Smart Fortwo

Would Santa swap his traditional vehicle for a Smart Fortwo? Only if he wanted to miss his midnight deadline...

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Would suit: Elves
Price: £8,450
Performance: 92mph, 0-60 in 13.2 secs
Combined fuel consumption: 57.7 mpg
Further information: 0800 037 9966

Ho, ho, ho! Father Christmas here. What? You didn't think I still bothered with all that reindeer and sleigh stuff, did you? No, ever since the animal-rights people picketed my Lapland hideaway I've been looking for alternative transport, and when Mrs Christmas and I...

Oh, sod it. I was going to do this entire piece as Santa. You'd have laughed like drains and called all your friends to go and buy a copy, I'm sure, but there is actually far too much I want to tell you about the new Smart Fortwo, so I'll spare you.

You will remember that the original Smart City Coupe was hopelessly flawed: a brave and original concept ruined by a jackhammer ride and the most awful automatic-gear change. I recall one particularly virile, young, whip-sharp automotive wit compared the way it changed gear to a "frog on an escalator". Each shift was so jerky it is a wonder Mercedes wasn't bankrupted by whiplash claims. It also accelerated at the speed your toenails grow, turning motorways into a bit of a hair-whitening experience.

But the new one is vastly improved, particularly the ride. It's still jiggly, but you can live with it if you remain vigilant for particularly severe potholes but then you'll probably want to do that in a Smart anyway because, if you hit a bad one, you might disappear and never be seen again.

The auto-shift is still a tad violent, but again, if you brace yourself or, better still, use the sequential option to time the shifts to match the engine speed better than the car can, it won't trouble you nearly so much. (And, if it is any consolation, it took Ferrari years to develop a similar kind of system that worked smoothly.)

As is usually the case with second-generation models, the Smart has gone a bit Eamonn Holmes, with new bulgy bits front, rear and on the sides, but then it was never what you'd call a looker. Park a Smart close behind a big off-roader, and it looks as if the larger car has fallen victim to a particularly irksome haemorrhoid. It does have a little more power to help lug all that new flab, so performance is quite sprightly for a three-cylinder, although overtaking anything that isn't either horse-drawn or delivering dairy produce is not for the faint-hearted.

Much work seems to have been doneto reassure Smart owners of its strength, though. As well as the visible Tridion crash-cage on to which they bolt the car's body panels, important points of contact such as the door handles and indicator stalks feel much more robust.

Of course, there is still room for improvement. (If anyone ever did actually go and make the perfect car we road-testers would be out of a job, so even if they did, we'd have to make up problems, so you'd never find out anyway, ha!) In the Smart's case it is the steering, which is heavy at low speeds not really what you look for in a city runaround. Some have complained that it is too expensive, but there is nothing else quite like the Smart, so it can pretty much charge what it likes as far as I am concerned. A Fiat Panda is cheaper, and seats four, but will it fit in your Christmas stocking? Ho, ho, no! *

It's a classic: Santa's sleigh

Ho, ho, etc! Yes, it's me again. People often ask me, "Santa, what's the difference between a sled, a sleigh and a sledge?" Well, the first has runners, the second has a red-nosed reindeer up front, and the third sang "We Are Family". Ho, ho, ho.

But seriously, there is a lot to learn about sleighs the different types, for a start: there's the sporty basket sledge, komatik (used by Eskimos), pulk (favoured by Norwegians) and my favourite, the freight sledge. And, if you're not using reindeer, there are the dogs, which differ according to breed and their role in the team, whether it be swing dogs, point dogs, wheel dogs or team dogs.

"And Santa, how do you stop a sleigh?" I hear you ask. Well, you can throw out a hook, but most now have claw brakes.

So, there you go. Everything you ever wanted to know about sleighs. Don't say I never give you anything.

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