Archive for Smart

Murray T25

Posted in Car conception, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/06/2010 by Alexander

Gordon Murray’s long-awaited small urban car has finally been unveiled: the T25. Now for something so anticipated, and being associated to the resounding name of the McLaren F1 guru, the hype is considerable. This may very well go against it, in a Segway sort of way, since everyone was expecting something like Colani’s Egg and what they’ve got is a three-seat Smart car.

Comparisons to the Smart car are inevitable. So-called compact parking, reduced engine, low top-speed, etc.,etc. If based solely on this, the T25’s outlook is grim. Smart cars are the vehicle of choice for all sorts of stupid drivers who go far too fast in town and simply screw other drivers over with their selfish parking, but I’ve covered that. The three-seater concept seems interesting, but it’s a bit specific. This probably only appeals to one-child families, or people with only two friends, although the one-child families would fancy a decent boot.

So it seems to have all the pros and cons of a Smart plus an extra seat. What’s so revolutionary about that? The big thing about this car is its manner of manufacture, called iStream that “slashes the investment, factory space and energy required for manufacturing”, and that could be the entire basis for its success. Applied to other cars, then this may be truly revolutionary, in a Ford Model T sort of way. The official details also suggest the scheme could be used for non-automotive purposes, without which the sound of things were enticing enough.

This could also mean the rebirth of British-owned motoring industry. Which is nice.


A blight on God’s clean Earth #4 – Smart ForTwo

Posted in A blight on God's clean Earth, Crap cars, Driving theory with tags , , , on 30/11/2009 by Alexander

This post is written out of pure, fresh dripping spite. Everyone hates inconsiderate drivers, and wishes them a mediaevally horrible demise. And few things are more irritating and inconsiderate than lazy, pathetic, fat-cat parking. Leaving a vehicle diagonally across a spot, or leaving it a metre and a half away from the pavement, or in the middle of two parking spaces is an affront to civility, common sense and all that’s not blood-boilingly maddening. And it seems no-one is better at this than the average Smart ForTwo driver.

The basic idea behind the ForTwo was laudible. A small, cheap urban vehicle that sips fuel and can be bunched up together in herds while parked to save space. Unfortunately, the message that got through to the average commuter was to bring these things in to town in droves and park them in any sodding lazy way you please. Then there’s the business of its youthful, hip status symbol, but I’ve covered that in passing.

The other day, I saw two Smarts together occupying a single space. I should have taken a picture because it was like seeing a yeti or a UFO, or some strange, rare phenomenon people talk about but never see. A friend of mine, who was also my neighbour at the time, used to park his Smart head on, with no further manoeuvring after, whether it was 5 miles away from the pavement, diagonal, or bang slap in the middle of two other cars, where a simple reverse and approximation to one of the already parked cars could allow a normal, proper car to park in the resulting space. When I asked him why he wasn’t a bit more thoughtful he’d say “Why should I waste petrol bothering to park properly?” I don’t know if this is the way of thinking of other Smart drivers, but if it is, it’s a capricious thought because I had another neighbour who’d waste petrol to screw us other drivers over by leaving his litte crapmobile as far between cars as possible whilst parking. Not to mention the way they tax their weedy little engines by speeding stupidly and dangerously in town.

I haven’t even mentioned that pathetic “compact parking” concept. The idea was to be able to park the car at 90º angle, and given that the car was 250cm long, it would fit in spaces with that particular width and everyone would be happy. But parking spaces with 2.5 metres are usually perpendicular to the street, so people can open their doors without denting the car next to them. Spaces on the side of the road are usually around 2.2m, though you can easily get away with just 2m because even the fattest and stupidest jeeps and vans are around 1.9m in width. So “compactly-parked” Smarts jut out inconveniently, and it’s no wonder certain cities have forbidden this stupid practice.

In sum, the Smart ForTwo is a space-wasting, road-cluttering fashionista-mobile. Its potential advantages are blown to smithereens by the thickness of their owners, it’s practicality moot and its place in modern urban society debatable at best.

Why did Smart kill off the Roadster?

Posted in Driving theory with tags , , on 19/10/2009 by Alexander

In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, if we all bought cars with nothing more than reason, we’d all have Golfs. A well-built hatchback can be used for anything if you think about it, though if you’d dissect the argument further, you’ll find some holes. Let’s say you’re a young single man that has to commute long distances, alone and with little luggage. A Golf can do the trick, but then there’s the matter of those empty seats and cargo area, and all that extra metal’s weight pulling on an engine that’s probably to large to begin with anyway.

Ideally, you’d be perfectly served by a small two-seater with a tiny little engine. Perhaps at this point, the… thing called the Smart Fortwo will spring to mind. Let me explain something: the Fortwo is no more than a glorified microcar, that hipsters buy in order to look cool. Or at least think that in order to convince themselves they haven’t been ripped off for not having bought an Aixam instead.

I’m referring to a proper car, not a tupperware on wheels, so if you look through a list of production cars, few or none will fit the bill. Four-seater coupés are more or less rife, but that’s not what’s called for. Perhaps a Lotus Elise is adequate, but it’s more of a lead-footed, race-crazed maniac’s choice of ride, so we can rule it out on the grounds of common sense (not that I have anything against driving round really fast, in fact, it must be a hoot, I just don’t see why it should be done on public roads).

The car in particular I want to subtly get round to is the Smart Roadster. It embodies an approach to cars I would have thought would’ve been anathema to any other car enthusiast but myself: a car that looks good, looks fast and utterly miserly consumption-wise. The only fault with this logic was that because it was mid-engined and, in some cases, came with a flappy-paddle gearbox, it was perceived, sold and generally driven as a cut-price sports car. I like to think of it as a practical, little long-range cruiser, and both opinions are perfectly pertinent. Sounds like a recipe for success, so why did Smart kill it off?

This question is of course the title of this article, though it has a more philosophical purpose than begging for an outright answer. According to the Wikipedia page, production ended due to the high amount of warranty claims, so commercial success wasn’t the determinate factor for this decision. They terminated it because it was unreliable. This speaks volumes of Smart’s mother company, Mercedes, and it’s current state. Ask any Merc driver why he bought one and he’ll spout out useless prattle regarding “build quality” and “reliability”. First, as Mercedes themselves admit their current crop is far from the solidity of their robust machines of old. Second, if it was commercially viable, wouldn’t it have been cleverer to address and correct these reliability issues? Smart could have exclusivity in a niche of small cheap sports cars, different from the closest competitor, the more expensive, bigger-engined and thirstier Mazda MX-5. A niche no-one else has even bothered to fill, which is surprising given that the market showed its appetite for such things. After all, 43,000 Roadsters were sold in its two year run, not a number to be sniffed at.

Clever people have recognised what a good idea the Roadster is, and have given hints on restarting production. Project Kimber kicked off practically as soon as the Roadster was axed, and even a promising concept, the AC Ace (“AC” as in “AC Cobra”) was unveiled, with a restyled front end. This version has a 1.0-litre engine, which I’m not too sure about, compared with the brilliantly titchy 0.7 powerplant of the original. But alas, the official website is down, and no news has surfaced.

So, we’ll have to wait and see if the current climate of thinking up cheap, economical and eco-friendly cars produces an heir to the Smart Roadster.