But what if ‘A’ is Portsmouth and ‘B’ is Edinburgh – would you use a typical A-to-B car?
Well, being cost and environmentally conscious, we thought we’d give it a go. Could we cover the 450 miles north in the UK’s most economical car? We’d certainly give it a crack…
The Car Dealer team gets about all over the UK every month in our quest to bring you an interesting mag. New car launches, interviews and events all need to be attended, but usually for distances over 300 miles we fly – it’s often the most time efficient and can mean the difference between doing a trip in a day or an overnight stay.
But when we needed to hop up the country to bonnie Scotland for an event, we left booking the flights a bit late. That meant, when we checked, the cost took us by surprise – £700 for two people! No chance. Surely you can get there and back for a fraction of the cost in a car, we thought.
Unfortunately the editor overheard us and concocted a plan. Just how much cash would we save by driving there instead in a Smart diesel – a car capable of 85mpg?
It fell to Jade – the newest member of our team – and myself to find out. To be honest, Jade was somewhat reluctant to make her first official Car Dealer road trip in a pocket-sized Smart, but surely it wouldn’t be THAT bad?
Perhaps I was blinded by my time selling these little cars when I worked at a Mercedes main dealership. I love Smarts. Yes, they’re small, but surprisingly roomy, easy to drive, and actually quite a laugh to drive. Talk about rose-tinted glasses! When the car arrived at Car Dealer HQ two days before departure we all went out to take a look at what we’d be spending a good few hours in. ‘It’s a great little thing,’ said the editor, a man who’d be spending no time behind the wheel whatsoever…
Around town, I agree it is, without question, brilliant. Nippy, economical and fun to pilot. It is as spacious as I remember, has decent legroom and fantastic vision. Driving it home, I actually thought I could get used to one of these as my own car. The world seems to be a happier place when you’re behind the wheel. Knowing you’re being kinder to trees and polar bears, not taking up too much space and saving yourself money all add to that feeling of smugness.
The day of the Big Trip meant an early start. Excited, I turned up at Jade’s house early and eager to get the road trip going. Not impressed by the time of the morning and what lie ahead of her, Jade was a bit upset to say the least. ‘Why aren’t we going in an Aston Martin, or a Bentley?’ Well, that kind of defeats the object of saving money, I tell her, and this will be more fun! Sort of…
An hour into the journey, it is clear that this is not much fun at all. The Smart (bless it) is struggling to keep up with the traffic and overtaking can’t be carried out without wedding-style levels of planning. Having said that, the little 799cc, 54bhp unit is quite capable of sustaining the national speed limit, providing there aren’t too many hills. Oh, I forgot, we’re going to Scotland… ah.
After five hours, I’m getting some serious pain in my back. I’m not sure what the seats are made out of, but I’m pretty certain it’s not anything soft. Saying that, I’d still rather be in the Smart than sat on a train opposite some smelly stranger, or on a plane and £700 worse off! Every time we pass a signpost for a town more northern than Portsmouth, we giggle and say: ‘We’ve just driven a Smart all the way to Leeds…’ Although that game did get a bit old quite quickly!
After what felt like a day in the car, we arrived at the Scottish border. With a quick pit stop and driver change, we headed into the green hills for the final leg. The little Smart struggled a little on long hill climbs, and at one stage actually gave up. The revs dropped to 3,000rpm and it switched to ‘limp mode’. We pulled over (not the easiest thing on those roads) switched the car off, and waited for it to catch its breath.
Any other car that had done that would have been met with some Father Jack style cursing, but the Smart just makes you say a few words of encouragement and give it a little pat: ‘Ah, come on little Smarty, that’s it, see you can do it…’ Told you I was a bit strange…
To be honest, you can’t help but feel pretty good about things when you’re driving a Smart, especially when you stop to fill it up. The tank’s pretty small – it takes just £40 of diesel to fill up – but we only had to do that twice on the way there. Amazing really.
Still smiling, despite the back pain, we reached the hotel in Edinburgh. To say I ached at the end of the journey would be an understatement. I looked at Jade and she was much the same.
But still, we managed to cover 450 miles, for just £80! Yes, it may have taken 10 hours, was likely to cost about the same in chiropractor’s bills when I got home, but there’s no doubt it was a bargain way to travel! Only problem was we had to do the return leg the next day…
by DUNCAN CHAPPELL