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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For The Roadster has excellent fuel economy, looks unique, and is fun to drive

Against The semi-auto gearbox on early models is slow

Verdict It's a fun car to own, but you'll lose out when you come to sell it

Go for… Brabus versions

Avoid… Left-hand-drive cars

Smart Roadster Roadster
  • 1. Don't bother with left-hand drive models - they're a false economy
  • 2. There have been leaks from the driver's door - look out for damp carpets
  • 3. Check that the engine doesn't overheat when the car is at a standstill
  • 4. Forget practicality - boot space is minimal
  • 5. Two adults will fit in the car without feeling cramped
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Smart Roadster Roadster full review with expert trade views

The basic models have 698cc turbocharged engines that produce 80bhp. That doesn't sound much, but when you consider that this Smart weighs less than 800kg, the power-to-weight ratio points to an energetic little roadster.

Indeed, even the basic model is no slouch, but the ride is a little crunchy at higher speeds. The taut and well balanced handling, on the other hand, is the Roadster's ace card. It's grippy and precise, and the rigid chassis gives a positive feel when cornering. Models with the extra sport pack offer wider wheels and more front-end grip, and the only complaint is that the electrical steering is a little woolly.

The wind noise is not hugely problematic, and there is a satisfying engine note - surprising for such a small powerplant.

Inside, it's not a big car, but the low seating position means that you can get two adults in without feeling cramped. The controls are easy to use and attractive, but boot space is minimal.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Anyone who bought new has taken a big hit on values. A much better used buy

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

It's a false economy to opt for a left-hand-drive model, so give these versions a wide berth, especially early models with the 61bhp engine, which are positively gutless.

The Brabus-tuned version, with leather trim and body kit, is the smart option. This model was launched in 2004, and with the extra upgrade, you get a top speed of 119mph - and it'll take you to 60mph in 9.5s.

There is also the lesser Sport model, which has the same power output, but you get 3mph more than the base model at the top end. With that, you get wider alloys and a three-spoke steering wheel. The basic model is available in left-hand and right-hand-drive.

All models have twin airbags, a CD player, air-con, electric windows, stability control and a sequential gearbox, but side airbags are standard on the Brabus. The gearboxes on later models are more responsive, so it's worth getting as new a model as possible.

Some have leather-heated seats, which were optional - in cold British winters this could be a wise choice.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Hard to place, avoid LHD ones, Brabus badge helps

James Ruppert
Used car guru

These cars were quite pricey when new, and Smart stopped selling the Roadster in 2007, so there aren't that many available. All in all, it adds up to a fairly expensive purchase.

This car is extremely frugal though. The basic model will give you 55mpg and the Brabus just 2mpg less. Insurance starts in group 10 and the Brabus is in group 14. The lower-specification model is the Light and is marginally cheaper to run, but you are talking about pennies rather than pounds, so really, it's better to get more bang for your bucks and opt for the Brabus.

These cars only had a two-year warranty from new, and servicing at Mercedes workshops (which often happens as Smart is part of the same group and Smart dealers are often tagged on to Mercedes outlets) is not going to be cheap. Especially as service intervals are every 9000 miles.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Anyone who bought new has taken a big hit on values. A much better used buy

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

On the body there have been some panel problems and owners have reported leaks on the driver's door, so watch out for any dampness on the carpet at the base of the door.

On your test drive, you should let the car idle for a while because there have been reports of overheating when the car is at a standstill.

Servicing on these cars is vital, too, so make sure that any potential buy has a full service history, and consider having an HPI check done.

It's a light car with a rigid chassis, but anything involved in a serious shunt could present problems later on. Steer clear of anything that has a history of electrical dramas.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Hard to place, avoid LHD ones, Brabus badge helps

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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