NO other small car embodies the fun factor in motoring or joie de vivre as they say in France more than the cute Smart car from Germany which was launched nearly 15 years ago and has just undergone a facelift writes Bryan Longworth.
Life has not always been easy in the UK for the iconic Smart which is part of the massive Mercedes-Benz empire for the range once incorporated sports cars and other models but it has been trimmed down to the ForTwo which has just been given an upgraded exterior and interior.
There is now a larger radiator grille with integrated logo, new front aprons, LED daytime driving lights, side skirts and modified rear aprons with a new leather/fabric combination for seats.
Since its launch in 1998 Smart is basically the same shape but it has grown in size with a larger boot space accessed through a split tailgate and the automatic gearbox which can also be used manually has been improved and is now much smoother and less jerky.
Although only a two seater driving the tiny Smart is just like driving a larger car and is quite roomy in the cabin area but what has changed since its launch is that rival manufacturers have introduced their own mini cars which have two rear seats for similar prices.
This has made this sector much more competitive but the Smart still has plenty of appeal as I have just discovered when road testing the top model the Smart ForTwo Cabrio 98 Brabus Xclusive costing £16,750.
Brabus are sporty Smarts produced in conjunction with German tuning experts Brabus and my test car which had an electrically operated soft top was powered by a three cylinder rear mounted 1-0 litre turbo powered petrol engine.
This has an output of 102bhp and produced a top speed of 96mph, a zero to 62mph time of 8.9 seconds, CO2 emissions of 119g/km and a combined fuel consumption of 54.3mpg.
The extra power from this model made it more fun to drive especially on the motorway where I was able to out accelerate certain annoying tailgating drivers who wrongly assumed that my Smart should not have been in the faster outside lane until I put my foot down on the accelerator and outsmarted them!
The test car had the lowered Brabus sports suspension which made for a firm ride that was a bit bouncy on poor road surfaces and I had to be careful when encountering speed humps and cushions especially with the rather narrow width of the car.
But the Smart which is a big favourite in Italian cities such as Rome and Milan is still the best car for parking in tight spaces and it also has the advantage of being able to be parked in certain situations facing the kerb and not only alongside it.
Smart has retained its unique appeal over the years and the facelift will give it a new lease of life for those motorists wanting a small car that is still quite different from the competition despite it only being a two seater.
My Verdict: A fast fun micro car.
Model: Smart ForTwo Cabrio 98 Brabus Xclusive.
Engine: Three cylinder 1-0 litre petrol.
Output: 102bhp @ 6000rpm.
Transmission: Automatic with manual facility.
Top speed: 96mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 8.9 seconds.
Fuel consumption: Combined 54.3mpg.
CO2 emissions: 119g/km.