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Discussion Starter #1
I am thinking about getting a 2014 Smart Electric since lease returns are starting to show up. Once concern is that my wife needs to drive it sometimes. I have heard that Smart is difficult to steer at low speed due to no power steering. I have also heard that the short wheelbase and high profile side view leads to a lot of steering correction required at highway speed. Part of my commute can be very windy. Any comments on that?
 

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Since the car is quite light, steering is not that difficult, plus the motor is in the rear. I have had both manual and the electric assist steering and I don't feel much difference except when you are sitting parked or stopped. Once the car is rolling, no problems.

As for the taller profile, yes, it does get a bit blown around by winds. Wider and taller tires do help, and keep in mind that you do have more room in the lane since the car is smaller.

I would suggest a Long Test drive and see for yourself if it works for you.
 

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There isn't really a need for power steering, on a smart car. On really windy days, highway driving. Because of it high profile. The little car can be a handful. That really goes, for any small car. Fiat 500, Honda Fit etc.
 

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I only drove the gas model for long periods of time, which had a higher center of gravity and was lighter.

It wasn't much more difficult to steer than most power steering cars when parked or at very low speeds. At speed, it felt pretty normal. Since the car is so light, not much effort is required to steer here.

The highway with high winds is probably more a concern for you two--I'd echo requests to do a longer test drive on a windy day on the highway. The car definitely can be blown around--I liken it to be similar to driving a 15-seater van or another broad, high-profile vehicle. As mentioned though, staying in a lane is pretty easy because it's such a narrow car. I never felt like I was in a dangerous situation, though I would sometimes slow down to near the speed limit or slightly below on the absolute worst days.
 

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Power steering is standard on the electrics which is very nice.

Len
2014 EV Coupe 11,900 miles
2014 EV Cabriolet 1,000 miles
 

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The steering in my 2015 ED is heavier than it needs to be, which exacerbates the feeling of understeer and an unwillingness to want to turn. The additional difficulty is that it seems to take extra force to start the turn, and then the force required dies away, sometimes causing you to turn more than you wanted to. This is especially noticeable with small steering corrections, like when taking a freeway sweeper.

That and the sidewind sensitivity can be mitigated to a large extent by getting a wheel alignment that is outside of the factory specs, which are designed to make the Smart understeer. The factory specification calls for a lot of front toe-in, around 1/4", which also causes faster tire wear. I think they can justify this setting because the front suspension is designed to run with little camber, so at least you're not grinding down just the inner or outer shoulder when just driving straight forward.

I've found that going 1/32" toe-in at each front wheel significantly changes the driving characteristics, for the better. This front setting also mirrors the toe-in setting that is fixed at the rear. Sidewind sensitivity is cut down by at least 50%, and it turns into a corner much more smoothly and with less steering effort. Rolling resistance is also decreased and tire life at the front should increase as well.

Still, before you buy, you should take a Smart for a long test drive. The steering ratio is almost tragically slow, and that takes some getting used to. With the stock wheels, there's a 4" difference in track width between the front and rear, and many times you can have a rut that catches the outside half of the front tire and the inside half of the rear tire, and that will make the Smart squirm around a good amount. Fixing the toe spec reduces tramlining as well but won't do anything for the steering ratio.
 

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Just to add an opposing view, I have two electrics and have had one of them for two years. Maybe I'm oblivious, but I have not noticed a single issue with the steering in either car as it comes from the factory. I wouldn't change a thing. Of course, I've not driven InjuredAgain's car either, so maybe I don't know what I'm missing. BTW, both of my cars had an alignment done right before I bought them as part of a recall. I assume that they were aligned per factory specs.

Len
2014 EV Coupe 11,900 miles
2014 EV Cabriolet 1,000 miles
 

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My wife and I drove a few before buying our "new" 2015 ED. They all shared the same basic characteristics so I'm inclined to believe ours is normal and typical of the steering response built into the Smart.

The factory alignment specs are terrible. They are designed to provoke understeer, probably as over-compensation for whatever mishap also caused Mercedes to put such staggered tires on it as well to create such incessant understeer.

It's definitely something that most any driver can get used to, and if it is your primary driver, it'll probably become a non-issue in short order. Switching back and forth from another car that is designed differently can be more difficult, but in the end it's kind of like an acquired taste that is shaped by our driving experiences. Mine come from over 20 years of high performance track driving in an E36 BMW, a C6 Corvette, and an NA Miata. Two of those three were known for impeccable steering feedback and linearity of response that I personally find lacking in the Smart (and in the Corvette as well but just in a different way).


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I don't feel much difference except when you are sitting parked or stopped. Once the car is rolling, no problems.
The steering is easy enough in my ED that I assumed it was power steering.

Also. it is generally a bad habit to be turning the steering wheel without the car rolling at least a little bit anyway - it puts lots of wear on the steering gear and tie rods.
 

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The factory alignment specs are terrible. They are designed to provoke understeer, probably as over-compensation for whatever mishap also caused Mercedes to put such staggered tires on it as well to create such incessant understeer.
Funny, becasue my smart over steers if anything - especially when the show tires are on the back.

Compared to what most poeple drive in the USA (SUVs), I find the handling of the Smart to be superb. Wheels can lose contact on rough spots in the road though.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks everybody. That is great perspective. Especially about the front toe. 1/4" is a lot. Who would guess? I always thought that they did the wide rear to make the car look Boss and to fit the engine in. The Cinquecento also has the wide rear stance as you know. I thought it was for looks and to deal with the short wheelbase.
 

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Okay, some perspective here. One person has done his own thing and likes it. 99.999% of the other electric car owners have not messed with theirs and like it. I am one of the majority, love the way both of mine drive and have absolutely no intention of changing anything. You decide.

Len
2014 EV Coupe 11,900 miles
2014 EV Cabriolet 1,000 miles
 

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Okay, some perspective here. One person has done his own thing and likes it. 99.999% of the other electric car owners have not messed with theirs and like it.
Well, that obviously can't be since there are not 100,000 451 EDs running around in the United States and I am not the only one who "messed" with it. How many have put wedges in or put lowering springs on or put larger wheels up front?

I am one of the majority, love the way both of mine drive and have absolutely no intention of changing anything. You decide.
I didn't see this as a contest of seeing who was right or who was wrong so I don't see what "decision" needs to be made as to whose opinion they should believe. The OP wanted opinions and got them. It will be up to the OP to drive the car and see how it fits in with his/her expectations of how it should drive, and in comparison to the cars that he/she have been used to.
 

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Okay, be happy to change my number to 99.99% or even 99%. :)

Wasn't meant to be a contest. I made it clear that you liked what you did and I liked what I didn't do. Absolutely correct that it is up to the owner to decide.

As for some of those other "improvements," so many of them are in the mind of the owner and it seems like way too many owners make modifications just because they can and have way too much time on their hands. :)

Len
2014 EV Coupe 11,900 miles
2014 EV Cabriolet 1,000 miles
 
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