Smart cars may be small in stature but they are big on economy and reputation. They were the brainchild of the man behind Swatch, Nicolas Hayek. Swatch had turned the traditional Swiss watch industry on its head in the 1980’s, with a range of cheap but fashionable timepieces. Hayek claimed at the time that he had ‘zigged when everyone else zagged’, and his next invention would do the same in the car industry.
Hayek wanted to make a small city car, one that would be environmentally-friendly, fuel efficient and easy to park in small spaces. The Swatch Company began work with Daimler-Benz (now DaimlerChrysler) in 1994 and the first Smart car went on sale four years later. Hayek was disappointed at the use of a conventional engine – he’d wanted a hybrid or electric one – and at the price of the car, which was far more than he had envisaged. When initial sales were slow, that was the straw to break the camel’s back. Hayek pulled out of the partnership, leaving Smart in the ownership of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz group.
The original Smart car was the City Coupe, later renamed the Fortwo. Smart has also sold a convertible version, a two-seater Roadster and the Forfour, a more conventional vehicle that seats four.
The main feature of Smart cars is their unusual design – they look like no other vehicle – and they very quickly became very fashionable and aspirational products. They are also fun to drive, with all the safety features of a high-specification and normal-sized car. Great steering and manoeuvrability underpin the Smart’s agility, and naturally these cars are cheap to run and insure.
The other side of that coin is that Smart cars have always been expensive to buy. Additionally, their driving style is not to everyone’s taste. A short wheelbase and high sides mean that the car experiences significant body roll when cornering at higher speeds. Additionally, it loses its appeal quickly when taken out of the urban environment. At high speeds or on the motorway, its lack of stability tests the patience of most drivers. The worst thing was the 5-speed automated manual gearbox fitted to the original Fourtwo or City Coupe: this was jerky and horrible, and has since been discontinued due to driver complaints.
Smart is very much a niche brand and its cars will never be a mass-market product. However, there are plenty of them on Britain’s roads, all of which will require new tyres on a regular basis. etyres supplies and fits tyres to all varieties of Smart. Details of best-selling and recommended tyres for Smart cars can be found through the menu to the left. Alternatively, you can find tyres to suit your Smart by entering its tyre size into the search tool above. etyre’s national sales team is also available seven days a week on 0800 028 9000 and would be happy to offer impartial advice to help you find the right tyres for your car.