The Smart choice?

I finished my studies in 2015 and have been working full time for a little over a year now so the time came to start looking around for a new set of wheels. After 3 years and a rather rocky relationship with my Ford Ka (thanks Mom) it was time to say goodbye. I put it on sale privately and amazingly after only 2 hours I got a phone call and my little Ka found a new home. It was a strange feeling to say goodbye to my first car, even after the literal blood, sweat and tears (yes real tears). It was still my chariot to freedom and a fun one at that. 

Being a car nut the search was endless and ranged from a 2001 Mercedes S350 to a brand new Renault Kwid. After realizing that I cannot afford to run the S-class and that I actually value my life I came across a bit of a left field choice. My girlfriend and myself went to the dealer and test drove it, both fell in love and it was at that moment that I found my new car. I was still a bit hesitate, nervous actually as this was a big step financially. Now, to decide on a colour. Blue and black won the vote… Until I saw a red and black one, a deep metallic red reminiscent of that on the breathtaking Mercedes AMG GT. So I singed the papers and two days later took delivery of my new car. 

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My specified ForFour Passion – with the optional Urban style package

What is the car in question? A Smart ForFour Passion, and what a car it is. I realise there are a lot of people who may not like the ForFour or not understand it but it really is a surprising package. Probably this cars biggest flaw is the power train, but more of that in a bit. The pros however far outweigh the cons. Lets take a more in depth look.

For starters something has to be said about the amount of standard specification on this car as well as the options available. I was very fortunate to get a model that was loaded with toys for a very good price. Some of the standard features on this supermini aren’t even available on cars two classes up and that cost considerably more. For me it was a massive step up and has made driving much easier and more enjoyable. Below is the list of just some of the features my car has, I wont lie some of which were options (* optional).

  • Cruise control & speed limiter
  • 5 Airbags (driver and passenger front and side, drivers knee)
  • ESP, EBD and ABS
  • Panoramic Roof *
  • Radar-based proximity warning function*
  • Audio system – Bluetooth, AUX, USB, hands-free calling function
  • Automatic Climate control
  • JBL 320w sound system – 12 speakers* (a must have)
  • LED Day-time Running Lights – part of the LED and Sensor package
  • Fog lights
  • Automatic headlights and rain sensing wipers
  • Park assist*
  • Electric and heated mirrors
  • Ambient Lighting*
  • Start/Stop function
  • Hill hold assist
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Urban style package (16″ alloys, chrome exhaust & sports pedals) *

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Distinctive styling with LED rear lights

Features aside my little car has many other things to love. Firstly the fuel consumption. My Ka was averaging a rather dismal 10l/100km, resulting in 350km on a full tank which meant I could never go a full a month without visiting the petrol station twice. The Smart on the other hand is averaging 6.5l/100km which is still above the claimed average but I am now able to get around 500km on a single tank which is my average monthly travel. It must be said the Stop/Start is very temperamental. I’ve spent some time driving on the highway where I’ve seen the average drop as low as 5l/100km which is impressive considering the little 3 cylinder engine is working quite hard. Another thing I love is the turning circle of only 8.65m, which is not only the smallest in it’s class but possibly one of the smallest in the business. Aside for the London black cab and Smart ForTwo of course. 

Something that bugs me is how many people have this preconceived idea that the Smart is an unsafe car. Something that people need to get out of their heads. The ForFour has achieved a very respectable 4 stars in the stringent Euro NCAP which is easily on par and even better than some of its competitors (click the link above for more information). The Fiat 500 scored 3, the Opel Adam is a 4 star car. The only car to eclipse the ForFour is the VW Up! with 5 stars. To put this into perspective the much larger Ford Mustang achieved a pitiful 2 stars. Unlike the Smart, the competition available in South Africa cannot be fitted with extras like Proximity warning and lane keep assist. The Proximity Warning function has warned me a few times in situations where sudden braking is required. Very smart stuff, excuse the pun.

Another highlight is the JBL sound system including 8-channel DSP amplifier with a total output of 320W in conjunction with 12 high-performance loudspeakers and includes a removable sub-woofer in luggage compartment. The JBL sound system produces an impressively full sound and is a treat for the ears all made possible by the high-performance loudspeakers with additional amplifier and the variable woofer. The woofer is simple to remove and reinstall, should more space be required in the luggage compartment.

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Smart Proximity Warning Function 

I could go on about how great my car is, however there are some problems. The first and biggest problem is the engine. Some reviews I read prior to purchasing the car stated that around town it has adequate power but struggles on the highway. Having owned the car nearly two months my opinion is quite different. The car is in almost all circumstances under-powered, even in town. I would highly recommend opting for the newer and more powerful 900cc 66kw triple sourced from Renault. Once the car is up to speed it performs better. As for driving on the highway the car feels perfectly stable and safe especially knowing you have a radar keeping check on things. I wouldn’t recommend going above 115km/h when the engine starts to hit 4500rpm. That along with the wind noise becomes a bit obtrusive.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though, after taking delivery of the car there was an issue with the alarm. It would go off at least 20 times a day for absolutely no reason. It seemed to do it as soon as sun started warming the bonnet. After some research it seemed to be a manufacturing problem with a spacer in the bonnet which would activate the anti-theft alarm. After a couple of weeks me and my neighbors couldn’t take it anymore and I called the dealer. I dropped the car off and it was a free fix under the warranty. One perk of owning a Smart is that being a Benz product you get the red carpet treatment and the overall service was exceptional.

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Funky and well built interior – with obvious Mercedes and Renault parts

Despite some of the draw backs I fall a little more in love with my car each day. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable and modern city car. It is packed with features, has good build quality, is safe and comes with a standard service plan. It turns heads where ever I go and is a real conversation starter – something I wasn’t used to but now quite enjoy. I would highly recommend this car to anyone looking for a fashionable city car. Be sure to get the more powerful version, you’ll be thankful. Should you dare to be different you wont regret your decision.

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