What's small, green and charges by the hour? We went back to driving school with smart yesterday morning to find the answer.
It's not a solicitor from Mars, but a zero emission electric car whose forbears you may have seen squeezed into central London parking spaces only a motorbike could normally hope to occupy. 100 of these teeny tiny eco cars have been zipping about the UK in a trial which has been successful enough to warrant production in 2010.
Smart invited us along to a motoring event with a difference; we were going to learn about green driving, so we perched ourselves in front of a blackboard for a tutorial. Frequent drivers will know some of these things already, such as smooth driving and reducing speeds, but others are new to us, like not filling your car with heavy pointless stuff and leaving it there for weeks on end.
After our classroom session came the fun bit - driving the cars. First up was the diesel, which is the cleanest diesel in the UK at 88g/km CO2. It's also nippier than you'd think, though going over the million speed bumps in Shoreditch is fairly teeth-rattling due to the short wheelbase.
Next in line was the electric model. There's been a fair bit of resistance to electric cars and until now it's not hard to see why. Expensive to buy, poor performance and short range have been just a few of the gripes facing electric cars and to be fair, the smart isn't going to set the world alight. But according to smart, most compact cars are used for short range journeys so speed shouldn't be as much of an issue and the electric smart has a range of 50-70 miles which is fine for anyone pootling around London. There's also the green incentives to take into account. Once we'd got used to the lack of engine noise (which was surprisingly disconcerting at first), it was acceptably driveable and the auto gearbox saves us from Clutch Foot when stuck in traffic.
Smart trivia: You can get 16 people into a smart. The Chinese state circus, in case you were wondering.
For more information, see the smart website.