September 18, 2002 - It seems this has suddenly become the year of baby roadsters with first the Ford StreetKa and now Smart launching roadster and coupé versions of their popular rear-engined city car.
As with the StreetKa, Smart showcased concept versions of both models two years ago to judge public acceptance of the idea. The production version differs only in detail and is a successful development of the Smart concept into a much more sporty format. With a vehicle length of 3427mm and a width of 1615mm, the new Roadster uses a longer version of the existing Smart car platform but still remains one of the smallest cars available in Europe. Size is similar to a Renault Twingo or the older Fiat Panda. The unique Smart concept of TRIDION steel safety frame in either black or silver colour and removable plastic body panels is maintained but aluminium doors are added for the new Roadster.
The short body overhangs, pronounced body-contoured wheelarches, large 15 inch wheels, and low 1192mm height give the new Smart a distinctly sporty appearance. The design team, led by Hartmut Sinkwitz, attached great importance to balanced proportions with an elongated front lid and a passenger cabin set a long way rearwards. Their goal was a modern interpretation of classic roadster features. Styling differences between the two models are actually confined to the area behind the exposed TRIDION B-pillar. The Roadster-Coupé has a sloping glass hatchback with small vertical glass window for reversing, similar to the second generation Honda CRX, whereas the Roadster replaces this arrangement with a large flat trunklid mating to the same split line on the rear fender as the Coupé. Two luggage compartments are incorporated, consisting of 59 litres in the front nose and up to 189 litres in the rear end.
The Smart Roadster and Smart Roadster-Coupé offer owners maximum open-air driving pleasure. The roof system on both Roadster and Roadster-Coupé versions consists of a soft top and a glossy targa hardtop which can be used either together or separately. The two-piece removable plastic hardtop can be stowed and transported in the rear luggage compartment when not in use. In addition, the Roadster and Roadster-Coupé also have removable side roof bars, as on the Smart Cabrio. When the soft top is fully open these bars can be removed and stowed in the front luggage compartment. Finally, an electrically operated folding soft top is available as an option for both versions plus special made-to-measure luggage which makes optimal use of the space available.
The rear-mounted three-cylinder turbo engine is enlarged from 599cc to 698cc, with power boosted to 81bhp. However, with a kerb weight of only 790kg, the power-to-weight ratio of 103bhp/ton should offer spirited driving performance. The fuel consumption is stated as less than 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
With the Roadster and Roadster-Coupé joining the existing Smart City-Coupé, Cabrio and Crossblade models, the Smart brand now extends to a five model line-up, with no less than four out of the five models being soft top models.
The market launch of the Smart Roadster and Smart Roadster-Coupé will begin next Spring at prices from around 15,000 Euros.