THERE is a section of the market that demands high standards of luxury in smaller cars.
This is not new because BMC did it in the 1960s with the Vanden Plas Austin 1100. But in the rarified atmosphere of the modern marketplace some quite unusual models come in for the grand treatment.
One such is the SMART Fortwo, the diminutive little car that started life as a bold fashion statement and set the market agape with its bubble-on-wheels approach to everyday driving.
When the SMARTcar fervour died down the market saw this little car being popular to a specific sector and in recent times it has needed a boost to broaden its appeal.
So along came the SMART Fortwo grandstyle, yet another way of expressing your individuality on the road.
This is a SMART with the five-star treatment that comes in three colour combinations including racing green.
But it is in the interior that the luxury touch takes off with beige leather seats and a special flow-silver treatment for components.
The grandstyle entered the market in April and is available in coupe or cabriolet forms. I recently took to the road in the coupe which even includes heated seats and is in the showrooms at £8,480. The cabrio is more expensive at £10,280.
It is available with an optional audio package including a radio and CD player with MP3 connection, enabling the connection of external audio devices, additional speakers and a CD holder.
Life with a SMART is unusual. In the vein of Mr Spock of the starship Enterprise: “It’s motoring but not as we know it.”
With wheels at the extreme corners, a fair sized middle, a sharply cut off rear and hardly any front end, the whole car looks the stuff of story books. But the design does work.
Life and soul of the party is the three-cylinder 61bhp turbocharged engine which, linked to the SMART electronic transmission gives this tiny car punch-in-the-back characteristics from a standing start, although the ‘oomph’ tails off the faster you go.
The almost leisurely 0-62.5 mph figure of 15.5 is correct but does not give an indication of the 0-30mph nippiness of this car. The power cuts in instantaneously and it is wise to be ready for it.
I found that this, the most powerful SMART Fortwo was leaving most family cars behind at traffic lights – but the startled Fords and the like soon swept past as the SMART’s power started to fall away.
It’s probably the most fun town car on the market, is a doddle to park and takes up a tiny amount of space. Everyday driving is a lot of fun with fresh air ducts resembling Daleks keeping the small cabin well-ventilated.
Even for a fairly large person there is ample room inside the SMART. I was surprised how comfortable it is, but boot space is tiny. Just about right for a briefcase and a carrier bag, it would certainly struggle with luggage for two.
I have no problem with the size of the SMART, but I do wish the manufacturer would give it a slick manual gearbox. The electronic sequential-shift/automatic set up it has just does not do this little car justice.
A ‘hill-holder’ for starting the car on a slope without rollback was just too sticky and there was lack of accelerator feel plus slumps of power on automatic gearchanges.
These are are features I found that held this little firecracker back in a very discerning marketplace.Other than that, the SMARTFortwo grandstyle is luxury fun for two on wheels.
SMART Fortwo Grandstyle coupe
Mechanical: 61bhp, 698cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via a 6spd sequential auto gearbox
Max speed: 84 mph
0-62 mph: 15.5 secs
Combined mpg: 60.1
Insurance group: 3
CO2 emissions: 118g/km
BiK rating: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited mileage; 6yrs anti-rust