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New Smart Forfour Test Drive Review

Date: 07 November 2014   |   Author:

 

Smart is back. Though it technically it's never gone away, the current Fortwo is the only Smart still on sale, and in 2013 only 304 cars were registered.

But January sees the arrival of not one but two new models, closely related and both siblings to Renault's new Twingo under the joint development plan between Smart's parent company Mercedes-Benz and Renault-Nissan.

The new rear-engined Fortwo and Forfour are effectively two- and four-seat versions of the same model, both coming with a choice of 999cc 71hp or turbocharged 898cc 90hp engines, and with a five-speed manual or, coming late in Q2 next year, a twin-clutch DCT automatic gearbox that's a world away from the lurchy auto that used to plague the first- and second-generation Smart Fortwo, Roadster and Roadster Coupe models. The auto will cost £995 more than the manual, and should be close to the manual's efficiency.

Smart expects the Forfour to take around 80% of sales, thanks to the extra practicality of two more doors and two more seats coming with a premium of just £495.

The larger cars is expected to be one benefit-in-kind band higher than the Fortwo thanks to the extra weight and size, but that's still expected to be under 100g/km when the emissions are confirmed - 97g/km for the 70hp engine and 99g/km for the 90hp.

The four-seater is 900mm longer than its little brother, though the boot is actually smaller at 185 litres against the 260 litres for the ForTwo.

The rear seats are accessed via rear doors that open an impressive 85 degrees for easy access, though they're predictably not the most spacious when you're in there, and the seat cushion flips down with the tug of a lever to increase the height of load space available in the rear row.

The boot, accessed through a single-piece tailgate rather than the Fortwo's split hatch, has a flat floor that's high in the car due to the engine being mounted beneath.

All that's under the quick-release plastic bonnet at the front is the battery and top-up reservoirs for the screen wash and other fluids.

The interior is far more interesting than city car rivals, though there isn't an excess of storage spots. The materials are also harder plastics than they first appear, especially under the fabric mesh-effect that adorns the main dashboard expanse.

The Forfour's extra wheelbase makes it the more civilised driving experience, with the Fortwo pitching more awkwardly under acceleration, thanks in part to the weight of the engine behind the front seats. Both have an excellent turning circle, though the steering is very light - handy in low-speed urban environments, less so on faster and twistier roads.

Refinement is decent unless the engine's being worked hard, and the Forfour's ride in particular impresses with its ability to absorb bumps while still retaining body control.

Less impressive is the styling. While subjective it's not unfair to, from the front especially, see it as clumsy and severely lacking in the charm and character of its predecessors. It's not unfair to say Renault has taken the more aesthetically pleasing path with the Twingo.

The French sibling is also cheaper, though not as well-equipped, and Smart claims to have added significant sound deadening and offers a more practical rear seat arrangement than Renault's sister car. Full whole-life costs are yet to be revealed for the Smart, which may hold a residual value advantage over the Twingo, which sits are 33.5%.

The Smart has lost some of its youthful charm in its latest iteration, but is now back as a decent option, particularly,  from a fleet perspective, among salary sacrifice schemes or with firms looking for branded vehicles that also act as moving marketing.

Smart Forfour 90hp Passion
P11D price £12,810*
Model price range £11,820-£12,810*
Fuel consumption 65.7mpg
CO2 (tax) 99g/km (12%)
BIK 20/40% per month £26/£51*
Service interval 12,500miles
Insurance (1-50) group 9*
Warranty 3yrs/60,000mls
Boot space min/max 185/975litres
Engine size/power 898cc/90hp
Top speed/0-62mph 103mph/11.2secs
On sale January 2015
 
* Estimated

Verdict


Lacking the visual appeal of Twingo or previous Smart, but a decent package
7/10

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