Sean O'Grady: Smart move makes the right kind of music

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Indy Lifestyle Online

According to the press release that alerted me to the existence of the Smart fortwo i-move, "the brand fit between Apple and Smart is perfect. Both brands offer a high degree of innovation and individuality, and combine technology with style and exciting design."

Those are, in fact, the words of Jeremy Simpson, head of Smart in the UK. I suppose he would say that, wouldn't he? But it is undoubtedly true that Smart had a smart idea when it saw the success of Apple's iPod and decided to offer a car that could plumb this gadget into the car's stereo - colour coded in matching white, naturally.

For those unfamiliar with the iPod - as I was until the one in the Smart car arrived - it is an amazing piece of kit. The iPod is a very fancy, very modern, and very powerful take on our old friend the Sony Walkman. But instead of cassettes, there are sound files. Entire CD collections can be loaded on to an iPod in a couple of hours.

The version of the iPod that the Smart has will take about 5,000 tracks. You can then arrange, rearrange or delete these as you wish into a series of playlists, or you can simply browse by artists, tracks or genres. It also does clever things such as note the most played and most recently played tracks as a new playlist. It can play tracks randomly; there are microphone devices that turn your iPod into a dictaphone; and little stands with speakers that can be used to make it into a conventional home sound system. And now it can be your car stereo too.

In truth, as many iPod owners know already, there are wires that you can buy that will plug your iPod into your car's stereo. However, the Smart i-move is the first car that has a special cradle for the iPod, next to the gear stick, where it sits being recharged and working its special magic.

The iPod as installed in the i-move sounds impressive, and perfectly acceptable for the tiny cockpit of the Smart. True, you have to reach down to the controls on the iPod if you want to change tracks, as only the volume control is operative on the main stereo. This is an acceptable inconvenience, given that your playlist should be far longer than any journey you're likely to undertake. If you tire of it, you can use the CD player or turn on the radio. But you're unlikely to do either when you have the option of "Radio Me" playing to you as you bound along in the Smart.

One of the great untold joys of motoring is surely the anticipation, creation and enjoyment of the home-made self-selected compilation tape. I confess that I have happily spent entire afternoons selecting tracks from my vinyl collection, transferring them to ferrous metal tape - all in real time, of course - and then gleefully playing the whole lot back again on a night out in the mobile disco that was my Mini City E. Time poverty put an end to such innocent fun, but with iPod, happy times are here (or hear) again.

Most of all though, the iPod gives off a real "must have" aura. You don't hold one of these white wonders, you fondle it. The Smart isn't up there in the firmament of consumer porn, but it's still a cute accessory. They go well together. But £12,500 for a two seater still seems a lot, even if it comes with iPod magic.

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