Love it or hate it, the smallest Smart has certainly revolutionised the way we perceive small cars. Cheeky, nippy and beautifully detailed, the Smart asks you in no uncertain terms to recall the last time you used your back seats. If you had to think about that for a moment and live in the city, then there isn't a more stylish or impudent way to get about. Manufactured under the auspices of Mercedes-Benz and winner of numerous design awards, the Smart is also surprisingly good fun to drive. Anybody who writes it off as a stylistic gimmick should consider that amongst its owners are Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1, and one Stirling Moss; luminaries who probably know a good car when they see one. As a used buy is this where the smart money goes? Here's the information you'll need to come to the right decision.
To say the Smart had a turbulent genesis would be understating the case severely. Although there was not too much wrong with the product, the wrangles between Mercedes-Benz and the SMH (Swatch Group), the firing of senior executives and the failure of the 'Smartville' factory in France to hit the build deadline attracted headlines of the worst sort for the project. Awarded the European Design Prize in Maastricht in 1996 the Smart City Coupe project has been with us for some time, although left-hand drive official imports started for the first time as recently as October 2000.
To give some idea as to the late entry to the UK, by the time domestic deliveries started, the Smart was already in its Mark 4 variant and the Mark 5 was introduced at the end of February 2001. Three models were available at launch, the entry level smart & pure, powered by a 44bhp three-cylinder engine, the sportier smart & pulse, powered by a 55bhp version of the same engine with uprated turbo boost, and the luxury range-topper, the 55bhp smart & passion.
The Mark 5 version saw a number of changes, the key one being a boost to 61bhp for the smart & pulse, underlining its sporty credentials. New colours and fabrics were announced along with some minor changes to standard equipment, lighting systems and suspension. The Smart City Cabrio open top car, based on the smart & passion trim level was unveiled in March 2000, with British orders starting in April 2001. Right hand drive versions were introduced to the UK in autumn 2001, but the CDi diesel version has yet to appear, having been on sale in Europe since December 1999. In summer 2002 the Smart crossblade debuted, a chopped down version of the cabriolet with a distinctly big price - £15,990 - and designed for those with big egos.
Then, at the start of 2004, the City Coupe and City Cabrio models were re-named as the Fortwo Coupe and the Fortwo Cabrio. This development was swiftly followed by the introduction of the body-kitted Brabus models with their 74bhp power outputs. An all new Smart fortwo arrived in the autumn of 2007.