How reliable are Smart cars? An honest look at the city cars

Love them or loathe them, everyone has an opinion on Smart cars. Owned by Daimler-Benz, Smart have established themselves as making microcars, and dividing opinions whilst they were at it.

The brand are called Smart because of the cooperation between Swatch, the watch company, and Mercedes. It’s a combination of Swatch Mercedes ART. It was originally going to be known as the Swatchmobile.

Interesting name origin aside, Smart are known for their city cars that can get into the tightest of places and whether you like it or not, have established themselves into the mainstream automotive industry.

But, how reliable are Smart cars?

In this article, we look at how reliable Smart cars are, and how they compare to their rivals.

How reliable are Smart cars?

The results are mixed when it comes to Smart dependability, but they do look to be swaying on the unreliable side.

Thisismoney gave the Smart fortwo a reliability score of just 53, with an average repair cost of £918.89. I think we can agree that this is a lot of money for such an affordable car. If we look at what owners on AutoExpress have to say about the Smart fortwo then the feedback is mixed. Many are saying that their car has been extremely unreliable, with one user claiming that their engine broke down three times in two months. Another user has said their 2010 model has been recalled eight times. They have also noted that the service and the cost of the repairs haven’t been great when the car has gone wrong.

That said, there are some owners who haven’t had any trouble with their models, and have rated it either 4/5 or 5/5. The feedback on carbuyer was the same, with some saying that their car was extremely unreliable, and others saying that they had never had any problems with it. One owner noted that they hadn’t broken down, but they had to pay a lot for repairs each time it was serviced. Though there seems to be more positive feedback on carbuyer than there does with AutoExpress.

However, if we look at what ReliabilityIndex have to say, then the results are much different. They give the Smart fortwo a reliability index of 53, which is much better than the industry average (the lower the reliability index the better). They also put the average repair costs at £257.79, much lower than the average thisismoney gave. It appears that the engine accounts for 31.25% of the faults, with the Axle and Suspension coming in second. Owner reviews on carbuyer have put the Smart forfour as more reliable than the fortwo, but still pretty undependable. Many have noted issues that have become a problem. However, ReliabilityIndex have put the Smart forfour much lower than the fortwo. They have awarded it a reliability index of 148, which is way below the industry average. They have also given an average repair cost of £370.14, which is pretty pricey for a city car. Reliability Index report that 41.03% of problems were down to the Axle and Suspension. The Smart Roadster fares even worse, with a reliability index of 157, though the average repair cost is less at £283.34. The Axle and Suspension also accounted for most of the problems, according to reliability index.

So there are mixed results. Some owners say that there have been no problems with their Smart cars and others seem to have continuous problems. ReliabilityIndex have ranked the Smart fortwo highly for reliability which is against the general consensus on owner reviews, and the opposite for the Smart forfour. But overall, it seems that Smart aren’t the most dependable car brand out there.

Why are Smart unreliable?

One of the reasons they may score so low when it comes to reliability is their repair costs. Many have cited this an issue when something does go wrong with the car. High repair costs can often also mean that the car is off the road for a long time while the parts are sourced and replaced. And all of this can bring the reliability down greatly. 

Also, owners complained of the service when their cars did need to be replaced, this can also affect how people rate a car for dependability. 

Another reason why they might be unreliable is that they are owned by Mercedes. Mercedes-Benz aren’t the most dependable brand out there. In fact, they are quite unreliable, despite being a premium brand. This means that if Mercedes-Benz are unreliable, then it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Smart are also unreliable. 

So those are a few reasons why Smart might be considered unreliable.

How reliable are consumer surveys?

As you have read, the results have been pretty mixed when it comes to Smart reliability. So how reliable are consumer surveys when it comes to determining a vehicle’s dependability?

Using self-reports from owners are a good way of knowing how dependable a car is. It also gives us information on what problems they had with the car and, especially in this case, how good their customer service was. Self-reports can be very detailed which can be useful. However, self-reports don’t necessarily represent the majority, so that’s why we use companies like WarrantyDirect to support these self-reports.

WarrantyDirect sell extended warranties for a number of makes and models. They record when one of their customers makes a claim. They then use this data to determine which cars are the most reliable and which aren’t.

One of the issues with determining reliability is that you cannot do this for brand new models. They have to be around for a few years before we get an idea of their longevity.

Overall, though, self-reports and data from companies such as WarrantyDirect are a good way of understanding how dependable a car is.

Smart vs. Hyundai vs. Citroen; Which is more reliable?

Now we know about Smart’s reliability, how does this compare to some of their rivals? There aren’t many other brands that make cars quite as small as Smart, but Hyundai and Citroen make popular city cars that we can compare them to. Citroen are a pretty reliable brand, and have often been featured in the top half of the reliability tables. ReliabilityIndex have placed them 20th and have given them a reliability index of 112. This is average, but their city car, the Citroen C1, does very well. The Citroen C1 was given a reliability score of just 15, which is one of the best reliability scores you could possibly get for a model (the lower the reliability score the better). Citroen also featured on the Telegraph’s most reliable car brands, coming 13th with 115 problems per 100 vehicles. Hyundai also fared well on the Telegraph reliability table, coming 18th with 130 problems per 100 vehicles. They also scored very well on the ReliabilityIndex. The Hyundai i10, their city car, scored just 10 on reliability index. 10! That’s less than the C1 and we thought that was a good score. So the i10 is very dependable.

Overall, both Hyundai and Citroen are pretty reliable, and they are unfortunately much more dependable than Smart. This means that if you are undecided between the three then you could rule out Smart if longevity is your main priority.

In conclusion, Smart aren’t that reliable. Owners have reported a lot of faults and ReliabilityIndex has been less than kind, particularly to the forfour. That said, there are some owners that have said they have had no trouble with their Smart model, and have scored it highly for reliability. One of the problems people did pick up on though was the cost of the repairs, which are considerably more expensive than some competitors, and the quality of service they received. When compared to their rivals, Smart don’t stand much of a chance when it comes to dependability. If you are looking for a city car that is also ultra-reliable, then you will want to look at either the Citroen C1 or the Hyundai i10. But, if you want a quirky car that can park in pretty much any space and turn heads while it’s at it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t look at a Smart car.

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