Every loft-living, plasma screen-watching gadgethead wants a Smart Brabus. First out of the box last year were the Fortwo Coupé Brabus and Fortwo Cabrio Brabus, and now the Roadster and Roadster-Coupé get the treatment.
They’re not cheap, with prices starting between £17,000 and £18,000, but your money buys a 20 per cent power hike, a tuneful dual exhaust, a muscular bodykit and a set of five-spoke, 17in alloys.
The extra power comes courtesy of a new turbo and intercooler, endowing it with impressive straight-line acceleration. Peak power of 101bhp is delivered at 5600rpm, and 96lb ft of torque arrives at between 2500 and 5300rpm. The raw, head-back growl of the engine is very rewarding, particularly in a tunnel. It makes you want to get out of the city and try a few twisty roads.
Once you do, however, the frustration sets in. The Smart has a great little chassis, and promises to handle well. But the first let-down is the dead steering, which uses a bus-sized steering wheel with a turning circle to match.
And – surprise, surprise – there’s that semi-automatic gearbox. It’s supposed to be a little quicker in the Brabus, but it’s not enough to make a serious difference. The paddle shifts on the steering wheel are fun, but to avoid an embarrassing lurch with every shift, your have to lift your right foot on the up-change and keep the revs on to change down; overtaking can be a tad scary.