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In late 1998 Smart’s design team began to look at possible future models and soon realised that their powertrain was ideal for use in a small sports car. The design was quickly developed and a show model was displayed at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show. The Roadster Coupe version was displayed at the 2000 Paris Motor Show. This show car shared the design of the roadster but with a glass targa roof and larger rear hatch.
The Production versions of both cars were shown at the 2002 Paris Motor Show and went on sale a few months later. Both the Roadster and Roadster Coupe were available with a removable targa top or an electric soft top. Powered by a Mercedes-Benz developed 3 cylinder engine, the Roadster had either a 45kW r 60kW version of the 698cc turbocharged Suprex engine in the rear, while the Coupe was offered with only the more powerful engine. Weighing in at as little as 790kg meant the car could compete with the likes of the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota MR2.
Both the Roadster and Roadster Coupe were available as Brabus versions, with a more powerful engine (74kW), lower suspension, larger polished aluminium wheels and twin sports exhaust. The Brabus versions could easily be identified by the new front spoilers and side skirts.
While the car was a huge success, with sales for the first year alone doubling Smart’s estimate, there were problems with many cars suffering water leaks, often causing electric problems. The cost of warranty work on these vehicles averaged 3,000 euos resulting in these models being an economical failure and production ceased in November 2005.
In 2011 a partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Renault sparked rumours of the return of the Smart Roadster although nothing has been made official