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smart roadster Brabus/light

Smart

Review

IT may be small in size but the smart roadster has been boosted by a meaty new model.

The launch of the smart roadster and roadster-coupe Brabus also coincides with the unveiling of the smallest model in the roadster range, the limited-edition entry-level smart roadster light.

Brabus has already had an association with smart, mainly offering upgraded components to boost smart’s limited-edition models.

It is famed for its range of products – tuned engines, special aerodynamic kits, alloy wheels and sports suspension – but generally its work has been fettling extremely high-performance, massively expensive Mercedes-Benz motors.

With smart, the Brabus brand aims to offer customers ‘leading-edge design and technology, the ultimate in exclusive and sporty products’.

Smart sales so far are more than 12% up on the same period last year, proving that it’s a growing brand currying favour mainly with retail customers but also with company car drivers.

The Brabus, which was unveiled at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, is expected to account for about 10% of total roadster sales. The coupe version costs £16,995 on-the-road, £300 more than the roadster Brabus and considerably more than the roadster light, which costs £11,095 on-the-road.

The Brabus offers 101bhp, which equates to 23% more engine power than the standard model, and has a maximum speed of 122mph.

It boasts an acceleration time for 0-62mph of 9.8 seconds but feels much quicker than this when you’re in a car with your backside so close to the road.

Its standard features include sports suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘soft-touch’ automatic transmission, heated leather sports seats and a three-spoke leather sports steering wheel.

The Brabus-branded features that set it part from the rest of the range include radiator grille, side skirts, front and rear colour co-ordinated spoilers and sports exhaust. Options include power steering and a rain and light sensor.

Commenting on the launch of the roadster Brabus models, Jeremy Simpson, head of smart in the UK and Ireland, said: ‘These two roadsters come with an excellent lineage. They offer exceptionally good value for money and we expect to see even more showroom activity as the weather improves and motorists’ thoughts turn to open-top driving.’

The smart range will soon be complemented by the launch of the forfour model, of which fleets are expected to account for 20% of registrations.

It will join a sector currently dominated by the likes of the Mini, Volkswagen Polo and Peugeot 206. A number of key account managers at the Milton Keynes company have been involved in a campaign to ensure business motorists are aware of the new car, prior to its September launch.

They have been contacting customers who operate Mercedes-Benz cars, also part of the DaimlerChrysler group, hoping that a high proportion of them run B-segment cars alongside the Mercedes-Benz C and E-class models.

Behind the wheel

DESPITE price tags differing by several thousand pounds, there aren’t too many obvious differences that separate the limited edition roaster light from its Brabus bigger brother, as I found when a smart regional tour rolled into the city of Nottingham.

Petrolheads will immediately tell them apart, having spotted the nice chrome touches and B-logos, but I’m not convinced the average man or woman will do this so easily, although the monster 17-inch alloy wheels will probably be the first aspect of the bigger car to attract attention.

The light model, which is aimed at younger buyers, is a cracking car which, although isn’t exactly race track material, looks as good as its more powerful and better-specced brethren.

Behind the wheel is a slightly different story. The Brabus has noticeably more power, particularly higher up the rev range, but both have an annoying pause between gear changes. Don’t take any ‘quick off the mark’ chances at roundabouts or you’ll find yourself sucking in air in a mad attempt to go faster.

I’m reliably informed by a smart representative that owners quickly adapt their driving style to accommodate this but even after a few hours in the car I was still having problems.

Our route was a mixture of country roads and motorways and although both vehicles were better suited and much more fun on the twisty single routes, they behaved impeccably at relatively high speeds on dual-carriageways. It’s also a very comfortable car that gave me and a co-driver no backaches or pains despite spending several hours in one.

The Brabus version has a decent amount of acceleration through the top gears which is what the roadster light lacks, although that’s to be expected with a less powerful car.

Both possess go-kart like qualities and stick to the road – cornering feels safe and predictable even at a brisk pace.

It’s another story inside the cabin too. The Brabus gets a leather-trimmed fascia, alloy-effect panels, dedicated instrument graphics, a leather and aluminium gear knob, aluminium pedals and Brabus floor mats.

The manufacturer also used the roadshow to demonstrate its integrated iPod music device which comes as part of a limited edition model called the smart fortwo i-move. The system can store more CDs than the average person will ever own in a lifetime and you can take it out of the car and use it as a portable player too. The company plans to sell an iPod integration kit as an accessory for its fortwo and roadster models later this year.

Driving verdict

IF you’re the sort of person who goes for class with a no-thrills approach then the light version is for you. What you will get for your money is more than adequate. But if you want the very best of everything, then you’ll have to stump up the extra cash required to have the Brabus.

Despite this, neither version offers much practicality for everyday fleet use, but user-choosers able to opt for a roadster should consider themselves very lucky indeed.

Model: smart roadster Brabus/Smart roadster-coupe Brabus
Engine (cc): 698 turbo
Max power (bhp/rpm): 101/5,250
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 130/2,500-4,500
0-62.5mph: 9.8
Max speed (mph): 119 (122)
Fuel consumption (mpg): 53.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 126
Fuel tank capacity (litres): 35
Transmission: sequential automated six-speed
Price: £16,695 (£16,995)
(Roadster-coupe Brabus figures in brackets)

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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