Long term tests

Smart Roadster Brabus

Keen to immerse myself in the full ownership experience, I decided to go on the annual Smart London-to-Brighton rally. You know, slide the roof back, scoot down to the south coast, look at the sea, eat chips, come home. But the nice people at Smart had another idea. They were bringing over the one-off (but we made ten just to be sure) Brabus Roadster V6; did I want to lead the rally in it? Erm, okay.

Keen to immerse myself in the full ownership experience, I decided to go on the annual Smart London-to-Brighton rally. You know, slide the roof back, scoot down to the south coast, look at the sea, eat chips, come home. But the nice people at Smart had another idea. They were bringing over the one-off (but we made ten just to be sure) Brabus Roadster V6; did I want to lead the rally in it? Erm, okay.

Someone had warned me that the London-Brighton thing has become a huge event on the Smart calendar but nothing prepares you for the sight of Sandown Racecourse covered in a sea of Smarts and their owners.

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Now I know I was meant to lead the rally but I barely saw another Smart on the run to Brighton and for good reason; the Brabus V6 is rather fast. The extra muscle is gained by splicing two stock Roadster three-cylinder motors to create a 1.4-litre, twin blower V6. And even if this hand-made car is worth £330,000 and the man who built it is in the passenger seat, it'd be rude not to let rip.

Interestingly, the V6 has new software programming to go with its different gearbox - lifted from the ForFour diesel - that shifts faster than my normal Roadster and blips on downshifts. This is a better paddle 'box, right down to the crisp click of the paddles, which exposes the imprecision of the same controls on the standard car. Overall the V6 has a distinctly meatier, more aggressive feel that would play well in the standard Roadster. I guess it's what happens when the car becomes more Brabus, less Smart.

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We arrived at Brighton ahead of pretty much every other car, all 1500 of them. Told you this was a big event. Wandering around the massed Smarts, it's amazing what people do to these things, especially the original ForTwo. There are plenty running crazy bodykits and snarling engine upgrades, and they're joined by a Smart with full Disney character livery; one entirely covered in blue fur; and not to be outdone, someone dressed their Roadster as a shark. Nice. I've got this theory that the original Smart is the true modern Mini; radical engineering layout, remarkable passenger space for its size, devoted owners with a dedicated tuning and modifying scene. People really love their Smarts.

Back from Brighton, mine needed a service, at only 7000 miles. Smart Chiswick did the work in two hours, washed it and gave me a Kinder egg for my troubles. Mind you, so they should when what amounts to a glorified oil-change costs £167. Still, much though I'd fancy a Roadster V6, I bet the servicing on that's even worse.

Running Costs

Date acquiredMay 2004
Total mileage7130
Costs this month£167(service)
Mileage this month927
MPG this month43.2
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