Back when I owned my Smart Roadster-Coupé I always wished it had come with the “steering wheel gearshift” option. As fun as the rally-style “softip” gear selection was I always thought paddles would’ve been even better…
Whilst there’s a night and day difference between the “characterful” gearbox that was fitted to the Roadster and my new fortwo’s DCT gearbox it still (rather endearingly) retains a few old-school Smart quirks, especially in the exceedingly rev-shy “Comfort” mode. Although switching over into manual mode does smooth out most of these niggles – just as it did on the Roadster – once I’d learned that it was possible to swap in the sports package steering wheel and control those shifts via paddles I was determined to make this a high priority modification… for old time’s sake, if nothing else!
The Evilution steering wheel removal guide is straightforward and useful to have to hand, but you’ll need to remove the airbag first in order to get to that point. The official method for this involves piercing the rear of the steering wheel through two small indents, which sounds quite destructive but can be quite cleanly done using the right tool (I used a long, sharp, metal scribe); there’s also an unofficial method which doesn’t require you to pierce the wheel but is more convoluted. Both are fully documented in Evilution’s airbag removal guide. (And do remember: disconnect the battery first!)
It takes an enormous amount of force to pull the steering wheel off the column and one very useful tip is to loosen but not completely remove the bolt holding the wheel in place – this means when the wheel finally does come off all that energy is arrested by the bolt rather than your face. That’s nice 🙂
With the new wheel installed it was then on to the DIY paddleshift activation in the ECU. Having downloaded a few different versions of DDT4All from Github and finding the interface and general connectivity to be different each time I ended up downloading the exact version shown in Evilution’s Paddle Shift Coding guide (the 5.4.0 All Cars Edition) in order to be certain that I was following along as closely as possible. One slight puzzlement for me was that the coding for the paddles already seemed to be activated and, sure enough, when I fired the car up they worked straight away!
Being able to easily shift into a better gear whenever the Smart’s transmission is being a little slow-witted is great, especially in “Comfort” where it’ll swap back into automatic mode once it realises you’re done intervening. Yes you can reach down, flick the gear shifter over into manual mode, pull or push to change gear and then flick it back over into auto, but I find the Smart’s gearbox programming charmingly inconsistent and so being able to respond quickly from the steering wheel does have its advantages.
And I really did want paddles. 🤣