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Info guides and mods

Alternative Smart Buyers Guide

Modification Details

What This Page Isn't

This isn't a guide of things to check on a smart before buying. This is more important than that.

This is the page that asks you why you want a smart and then suggests why you actually don't.

Why Don't I Want A Smart Then?

This site helps you fix your smart. It has 1300 pages. I'll let you figure it out.

Hang On, I Thought You Were A Smart Fan?

I am. The more smarts that sell, the more subscribers I get which is great for me.
However, karma is a powerful force and I'd rather let you know the truth than take your money.

Why Do You Want A Smart?

Click on your reason below.

I want a cheap car.
I want a car with cheap insurance.
I want a fuel efficient car.
I want a small car.
I want a reliable car.
They look fun.
I don't care what you say, I have to have one.


I want a cheap car.

Firstly it depends on your definition of cheap.

Anything less than £2000 and you are asking for trouble.
For that price you are looking at the 1st generation smart (450) with either a 600cc or 700cc engine.

After 60,000 miles the engines are generally on borrowed time. Burnt exhaust valves and failed piston rings leads
to a loss of compression and heavy oil usage. The engine then requires reconditioning at about £1000 cost.

If the car is about £2000 then it may have already been reconditioned.
Check to see if the cam chain was changed when the reconditioning was done.

Anything in excess of £3000 and you should be ok. A generation 1 (450) at this price should be low mileage.
If you can get a Brabus 450, all the better. The engine has an oil cooler which helps longevity.

£3000 can also buy you a 2nd generation fortwo (451).
These have a Mitsubishi engine that is a lot more reliable than the generation 1 engine.
This means that you shouldn't be so concerned about the mileage.

However, with the 2nd generation (451), steer well clear of the MHD version with stop/start.
There is a recurring issue with the auxillary belt snapping causing the engine to overheat and die.

If you do lots of short journeys, steer clear of the diesel model too.

The best option is a turbo model 451.

Do not buy a cheap smart.

I Want A Car With Cheap Insurance

You've turned up too late to the party. Insurance is based on the price of new parts amongst other things.
The problem is that parts are getting more expensive from smart and some parts are totally discontinued.

Originally, smart panels were available already pre-coloured. However, not any more.

Now you have to add prep and respray costs on top of the panels.
This means that front or rear damage can easily write the car off.
Replacement airbags and seatbelts after a crash retail for more than the car.

A car that's easily written off doesn't have cheap insurance.

Cars that are easily stolen don't have cheap insurance. Smarts are easy to steal.
Cars that are worth more in parts are stolen far more often.

Smarts have been the most stolen car in Europe for many years.

In other words, smart insurance won't be as cheap as you think.

I Want A Fuel Efficient Car

Bad news. The Government MPG figures are bullshit.

The smart Roadster (452) was the best of the bunch because of its aerodynamic shape.
The 1st generation fortwo (450) was also quite good despite being as aerodynamic as a church.
The 6 speedo gearbox really helped as you could do motorway speeds at a low RPM.

It was possible to get 60mpg (3.9 l/km) is driven sensibly.

Remember though, these models weren't reliable.

The next generation fortwo (451) had a larger displacement engine in turbo and non turbo.
Both of which had terrible MPG compared to the previous generation smarts.

The average would be about 45mpg (5.2 l/km).
With some real careful driving you might be lucky and peak 53mpg.

The MHD version of the 2nd generation (451) fortwo was no more efficient and way more unreliable.

I Want A Small Car

If that is honestly your only prerequisite, great go for it. You won't find many cars smaller.

I Want A Reliable Car

There is only 1 smart that I would class as reliable.
The 451 with a petrol turbo engine.

The 451 non turbo, non MHD is ok too (but it has no soul).
The 451 45bhp CDI is ok as well (but mine died).

The 450 engine dies after 60K miles.
The 451 54bhp CDI has a DPF and issues surrounding the sensors.
The 451 MHD is a big fat no no, steer clear.
The Roadster 452 suffers from a miriad of electrical issues.
The 453 is based on a Renault and although the engine is Nissan designed, they still have French electrics.

They Look Fun

You aren't wrong. They are very satisfying to drive if it has a turbo.
There are people who complain about the slow gearbox on the 450, 451 and Roadster but personally I believe
it makes you a better driver. To ensure you are in the right gear at the right time it makes you look further
down the road to see what is happening so you can react much earlier than you normally would.

A car feels fun when you drive it near the limit. With a short wheel base light car, that's easy.
With "normal" cars, the limit is way over the speed limit so most of the time, they are a boring drive.

I Don't Care What You Say, I Have To Have One

This is the only catagory of person who should buy a smart.
You either have enough money to get things fixed or you don't mind having a go yourself.
Do make a point of reading all of this page though.

I Really Want A Roadster

Of course you do, look at it! They are lovely to look at and fun to drive. However, be aware of their reliability.

The engines are pretty much the same as the 450 fortwo except for a few upgraded components and an oil cooler.
This makes the engine more reliable and it should last to 180,000 miles although you may need to
have the cam chain changed before that. The reliability issues is everything else.

I do not recommend buying a Roadster: an only car.

...if you don't have spare money at the end of the month.

...unless you have a garage, tools and the mind to use them both regularly.

...unless you have a partner who knows how to tow a broken down car and doesn't mind rescuing you.

...unless you have an evilution subscription and have read most of it.

A Roadster isn't a car you fill up with fuel, drive and then leave it until the next time.
They require a lot of upkeep, replacement parts and modifications to keep running.
The longer you leave a Roadster, the more it'll cost to repair next time. You have to keep on top of it.

Important reading material. Leaks, Waterproofing the SAM, Scuttle sealing, Transmission faults.

You Don't Mention Forfours

Correct. If you take away the small size, you may as well just buy a Ford Fiesta.

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