2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo: Buying used

By: Joe Kenwright

Presented by

Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo
Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo
Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo

This frugal little car could be heading for icon status

2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo: Buying used
Quick tips: Buying a 2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo


2003-08 Smart City Coupe/ForTwo


Smart’s miniature runabout reached the Australian market officially from mid-2003 when specific Smart Centres were established by Daimler-Chrysler. Because its 1998 overseas launch left five years for private imports, the used market offers both.

Its local new price matched a well-equipped small car, thus Smart found a well-heeled buyer niche with an ideological or emotional bent. Its tiny 698cc turbo engine, six speed sequential semi-automatic and Tardis proportions limit seating and luggage capacity.

The 730kg weight plus payload ensures that its 42kW/120Nm engine and transmission work hard, hence a top speed of 135km/h and combined fuel consumption of 5.9l/100km, both figures bettered by more practical diesel hatches. Yet none of these can match the amazing driving experience and sound track which is like a Porsche 911 minus its front and rear sections and half its engine tucked under the front seats.

Chassis and safety structure are sophisticated but local disparity in weight and size against large car/SUV population dictates caution and urban use. Limited numbers and unique appeal should ensure icon status for future owners.

A Cabrio followed later in 2003. The model name was changed in January 2004 to ForTwo separating it from conventional front drive ForFour based on Mitsubishi Colt.


Early examples are dropping to $10,000 which makes them quite sought-after as a short haul runabout. When the mechanical bits work harder than bigger cars, prices are more odometer-sensitive than most hence the newer, low mileage examples quickly climb into the $17,000 range.



The Smart was designed as a high density, inner city runabout with engine, transmission, brakes and suspension optimised for relatively short distances and urban speeds on sealed roads. Look for accelerated wear from constant high speed use with loads over hostile Aussie road surfaces.

Servicing and parts costs are consistent with Mercedes-Benz parentage when the vital bits are of equal sophistication, just smaller.

The tiny turbocharger must have the correct oil. Oil that is too thin will creep past the bearing seals and empty the sump very quickly. High revs and stop-start work make oil change intervals critical. Premium unleaded is recommended.

Its modular body can creak around rear windows but is easily fixed by lubricating window clips.

Early exhaust manifolds cracked, causing uneven surging under power but all local deliveries should have extra stays.

The transmission has a dry manual-type clutch operated by solenoids to replicate a fully automatic or sequential clutchless manual. It can be jerky at best but delayed or random changes indicate worn or out of adjustment clutch plate, faulty solenoids or big dollar valve body repairs.

Microswitch in brake pedal can fail and prevent engagement of gears.

Window guide rails in doors can snap or loosen over poor roads and can be fiddly to repair

Sun roof blind can move of its own accord but basic adjustment should fix it

Thanks to Unique Star Mechanical Repairs (03) 9702 7899



Subscribe to Unique Cars Magazine and save up to 39%
Australia’s classic and muscle car bible. With stunning features, advice, market intelligence and hundreds of cars for sale.