000 the roadster-coupe offers 15-inch alloy wheels, a removable hardtop which can be transported in the rear luggage compartment, air conditioning and extra storage space.

The roadster and roadster-coupe both come with a 698cc, 80bhp engine, turbocharged to produce 81lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. It wouldn't initially spark interest from speed freaks, but weighing just 790kg it feels like a performance car, having an excellent power-to-weight ratio.

smart has also tackled one of the usual roadster problems of space with a multitude of storage compartments front and rear and has designed a made-to-measure range of optional luggage.

Venturing away from manual gearchanging, smart provides two options. An automatic gearshift is standard but for drivers wanting more control there is a semi-automatic unit using either the gear stick or paddles on the steering wheel.

Electronic stability programme (ESP) comes as standard, including selective brake intervention, anti-stall assist, brake assist and ABS brakes as well as hill-start assist.

For those wanting even more extras, three packs are available. The sports pack includes leather sports steering wheel with paddle gearchange. The safety pack includes fog lamps, electric heated door mirrors and side airbags or a comfort pack with cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and a trip computer.

No compromises have been made on safety. smart uses the safety cell similar to that on the traditional smart model, alongside a restraint system with airbags, belt tensioners and belt-force limiters.

On the road, the smart roadster is not a car for the shrinking violet, generating points and stares from curious pedestrians.

Standing at only 1,192mm tall, the low seating position means it feels faster than it really is and despite being one of the smallest roadsters on the market, it's surprisingly roomy inside.

With direct steering, fantastic corning ability and agile changes of direction, the roadster is a fun drive and feels stuck to the Tarmac, while the whistle of the turbo urges the driver on.

There is a slur on gear changes using both the automatic mode and the paddle shift though, but it is improved over previous gearboxes in smart cars.

The delay causes a lurch which is annoying and when using the paddleshift it is best to change up before maximum revs are reached for a smoother action. The only other gripe is the poor visibility through the back window on the coupe, although this is not a problem encountered on the roadster.

The roadster and roadster-coupe are cars designed for a very specific taste, but with low running costs combined with great fun they will no doubt find their way to a number of user-choosers.

Model: smart roadster/coupe
Engine (cc): 698
Power (bhp/rpm): 80/5,250
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 81/3,000
Max speed (mph): Roadster 109, Coupe 113
0-62mph (sec): Roadster 10.9, Coupe 11.2
Combined economy (mpg): 55.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 121
Fuel tank capacity (l): 35
Transmission: 6-sp sequential auto
On sale: September
Price (OTR): Roadster £13,495, Coupe £14,495

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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