Canadian 2008/451 Smart Passion Review

Canadian 2008/451 Smart Passion Review

Smart 451Today I manage to get an hour with a Canadian version of the 2008 Passion smart car. While at present the smart isn’t able to be driven in Canada due to the engine not being approved by transport Canada yet, I managed to get the keys to one and get lost driving around Halifax for about an hour.

Before I went driving I went over the car to get an idea of what if any differences there where to what has been reported to date. The exterior of the car is inline with what the European models have and I couldn’t spot any differences.

Inside the smart there aren’t too many differences, the only things I see different is the addition Low-Tire-Warningof the low tire button and the different digital gauge. While the low tire button isn’t a big deal, it is nice as running low tires on the smart surely could cause poorer driving experience. The low tire warning I was happy to find out will work even if you update your rims/tires as it based on tire rotation and doesn’t actually have any sensors that need to be attached to the rim/tire.

The digital gauge is a great improvement to the one offered in Europe. Reason I say that is while they both provide the same output features the Canadian version has centeredSmart-Speedo the gear selection. They have also made this part of the display larger and while I’ve not driven the European version on the Canadian version they give up shift and down shift prompts. This will be really great for those (like me) who didn’t purchase the REV pod option.

I enjoyed looking around the car, actually there were several to look at so I managed to check out the pure, passion and cabrio models all of which are nice but the addition of the sun shade and the other standard features in the passion really makes the pure looking a little empty it terms of features.

Ah one thing sadly missing on the Canadian smart 451’s is auto up/down windows. While they are power they don’t bring over the auto down/up feature that is being offered in Europe. Maybe this along with things like the cruise control offered in Europe will be an easy aftermarket upgrade.

So on to the actual drive. I got in and since was in an open parking lot I just swung out left and headed for the road, but damn when I went to hit the brakes I was met with what felt like pushing on a stationary brick. Saying that the brakes are a little stiff is an understatement but after awhile I got used to giving a little more pressure, just was a big oh shit moment as at least I had enough time to still brake before the truck I was braking for drove on by.

Turning left hand heading off gave me my first impression of the lag between shifts. As at the Action-in-the-Smartstart I had left it in D and was hoping the computer would be able to make nice clean shifts, boy was I wrong. Don’t ask me why but if you drive with the car in D the computer shifts way to early and has much more drag, but if you put it into the manual mode the computer will still do all your shifting for you but at much higher rev points dropping the lag time from around 1.5 seconds to about half a second. I’ve posted an example of the lag while using the manual mode and letting the computer do the shifting, it is another post.

While the car is rated at a 13.3 seconds 0-60 times it gets really great low end times, nothing was timed officially but I’d feel comfortable going off the line against most cars. I would have really loved to have the turbo version here in North America and if the American’s get the Turbo Brabus version I can see my crossing the boarder to upgrade. But maybe smart will allow some type of upgrade package with warranty for all North American 451’s.

Other then the lag between shifts you will definitely notice the engine, sound/noise. While it is well insulated the car does still produce a lot of sound in the cabin, especially when letting the car reach into the higher RPMs. For me this was fun and I really wouldn’t have it any other way, but it did take a couple minutes for my mind to realize that the reason I was hearing nothing from the engine compartment was that my brain was still used to engines being upfront. A quick rethought made me realize that that sound wasn’t all exhaust/muffler sound coming from the back.

While I love the car and the sound is great, it does actually have hesitation while stopped at lights, it almost sounds like a standard. But the strangest sound would be the knocking Yellow-Smart-Passion sound that is very easy to hear/feel while stopped at lights. Had I been told it was a diesel I would have believed as it sounded like your typical diesel engine. Thought maybe this was some tuning issue with the car I had picked to drive but asked after and was told that they all have the same sound. Maybe it’s a mass tuning issue.

The power steering is really obvious as sitting at lights you can flick the steering wheel back and forth with a pinky finger and doing u-turns you feel like your turning and turning the wheel before you get to the rods end. While I didn’t do a lot of highway driving the time I did spend at over 100 it didn’t feel like the steering was lose so maybe they have some speed sensitive tuning on the power steering?

Today in Halifax the weather was cold, it snowed late in the day but while I was out driving the smart said it was plus 4 and while I didn’t turn the heater fan on in the car the heated seats ensured that I never felt cold. While then only have 2 settings, I had it set to max, the heated seats give off a nice array of heat. It was enough that like I said I didn’t need to even turn the fan on in the car, which will mean hopefully no need to install command start/warm up kits.

The transmission is your standard P R N D with a manual 5 speed option. While in P (park) the Smart-on-the-Roadcar is stopped and doesn’t move, while someone mentioned this might be via locking the breaks it felt like your typical transmission lock. To use the manual 5 speed you just move the shifter to the left and then control the up/down shifts via the steering wheel paddles. Oh the steering wheel paddles are really great, so much fun, even with the lag between shifts its fun to have control.

Gear rations in the smart seem perfect for the size of engine as the first couple gears are great for the low end power and actually even going 100 in forth was more then comfortable. 5th gear is very tall and I would say that other then high speed highway driving you would probably not use it. When trying to use 5th around the city at around 60 it felt like the car would stall out, most of the time around the city I was in 2nd and 3rd. This will be good news for those who need to do highway driving as you’ll have the gear ratio that will allow you to keep up with the rest of the traffic and with you iPod playing through the high-end speakers and subwoofer the sound coming from the engine at those higher RPMS won’t drive you crazy.

Will try and get some photos up and while I tired to take some video using my phone’s camera they didn’t really turn out well. But next week I’ll get more video and will try and rig something up to actually take some steady shots.

Ok the last thing I will mention is something that really impressed me and made the smart a little extra fun to drive. That is the speedometer as most cars have a speedo that goes upSmart-at-60 to 260 and with most people never getting close to that it means your regular driving range 20 to 60 only accounts for maybe a fifth of the speedo. But not on the smart, they’ve actually made the 60 mark the middle of the speedo, so when you step on the gas you can not only hear the engine, feel the engine, you see that speedo needle climbing quickly. While it’s more of the illusion of speed its still a good feeling that makes the smart a little more fun to drive. Also with the speedo setting 60 at the mid point when you set the car at 60 it just looks so nice as the smart is very symmetrical.


Lance said...

I was able to drive a 451 this summer. A real blast to drive I was expecting some sort of delay with the transmission in auto mode so it was never an issue with me. People that drive the Smart will have to adapt slightly to the new sequential gear box. Full throttle is not the best way to test the car. A 1/2 throttle test netted the best results.

Anonymous said...

The CDN LCD display doesn't have an engine coolant gauge, but the EU version does. so is that really an improvement?

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