That may sound great, but the chunky alloy wheels don’t do the ride any favours at all. Go down a typical potholed UK road and you’ll find yourself jostled this way and that, a sensation that’s amplified by the lofty driving position. The ride does calm down at higher speeds, but you then face another issue – crosswinds. With a gust, you’ll find yourself having to make plenty of minor corrections even with the ESC nipping brakes to try and keep you on the straight and narrow on the motorway. This becomes tiresome very quickly.
So what about cornering? There’s certainly a lot of mechanical grip, enough to surprise plenty of lower-slung machinery. It also feels a lot more stable than the Forfour while still diving into turns thanks to quick steering. You don’t have to push too hard to find the ESC cutting in aggressively to stop it getting too out of shape, though.
Throw in plenty of body lean and steering that isn’t particularly communicative, and you’ve got a car that isn’t really that enjoyable to drive quickly. The gearbox doesn’t help, either: it may be a huge step on from the old automated manual, but shifts still feel ponderous and it’s easy to confuse it.
As this is an Xclusive model, you get leather seats, a leather-look dashboard topper, a 7.0in infotainment system with sat nav and a DAB radio, a reversing camera plus auto lights and wipers. That sounds generous until you realise that this is £15 shy of £20,000. I’ll repeat that. Twenty thousand pounds.
That brings us to the Smart’s biggest issue. For that money you could get a proper hot hatch such as a Ford Fiesta ST. If you want something a bit more premium, a Mini Cooper 5-door is cheaper and still loads faster than the Smart. It’s not like it feels that plush inside, either. There may be the aforementioned leathery bits, but there’s also lots of hard plastic and an infotainment system that looks like it’s been lifted straight out of a Renault. Probably because it has.