Brabus Roadster owning evo reader Anthony Yule wrote in last month to defend the car's gearbox in the face of a sound dissing from the evo crew during their Fast Fleet get-together in France (evo 076). Well Anthony mate, I'm with you on this one. Having lived with the Smart for six months I've developed a set of techniques for dealing with the 'box's worst habits - feathering the throttle on upshifts, blipping it on the way down - and I've also learnt that the shifts seem better if you use the selector lever rather than the paddles behind the wheel. After all, the paddles are just big switches, and that makes you expect switch-quick changes that are never going to happen. Whereas the floor shifter's longer, slower movement is more in tune with the 'box's leisurely change speed. There are still moments when the software will decide to throw a confused wobbly just because it's cold or raining or Thursday, but they're rare enough not to bother me.
So the gearbox doesn't get on my man boobs half as much as many of the keen drivers on this magazine, and I suspect that's because I spend a distressing amount of my driving life in London. The slow motion shift speed may muddle your fun on an open back road, but in the world of urban driving where short shifting and the option of clicking into auto mode are more important, it's rarely a pain. Far less of a pain than the Roadster's ride in fact, which is disturbingly crashy over those pot holes that Ken Livingstone secretly installs on London streets late at night, just to annoy motorists.
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Bump absorption apart however, the Smart really is a brilliant tool for thrashing through the capital, not least because its tiny size allows you to duck and dive and leave it really late until you cut into the inside lane on the Marylebone Road. In fact, I'm starting to suspect that - ride aside - Smart intended this car to live solely in cities, where its size and neat trick of feeling and sounding faster than it really is works best.
That said, gadding about UK cities in a car that's barely taller than your shoes is all well and good, but Smart now has a plan to sell the Roadster in the USA and I can't see it working in American-sized streets full of American-sized SUVs. The driver of a Chevy Smackdown or Ford Excommunicator could accidentally crush objects up to and including downtown Chicago without making a ripple on the surface of his skinny mocha frappa latte; a three-cylinder micro sportster would be mincemeat before onlookers had even finished saying, 'Gee, look at that funny little electric car'.
Fortunately, I live in Britain where the Brabus Roadster is much more at home. It's zingy, it's frugal and, despite the harsh ride, it's developed no rattles, creaks or leaks and not a single thing has gone wrong with it. The little Smart isn't everyone's cup of char, but here in the jostle and honk of London's streets it suits me very well.
|Date acquired||May 2004|
|Costs this month||£0|
|Mileage this month||978|
|MPG this month||39.1|