smart forfour 1.1 passion | CARkeys

29 Sep 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on smart forfour 1.1 passion | CARkeys

smart forfour

1.1 passion review

On the face of it, you’d think the entry-level 1.1-litre petrol engine would make the smart forfour feel pretty sluggish – after all, this is an altogether bulkier machine than the fortwo city cars. In fact, it doesn’t. Built in the factory at Kölleda south-west of Leipzig, which was set up in the days when smart’s parent company Mercedes-Benz was rather more closely linked with Mitsubishi than it is now, this is the same engine as the one used by the Japanese company for the Colt, and it’s lively enough in the smart installation, where there’s very little in the way of unnecessary avoirdupois.

The forfour/Colt connection is apparent in other ways, because the two outwardly quite different cars also share components like some of the platform parts, the rear axle, the emissions equipment, the fuel tank and – here’s the important bit – the standard five-speed manual transmission.

This is the first smart where you don’t have to have the squeeze-box automated manual transmission, although it’s still available as an option. Myself, I wouldn’t look near it, now that there’s a much more satisfactory conventional gearbox and gearchange available.

With 73bhp on tap, the 1.1 engine does have a certain three-cylinder beat, unlike the larger 1.3 and 1.5-litre four-pot petrol units which are also in the catalogue; but it’s nothing like as obtrusive as the three-cylinder cdi engine in the 1.5-litre diesel model which, whether in 67bhp or 93bhp tune, may pull much more strongly but really does make a lot of noise.

smart doesn’t try to hide its cars’ unusual type of body construction, with the outlines of the steel safety shell (in either silver, black or titanium finish) obvious whatever colour you choose for the plastic body panels, themselves able to absorb a low-speed dent while being individually replaceable if you happen to collide with an ill-tempered forward-facing rhinoceros.

With the passion being the higher of the two forfour trim and equipment levels – three if you count the single 1.1-litre budget-priced black edition as well as the regular pulse model – our test car was neatly trimmed and decently kitted-out. It had alloy wheels, front foglamps, air-conditioning and a leather-rimmed steering wheel as standard.

The interior of the forfour is less quirky than the fortwo, although there’s still, as there ought to be, an air of originality about it. One thing that’s particularly neat is the display of little warning lights which curve down the outside of the speedometer and revcounter rims. And turning the knurled knob which operates the roof lights through their various phases is also, if you like that kind of thing, quite fun.

Practicality is the theme in the rear cabin, though. The important point here, if you open the tailgate and see a hilariously small luggage area, is that that will be with the movable back seat in its rearmost position, allowing for far better passenger kneeroom than you’d think possible from a quick glance at the car.

The seat can be moved forward by 150mm, though, at which point the passenger/luggage allocations become quite different. In standard form, the rear seat backs have a 60:40 split, and each one can be reclined or folded down, while the whole seat can also be tumbled forward.

Among the individual options and option packs in the forfour catalogue, there are several which upgrade the seating arrangements, even to the point of making scatter cushions available. The list goes right up to the level of internet access via a WAP browser, and colour-screen DVD satellite navigation. As a member of the Mercedes Car Group, of course, smart has no problem about tapping into premium equipment.

A fixed panoramic tinted glass roof with pull-across blinds for the two individual panels is standard on the passion, while the forfour is also available with a solid non-see-through roof or an electrically operated glass sunroof.

The forfour has a comfortable driving position offering good visibility, and it will dart around quite vigorously in city traffic. It’s far more of an out-of-town car than the fortwo, though, and the combination of a longer wheelbase with the standard ESP makes it handle more securely out in the country. You don’t have to keep hold of the 1.1 on briskly taken bumpy back roads to the same extent as the high-powered forfour diesel.

As with earlier smarts, there’s a range of Brabus accessories for the forfour, and next year we’re promised complete Brabus-badged models as additions to the range.

Despite the Mitsubishi links, smart is still ploughing its own furrow, and although the price of the passion may seem some way up from the bargain basement, it’s a well-presented version of a very ingenious basic design.

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