Throughout the life of the smart 450, there were only 2 officially recognised changes:
- 599cc engine - First generation (or G1)
- 698cc engine - Second Generation (or G2)
Strangely at the introduction of the 451 model, the "Second Generation" nomenclature was re-assigned to the new model, and all 450's were captured under the "First Generation" heading.
However, throughout the entire lifecycle there were a number of smaller changes made to the smart. These are unofficially referred to as their 'marks'.
To be able to understand which mark car you have, you can review the evolution of the smart 450 shown below:
- Mark 1
The very first smart car launched early 1998, but found their way into the UK from mid-1998 as grey imports.
The colours at launch included some of the rare 'Hello Yellow' and 'Mad Red' colours.
The tridion frame was available in either an anthracite metallic finish or silver.
Models available at release included a special edition known as the 'limited 1' which came with a half-leather interior in tan & blue. The Passion had 2 trim levels - sports or comfort, as well as the pulse and pure.
Interiors were a choice of Twister blue or orange, with tan-leather being available as a cost-option.
Brabus were commissioned to provide tuning options.
- Mark 2
Development was already underway on the mk2, and by end of 1998 - early 1999 it was released. It was to include softer leaf springs due to stiffness issues and complaints.
The limited 1 special edition was dropped, however the interior remained a cost-option.
It clearly made little sense to provide the passion with 2 trim levels - the Pulse was dubbed 'the sporty model', and so the sports trim was dropped from the passion range which became the comfort model.
Unfortunately the 'mad red' panel colour was dropped from the range, this makes it one of the rarest panels available.
The fuel-rail in the engine was redesigned to manage the fuel flow better.
Brabus now provided complete models available for sale as well as their tuning packages which were available through smart.
- Mark 3
Late in 1999 crossing into 2000, new mainstream colours were introduced to try to target the car at a wider market, these included bay grey as well as some unique 'cubic' printed panels like the Numeric Blue's and the 3 sought-after 'aqua' variations:
1. Aqua Vanilla
2. Aqua Green
3. Aqua Orange
Inside the mk3, the electronic boot release button was added, the moulding was previously there, but up until now it had been blanked.
The mk3 ECU is known in the tuning circles to be one of the most tunable of the early smarts, due to the parameters and lack of upper limiter.
Mid-2000 saw the launch of the city-cabrio smart alongside the coupe.
LHD smarts were now officially imported into the UK.
The Anthracite tridion was dropped and replaced with a black powdercoat finish.
- Mark 4
In late 2000, new emissions laws meant a new ECU was launched which meant having to have a second lambda sensor in the exhaust, and a new artificial limiter set at approx 95mph, this was governed by the enhanced traction control 'Trust+'.
A major suspension revision finally upgraded the transverse leaf-spring suspension with more conventional macpherson struts, improving both ride and handling.
Exterior changes included the addition of a locking mechanism on the fuel filler, this now locked with the central locking instead of using the key to open it.
The single button central locking key also developed an extra 2 buttons, one for remotely opening the rear tailgate (or roof), the other was a dedicated unlock button.
The sound package was split out to now become a cost-option, removing the bass bins, the amplifier chip and the tweeters from the standard set-up. The new standard included 2 basic speakers screwed to the underside of the dash.
On the exterior, the washer jets were moved from the wiper arm, to a nozzle mounted at the base of the windscreen.
- Mark 5
For the release of the new registration in March 2001, smart offically recognised the UK market and started to produce RHD models, this also would potentially open up the far-eastern market too.
In terms of trim, some new interior colours were released to match your exterior panels, for example stream green interior to match your stream green panels.
Luxury items were added as cost-options including electric door mirrors and heated seats.
The power output of the pulse was upped to 62bhp from 54bhp by making the over-boost permanent. Increasing the boost from 0.8bar to 0.88bar.
The 'aqua' panels were dropped.
- Mark 6
The mk 6 arrived in march 2002 and included a 'facelift', adopting the peanut style headlights previously seen on the city-cabrio variants.
The rear valance was re-styled to create a smooth lip instead of 2 'grooves'.
The turbo was finally redesigned to try to resist the major cracking issues which have affected the smart, this included a reinforced bridge and was fully compatible with the earlier variants.
The city-cabrio was made available in RHD, and therefore DCUK were now able to officially stop selling the LHD smarts in the UK, both coupe and cabrio.
The fuel capacity was increased from 22l, to 34l, giving a much increased range.
Brabus re-designed their after-market components and developed a new factory car.
To address the 'mysterious' roof explosions, smart fitted a resistant plastic strip to the glass roofs on the pule and passion coupes, this was designed to stop the roofs from exploding, and were fitted FOC to any existing owners who wanted it.
A new cubic panel design 'scratch black' was released.
- Mark 7
Early 2003 saw the release of the official smart 'second generation', that is the updated engine, with an increased capacity to 698cc.
The change to this engine also brought many additions, including a cat pre-heater to speed up the warming cycle to comply with yet more new emission laws.
Hill-start-assist was included holding the car for 0.7 seconds when on an incline to enable you to move from the brake to the accelerator without using the handbrake.
The traction control was vastly improved, borrowing the system from the A-class, it's called ESP (Electronic Stability Program), which enabled the car to not only pull back off the throttle, but to apply braking to each wheel individually. This also then included EBD (Electronic brake distribution) which allowed the brakes to applied to whichever wheel has the most grip. The braking circuit was redesigned to cater for these new functions including a new brake line to each of the rear wheels, whereas previously it was one line split off to both wheels.
The conventional fuse box and zee unit seen in the earlier variants is replaced with a new SAM (Serial Actuation Module). This has moved the OBD (On-board diagnostics) port to the little shelf next to the steering wheel, the lack of external relays means that the indicator 'ticking' noise is now artificially produced through a small speaker.
The gear ratio's were altered to provide a little better acceleration, as well as enabling more comfortable cruising speeds.
The rev limiter was enhanced to include an 'auto change up', enabling you to accelerate hard and not worry about the gears!
Perhaps a common feature on many other cars, the smart finally obtained a 'lane changer' indicator, ie a slight push of the stalk will indicate 3 times.
Also included was an automatic rear wiper, when putting the car into reverse and the front wipers are on, and the 'drive lock' feature, which auto locks the doors when you start moving.
The suspension was also slightly modified by increasing the spring height by 10mm (the dampers remained the same).
Finally a re-branding exercise by smart meant the 'a' design with the little arrow on was dropped, to be replaced by the 'chickenhead' logo 'C>'.
The city-coupe and city-cabrio became the 'fortwo'.
Pure cabrio was made available.