Smart Forfour

8 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Smart Forfour

S mart Forfour

S mart was originally intended to be a niche car specialist, selling cars designed and made by a philosophy different from the mainstream, just like its parent company Swatch versus other watch makers. However, the Smart brand was not profitable throughout the years. Swatch eventually evacuated and sold all its stakes to DaimlerChrysler.

The German understood that to turn around Smart it needs a more mainstream model – it must be a 4-seater (hence the name Forfour) using conventional mechanicals so that it can share parts and platform with Mitsubishi, another subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler. They decided to produce the Forfour together with sister car Mitsubishi Colt at the Nedcar plant in Holland, which was originally a 50-50 joint venture between Volvo and Mitsubishi but then DaimlerChrysler bought the remaining 50% for this project.

Mitsubishi Colt went on sale in Japan in November 2002, more than a year before the Forfour made its European debut. Moreover, the Colt is built in both Japan and Holland in a much higher volume than the Smart, so one can easily see the platform was primarily developed by Mitsubishi#8217;s engineers in Japan for the Colt and adapted for the Smart. Both cars share the 2500mm wheelbase and have a similar mono-box profile, though the Smart is shorter and lower.

Its interior space cannot match the Colt, but being a niche car it is by all means decent, unlike BMW#8217;s Mini. It can sit 4 proper size adults and the rear bench is pretty flexible – 60/40 split and slides back and forth for 15cm.

What makes the Smart Forfour unlike mainstream hatchbacks is the radical styling and packaging. It looks so unique in the class. although the chassis is a conventional steel monocoque, it uses plastic body panels at doors, bonnet, bumpers and fenders and colors them differently from the steel chassis. This is refreshing to eyes and give it strong family resemblance to the city car Fortwo.

Inside, the cabin is colorful and full of design language. The fabric used and grain on plastic have quality feel.

Despite of the unconventional look, the Smart Forfour drives conventionally. The front strut and rear torsion-beam suspensions work like other mainstream hatchbacks and its tuning is no match with BMW Mini. Lack of steering feel (again, because this is an electrically assisted rack) and lack of throttle steer means the car is never as fun to drive as its look suggest.

All petrol engines come directly from Mitsubishi while diesel engines come from Mercedes A-class. The petrol engines look powerful on paper (75hp for 1.1, 95hp for 1.3 and 109hp for 1.5) but the torque delivery is peaky. Fortunately, the 4-seater Smart weighs less than a ton thus it goes briskly.

Both the Mitsubishi 5-speed manual and Smart#8217;s own 6-speed semi-automatic gearbox shift nicely, but refinement is spoiled by the noisy engine.

The Forfour is considerably more expensive than other mainstream hatchbacks. For a niche car like BMW Mini, charging premium price is fully acceptable. For a car which looks niche but drives ordinarily, whether it worth the extra money is questionable.

The above report was last updated on 12 Mar 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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