fortwo.jpgSpotted one of these on Peachtree on my way back to work from lunch. It actually looks a lot nicer than the photos on the web. The one I saw was the black convertable model. Foreign plates (German?). I’ve included some additional stock photos and an article after the link. Seemed pretty peppy and responsive, though I couldn’t get over how tiny it was.

(Yahoo Car Reviews) If You Want A Smart With Attitude, You Need To Break Out The Brabus Catalogue. Andy Enright Reports

fortwo2.jpgFor most, Brabus is associated with massively powerful Mercedes limousines. Captains of European industry sit in the back and are swept across featureless autobahns at speeds more akin to private aviation than wheeled transport. Fortunately for us, we can now get the Brabus touch on less than Euro commissioner salaries in the form of the Smart Brabus models, versions of the Fortwo Coupe and Fortwo Cabrio that feature a number of Brabus refinements, albeit without ridiculous power.

The 61bhp powerplant has been massaged to give a full 74bhp, enough to thrust the shoebox sized car to 60mph in a smidgeon over twelve seconds. Its surprisingly quick despite the gearbox being a little dull-witted off the mark and is more than enough to give other city motorists the humiliating view of your blunt back end. That said, theres no way theyll mistake the Brabus model for a common or garden Smart variety. A number of body styling features distinguish the Brabus version including sixteen-inch Brabus monobloc alloy wheels, a deeper front spoiler and rear valance, plus a sports exhaust and heat shield, a Brabus aircraft style filler cap and a special radiator grille.

The effect of these styling touches is to bring the car even lower to the ground, giving the optical appearance of a rather rapidly moving block. The Brabus modifications to the interior include leather door trim, leather heated sports seats, aluminium pedal covers, and aluminium tretament for the gear knob and handbrake gaiter thats a little vicious on a cold morning. Theres even a leather door net to store your gear in and Brabus-branding on the clock and instrument panel.

“Otherwise, its the usual Smart recipe albeit a rather expensive one”

fortwo3.jpgAs with all smart models, the Brabus features standard-fit Electronic Stability Control Programme (ESP): basically, if you get the car out of shape, the electronics will automatically use throttle and brake inputs to correct the situation. The Brabus is plenty quick enough to get into quite a situation should you try: 94mph on the flat will see this smart easily keeping up with the cut and thrust of typical British motorway traffic. Strangely, its in the city that the smart feels a little clumsy. Yes, it is ridiculously easy to park, but the clutch take up in stop/start traffic is rather severe and youll dread negotiating speed humps. Even at low speeds the lurch feels pretty nauseating.

The engine features a kick-down function allowing the driver to accelerate by dropping down one or two gearchanges. So-called softouch and softip functions are smart language for the gearbox defaulting to an automatic mode and you taking control of it yourself. Its absolutely idiot proof. A button on the side of the gear lever switches between modes but theres always something of the other mode present whichever youre in.

For example, if you switch to softip manual mode, you control the up and downshifts with either the floor-mounted lever or wheel-mounted paddles but the car will automatically upshift when you hit the redline and downshift if it feels the revs are getting too low. This can lead to some embarrassing and potentially dangerous situations when pulling out of junctions or onto roundabouts. Dawdle up to a roundabout in third gear and as soon as the engine begins labouring, the smart will drop down to second but if you choose to drop it into second at the same time and floor it, the gearbox pauses for a while trying to decide if you actually wanted second or first, leaving you in harms way with no drive. If you know this characteristic exists, you learn to watch out for it but it caught me out a couple of times when I first tried the car and caused a couple of sweaty-palmed moments.

The rubbery steering discourages press-on cornering but thats not the point of a car like this. Its all about looking good and simple user friendliness. Theres a useful service level indicator showing you how many miles or how long it is before your car needs a service. Another interesting touch is the lane-changer function on the indicator stalk.

Press the stalk lightly once and the indicator flashes three times, allowing you to maintain easier control of the wheel when changing lanes. Otherwise, its the usual Smart recipe albeit a rather expensive one. The coupe is priced at £12,775 with the cabrio weighing in at a hefty £14,620. This is comparable to cars like a nicely specified MINI Cooper or a Ford Luxury Streetka; both vehicles with their own dollop of style and a good deal more day to day practicality than the little smart.

Before you decide to go that route however, consider the thinking behind this cars development. After all, the way we all use our cars isnt very smart. On average, most cars on European roads carry just 1.2 passengers and 80% of them in urban areas are occupied by the driver alone.

Nearly half of Europes registered cars travel less than 20 miles a day or around 7,000 miles a year. And, as we all know, the vast majority of journeys are short and for leisure or non-work-related purposes. On top of this, cars tend to spend 90% of their time parked or stuck in traffic jams. As the number of passenger vehicles grows due largely to the increase in solo households (young people, singles older people without children) so too does the demand for parking spaces.

In just a few years, the face of urban motoring has completely changed. If they were priced more accessibly there would be a quite a few reasons to recommend the Brabus smart models but the stratospheric asking prices relegate them to the ranks of expensive curios. The novelty wearing off one of these is a rather costly sound.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Smart Fortwo Brabus range
PRICES: £12,775 – £14,620 on the road
INSURANCE GROUP: 7-8
PERFORMANCE: 0-60mph 10.5s / Max Speed 94mph
CO2 EMISSIONS: 127g/km
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (urban) 45.6mpg / (extra urban) 68.9mpg / (combined) 58.9mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front airbags, ABS, Trustplus, ESP
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Heightmm 2500/1515/1549mm