The Smart Car was first launched in Switzerland in 1994, and it instantly grabbed the attention of drivers worldwide for its compact, sleek and futuristic appearance and feel.
But are they good in wintery conditions such as snow and rain?
In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions that people have about driving a smart car in winter weather conditions.
Are Smart Cars Good In the Snow?
Whilst Smart Cars are not designed for the snow, they have all the required safety features such as the ESP (Electronic Stability Program) which takes care of tire traction and stability, and an ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System) that prevents skidding when breaks are applied too aggressively.
It is important to note that Smart Cars are lighter than many vehicles, therefore getting traction in snow can be difficult.
Smart Cars only have a clearance of around 6 inches, so driving in snow deeper than 5 inches should be avoided.
Many smart car owners live in places where snow is common and have no problems at all driving in light to moderate snow.
Make sure you buy a good set of snow tires, as these are tires that are specifically designed to push away snow and thus will greatly improve the traction on your smart car.
You might also like: How Long Do Smart Cars Last? (7 Important Facts)
What Features Do Smart Cars Have For Winter Driving?
Winter weather makes for a more difficult driving experience due to the lack of traction available.
Ultimately, roads covered with snow and ice lead to the road becoming very slippery.
Whilst the Smart Car is not exactly designed for driving in winter weather, it does have some features that will help vehicles perform in snowy and icy conditions.
Let’s take a deep dive into the different features of a Smart Car and how they help or prevent safe driving in winter weather conditions.
1. Smart Car Rear-Wheel Drive
One of the best things that a car can feature in order to handle winter weather is an all-wheel-drive system.
In icy and snowy conditions, all-wheel-drive systems can help provide direct power to the wheel with the most grip, helping your vehicle to continue moving.
Unfortunately, Smart Cars Do Not Feature All-Wheel Drive – They Are Instead Powered by Rear-Wheel Drive.
However, rear-wheel-drive cars are still decent options for driving in the snow as it allows the front wheels to handle steering only whilst the back wheels handle the accelerating.
2. Electronic Stability Program
Electronic Stability Programing (ESP) is an electronic component that aims to recognize when a Smart Car is skidding, or the steering wheel movements do not match the orientation of the running gear.
The ESP resolves these issues in two key ways:
- Emits a tension on the brakes on the outer front wheel to rebalance oversteers on slippery surfaces
- Straightening the trajectory of your rear inner wheel during a loss of driving wheel grip on slippery surfaces
This Prevents the Vehicle From Spinning or Skidding on an Unintended Trajectory, Reducing the Likelihood of Slippery Surfaces Leading to Loss of Driving Control.
It’s an extremely useful component of a Smart car when you drive on an unexpectedly slippery road, or when a wheel lifts off of the ground.
ESP has been mandatory in Smart Cars since 2012.
3. Traction Control
Traction control, a feature that is found in all Smart Car models, identifies when one wheel is spinning more than the other wheels, a situation that reduces road traction.
Generally, A Traction Control System Aims To Prevent The Wheels From Spinning Excessively To Prevent the Driver From Losing Control.
However, there are some slippery exceptions to this rule:
- Driving on Icy Roads
- Deep Snow
- Slippery Hills
In these situations, a bit of wheelspin is essential to allow the back wheels of your Smart Car to dig themselves out of snow and slippery debris and regain traction.
Unlike some cars, the Smart Car traction control system is turned on by default.
However, it can be turned off manually by holding the two buttons to the left and right of the odometer.
However, you shouldn’t be doing that if you are driving in winter weather – it helps – a lot.
4. Smart Car Power Steering
Active steering is an optional component in Smart Cars, but it’s highly recommended for driving in winter conditions.
Power Steering Ultimately Uses Pressurized Hydraulic Fluid to Assist With Steering, Making for Easy Manoeuvring of Your Smart Car
Despite its small size, the Smart Car is actually a very heavy vehicle, and many find the power steering an essential feature even on high-traction roads.
Power Steering can also be very useful in winter conditions as it can aid in the heavy steering required to move through snow and low-traction surfaces
5. Anti-Lock Braking System
All Smart Cars come with Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS).
This is a safety feature that prevents the wheels from locking when brakes are applied too aggressively.
This is a classic scenario in winter driving, as the slippery roads can lead to drivers over-compensating for the lack of tire grip and thus activating the brakes too aggressively.
ABS combat the locking of wheels by rapidly pulsing the brakes off and on when it recognizes that the wheels are about to lock up.
This prevents your car from skidding, in addition to allowing you to slow your Smart Car quicker and control your vehicle better in emergencies.
6. Heating Features
Smart Cars include a variety of heating features that can help optimize your safety when driving in winter conditions. These include:
- Defrost mode
- Fan mode
- Windscreen mode
- Recirculate mode
You should learn how to use these features carefully, as they can make a massive difference in safety due to increased visibility and your ability to have a firm grip on the steering wheel.
In addition to general safety, Smart Cars have a suitable amount of heating features to maximize comfort during long and cold drives.
7. Driving Assistance
Some of the newest cars on the market provide driving assistance features, such as blind-spot warning systems, low-speed automatic emergency braking, and forward-collision warnings.
Sadly, Smart Cars do not currently include these kinds of features.
For this reason, you should take extra precautions when driving in wintry conditions, as your safety will all be down to slow and careful driving.
Does the Smart Car Have a Snow Mode?
The smart car is not a car designed to handle winter conditions, so unfortunately it does not feature a snow mode.
However, as long as you apply snow tires and ensure all safety features have been serviced, this should not be necessary for snow under 5 inches.
Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on a Smart Car?
Considering that no Smart Car is designed specifically for snowy conditions, it’s a good idea to add extra winter accessories. Luckily, there are plenty of options here:
- Snow Tires
- Snow Socks
- Studded Tires
- Tow Hooks
- Tire Chains
However, you should always consult your local garage or Smart Car dealership, as accessories such as tire chains can potentially cause more trouble than help if not applied correctly.
Generally speaking, regular snow tires and studded tires are the safest bet.
How Much Snow Can a Smart Car Handle?
Smart cars only have a ground clearance of around 6 inches, whereas SUVs that are more suited for snow driving have around 8 inches of clearance.
This means whilst driving a Smart Car in snow can be OK, it will not be able to handle as much snow as larger cars such as SUVs.
We would not recommend driving in any more than 5 inches of snow.
How Do Smart Cars Handle Low Winter Temperatures?
Most Smart Car models will handle low winter temperatures just fine, with heating systems and battery components facilitating high durability in freezing temperatures.
With that being said, electric cars and batteries do not handle low temperatures as well as fuel-powered cars.
Therefore, if you live in an area prone to sub-zero temperatures, you should consider choosing a petrol/diesel Smart Car over an electric option.
Can A Smart Car Drive On Ice?
Driving on ice is possible in a Smart Car, but this should not be done without the application of snow tires.
Even then, this should be done with extreme caution as driving on ice can be very dangerous. Speeds should be minimal, and you should be very careful when making a turn.
It is worth noting that Smart Cars are lighter than most vehicles and this will reduce traction.
On the other hand, due to its lightweight nature, the car does not require as much braking power which can help maintain a low speed on the ice.
What About Older Smart Car Models And Winter Driving?
It is mandatory for any smart car on the market to have traction control and ESP systems.
Whilst older models may not have heated seats and other luxury features for driving comfort, the standardized safety features will still be found, and these will help when driving in snowy conditions.
Do Smart Cars Need Snow Tires?
Snow Tires are highly recommended for any vehicle driving in winter conditions, not just Smart Cars.
These specialized tires have been proven to massively reduce stopping distances and improve handling in slippery driving conditions.
The tire compound is specifically designed to grip the road better and increase traction in lower temperatures, remaining soft and flexible despite cold weather.
The tread pattern found on snow tires is specifically designed to push away snow from under the tire.
Even with the ESP and traction systems of the Smart Car, you will still require the extra grip of snow tires to ensure your vehicle performs at its best in the snow.
Can You Mount A Snow Plow on a Smart Car?
Yes – snow plows can be applied to Smart Cars, but it will have to be a lightweight ATV snow plow as the lightweight nature of the vehicle will not handle heavier alternatives.