I was at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Tyneside last week for the UK launch of Smart’s 2015 fortwo and reboot of the all-new forfour. Believe it or not, it’s been 16 years since a Smart Car first parked sideways on the streets of London. Since then over 100,000 have been sold in the UK and over 1.5 million globally. The new cars certainly look the business, but with competition stiffer than ever, are they good enough?
Once upon a time the fortwo was nippy, easy to park, the perfect foil to the urban jungle’s daily grind. But, take it a few miles away from a city centre and it pined for traffic wardens, cones and rush hour snarl-ups. On the motorway wind and noise spoiled the party and long journeys could be a tad tiresome.
The new car comes with a choice of two engines, a 999cc, 71hp and a smaller, turbocharged 898cc, 90hp version. Just to confuse you the car I drove at the launch was actually the forthcoming 898cc twin-clutch DCT automatic available soon in the UK for an extra £995.
The 2015 version is a tad wider than the last one and seems more substantial because of it. Somehow they’ve made the turning circle even smaller, so it’s also even more maneuverable in traffic. I left the city behind and took the fortwo to the snow topped Yorkshire Moors, well out of its comfort zone where it handled the undulating twists and turns of the beautiful English countryside with a lively enthusiasm that was surprisingly good fun.
Put your foot down and you’ll hear a rear engine rasp is a pleasing if un-threatening aural sensation. The crosswind assist now fitted as standard doesn’t eliminate the problem completely, but it definitely helps keeping you going forwards and not sideways at faster speeds. The brakes are good, sharp even, and the car continues to be built around a tridion safety cell made from high strength steel. It comes with five airbags as standard, making it one of the very safest small cars around.
Visually it’s a looker for sure. There is a choice of nine colours, three tridion colours and three grille colours and the interior is uncluttered, durable and seems to have kick-a-bility built in. As with the forfour (below) there is a choice of three spec levels, the entry level ‘Passion’ comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, ISOFIX rear seats, cruise Control and a 3.5 colour touch screen. The fortwo’s spiritual home is still the city, but now you can drive a Smart car over the hills and far away.
999cc – combined 68.9mpg / 93g/km CO2 / Top speed 94mph
898cc – combined 67.3mpg / 97g/km CO2 / Top speed 96mph
Prices start from £11,820
A Smart Car with 4 doors isn’t actually something new. The forfour was originally launched many moons ago, sharing many of its parts with the Mitsubishi Colt, but despite apparent demand for the car, it was dropped after only a couple of years.
This time around it looks like the designers and engineers at Smart have done their homework as the forfour now shares the same platform as the excellent Renualt Twingo. By being manufactured at the same factory in (Novo Mesto, Slovenia) it means costs are shared and as a result the forfour is actually only £495 more expensive than the fortwo.
And talking of doors, what an extra pair of doors they are. Fully open-(able?) to a whopping 85 degrees, something only a cot-carrying Dad can fully appreciate. This is still a compact car, and size-wise the rear interior does reflect this. The back bench will fold flat though and will give you 975 litres of space to fill, something Smart cleverly demonstrated by filling it full of IKEA flatpack furniture.
Style-wise the forfour delivers in abundance, its flamboyant colour combinations will turn even the most un-petrol of head and like the fortwo the interior is fresh, uncluttered and energising. It might cost more than a VW U! but you can see im the details where the money has been spent. The drive is punchy and fun, it’s the bees-knees bobbing through the rush hour and the connection between steering wheel, brain and foot means you really feel like you are driving a car, not playing a video game. In short, fun!
Ok, so you’re not going to win any drag races at the lights, 0-62mph takes 15.9 secs, but the 71 hp, 999 cc, three-cylinder engine it shares with the fortwo has a combined cycle of 67.3mpg and clocks in under the magical 100 g/km of CO2, which means no congestion charge and no road tax. The ‘passion’ trim level starts from £11,620 and comes with automatic climate control, 3.5 TFT colour screen ISOFIX rear seats and cruise control. The forfour ‘proxy’ and ‘prime’ levels are both priced from £12,315 – the proxy has added extras including cloth and leather Artico seats, variable colour options, 16-inch wheels finished with sports suspension, a 10mm lower ride, alloy pedals and a sports steering wheel. Meanwhile the prime has a very cool panoramic glass roof, lane keeping assist, black leather seats to mention just a few.
Ultimately whether you buy a forfour or a fourtwo will come down to personal requirements and your budget (or lack of). There are good, cheaper citycars, but they come with less goodies and Smart’s on-trend image is hipster friendly to the maximum.
For more info visit www.uk.smart.com