Better equipped and more practical than a Roadster. If you can stump up the cash, you’ll enjoy a fine-handling sports car
  • First Drive

    Morgan Roadster 3.0 V6

    A more modern Morgan, but still terribly old-fashioned.
  • First Drive

    Smart Roadster Coupe

    Better equipped and more practical than a Roadster. If you can stump up the cash, you’ll enjoy a fine-handling sports car
16 September 2003

We’ve already driven the Smart Roadster, but this is the first opportunity we’ve had to pilot a right-hand-drive version of its sister Roadster-Coupé on UK roads. Besides, it seems the obvious choice for everyday use, what with a 189-litre boot (103 more than the Roadster) in addition to the 59-litre cubby in the nose. Although mechanically identical, the £1000-dearer Roadster-Coupé offers a neat Suzuki Cappuccino-aping two-piece hard-top, air-con and wider 205/50 R15 tyres. But despite generous equipment levels – twin airbags, electric windows, ESP and brake assist – it’s expensive, particularly when you start adding options such as the £230 metallic paint and £495 leather trim. Buyers beware, careful specification is the key: the paddle-shift gearchange, for example, is a must, but buy it as part of the £655 sport pack and the larger 16-inch alloys mar the sweet ride. Star of the show is the wonderful turbo-charged triple. It revs freely, spinning away like a tiny V6, accompanied by an addictive flutter from the wastegate. Through the corners the Smart grips well and the ESP remains commendably unobtrusive. The electrically assisted power steering lacks feedback, but it darts into corners and always feels fun. Although Smart claims the familiar Tridion safety cell eliminates scuttle shake, there is some flex, most notably with the roof on, when the two halves can knock against each other on a rough road. The six-speed sequential transmission has closer-stacked ratios and, although its lethargy still irks, you soon learn to adapt your driving style and feather back the throttle for a smooth change. An extra 25kg blunts the Roadster-Coupé’s performance slightly, and it’s worth bearing in mind that to get the full 80bhp, you’ll need to track down a supply of 98RON fuel – the pay off being tiny CO2 emissions and negligible thirst. Although flawed, you can’t fault the Smart for fulfilling its brief simply by being so damn fun and cheeky. After all, isn’t that what small sports cars are all about? Alastair Clements

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Comments
4

8 January 2008

I had two of these little cars and i would have another if i could! Great car!

9 January 2008

MX5 is probably a better car all round, but it is also more expensive to buy. My first roadster was a lhd, which would have been 10k new, but i got a 6month old one with low miles for 7500. No way you could get a 6 month old base mx5 for that! And a quick look on autotrader shows me that i'd get a 2002 1.6 for that! I'm thinking of getting another one at some point, especially as prices are coming down to about 5k for a decent spec one.

The gearbox was a learning curve, but one that i loved. Once you got used to how to change so your in the correct gear, its great! Plus, when you get a remap, one of the things they change is the gear change speed. I currently have a smart fortwo (sold roadster for furniture. groan.) and the gear change is rubbish compared the roadster. There are differences.

26 October 2008

The MX5 is too eavy and too expensive, this is a proper small cheap sports car light weight and fun, the gearbox works well and its ust a matter of getting used to it, a pity Smart stopped making it, I would still buy a low mileage used one, the most fun since the early MG Midgets

7 April 2010

The first time i drove the smart roadster i was so excited, compared to my previous car the mazda mx5 this was fantastic. It actually made me laugh on my own i was having so much fun! its been a couple years and i still love the old smart roadster.. its fast enough and great to drive, great looks, love it kitty x www.kittycompare.co.uk

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