Smart Roadster (2003 – 2007) Review

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Smart Roadster (2003 – 2007) At A Glance


+Cute looks, comfortable ride and good grip. You can raise the hood while driving along. Makes far more sense second-hand.

-Not quite as much fun as its looks suggest. If you were its first owner, you'll still be smarting from its heavy intial depreciation.

It's a gorgeous little toy. The first time I saw a Smart Roadster was at the unveiling in Berlin in Summer 2002, and I couldn't wait to drive one. The low stance, the mid engine, the paddle change gearbox and the huge tyres sticking out of the sides all said "fun, fun fun".

But I had to wait. Until January 2003 when we got to drive pre-production LHD versions on some wonderfully snaky roads in Portugal. Now, finally, at the end of the best summer most of us can remember, RHD Smart Roadsters are here. They seem to have been an awful long time coming.

So were they worth the wait? How would they take to Britain's crowded, speed-limited roads as winter approaches?

As you can see from the photos, the one I got was so black it looked like Darth Vadar's mask. But it does look surprisingly good in black. Much less of a toy and much more of a fashion accessory, whether you're a bloke or a bird.

Smart Roadster and RC 2003 Road Test

Smart Roadster RHD 2003 Road Test

Smart Roadster Light 2004 Road Test

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Satisfaction Index

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Ask Honest John

What cars would you recommend as possible future classics?
"What cars would you recommend as possible future classics? They must be automatic and reasonable to maintain."
You could have a look at a Mercedes-Benz SL (R107) although these are expensive now. Maybe a P38 Range Rover or a Bentley Arnage Red Label. If you'd like to go a bit more modern, then perhaps one of the first Audi TTs with the DSG box like the 2003 3.2 is an option (although the boxes are fragile) or something like a Smart Roadster. Also worth a look might be an American muscle car like a Mustang, or you could go for a high-performance model like a BMW M3 or Mercedes-Benz AMG. Feeling flush? Then how about a Nissan GT-R.
Answered by Keith Moody
Is a Smart Roadster a future classic?
"Is a Smart Roadster Brabus a future classic?"
Sure is. At its heart, this Smart is similar to roadsters from the late-1950s and 1960s, such as the Austin-Healey 'Frogeye' Sprite and the MG Midget where fun is a key component of its DNA. Its turbocharged 698cc three-cylinder is good for 82PS - Brabus versions get 17-inch alloy wheels, lowered suspension, sports exhausts, and a few other bits and pieces. Oh, and power is up to 101PS... If you're serious about buying one, you'll need to spend about £5000 and do your homework - water can get into the ECU and the fusebox, calling all manner of problems.
Answered by Keith Moody
Which sports car for £3000
"My current car is a little banged up and I'm thinking of getting a new one but need some advice. I am a small business owner working from home as a web designer. I rarely drive other than for the occasional meeting and once a week to the gym. I have no kids nor any plans for any so it's just me and my girlfriend/business partner. This will be the second car as we also have my girlfriends car too. I will have a maximum of about £3,000 to spend after the sale of my current car. I'd like something nice looking so that my business clients take me seriously. I've been told to steer clear of the RX-8. What would you suggest looking at? My current car is a 2002 Honda Civic Vision with 28k miles on the clock. My girlfriends car is a 2002 Volkswagen Beetle which is too girly for me to drive. I'm looking at Toyota Celica, Hyundai Coupe, Smart Roadster and Mazda MX-5."
The Celica is the best idea on your list; the MX-5 the next best, but check carefully for rust.
Answered by Honest John
Recommend a fun, quirky car - possibly a convertible - for under £7000?
"I will soon graduate from university, and will be starting work at the end of the summer. Before I do so, I am looking to purchase a car that is both economical to run and insure but that is also quirky and fun. I am not averse to a convertible of some kind. My budget is £5-7000."
If you're after something quirky and fun but economical, then you could consider a Smart Roadster or Roadster Coupe. Thanks to the small engine they will do 55mpg plus they're great fun to drive - and of course both are convertible (they either have a retractable canvas roof or removable panels). For £7000 you could get the sporty Brabus version which has extra power and a bodykit. Alternatively, there's the funky little Daihatsu Copen which has a neat metal folding roof and also uses a small turbocharged engine so will easily do 50mpg+.
Answered by David Ross

What does a Smart Roadster (2003 – 2007) cost?