smart fortwo & for­four

ENG

Nam Wheels - - Front Page - Text Hanjo Stier Im­ages Mercedes-benz South Africa

It ap­pears that the car in­dus­try is in rude health be­cause ev­ery week we wit­ness the launch of a new model. Usu­ally an­other cross­over, de­signed to plug a gap no­body had thought of yet.

Thank Good­ness there are still ve­hi­cles that don’t try to be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­one – like the new smarts.

Our bulging egos and rapidly re­duc­ing at­ten­tion spans have given birth to ve­hi­cles that try to blend ev­ery imag­in­able sce­nario into a four-wheeled shape but – cau­tion, spoiler alert – the end re­sults tend to be com­pro­mised in all the won­drous ways we want them to work.

Not so with a smart, es­pe­cially the tiny fortwo city car. The man­u­fac­turer pub­lished a very poignant com­mer­cial a few years ago which pokes fun at our crazy love for city 4x4’s. It sees a fortwo fail­ing mis­er­ably at of­froad­ing and a large SUV crawl past a tiny city park­ing bay – which the fortwo city slicker then takes. Like, LOL.

The fortwo first saw light of day back in 1998, its “smart” name ap­par­ently hark­ing back to the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Swatch and Mercedes- Benz: “Swatch Mercedes ART”.

With just two seats and less than three me­ters in length, this truly is the per­fect city car. So per­fect, in fact, that it has found over 1.5 mil­lion own­ers.

Pow­ered by 600 or 700cc tur­bopetrol three-cylin­der en­gines, it was re­placed by gen­er­a­tion two in 2007. This was sold un­til re­cently with a com­par­a­tively enor­mous 1- litre en­gine and ad­di­tional lux­u­ries on some mod­els.

Cru­cially, that fortwo ver­sion didn’t re­ally change shape or size very much.

This new model, launched in 2014, has some of the orig­i­nal pro­por­tions but shows rounder, stub­bier de­sign. I’m still get­ting used to it but has­ten to add that a teeny-tiny city car doesn’t need beauty and soul.

What it needs is funky style, in­cred­i­ble per­son­al­iza­tion and lots of prac­ti­cal­ity – which this new one cer­tainly has.

Smart will sell you four dif­fer­ent equip­ment lines, all with a 52kw 1-litre petrol en­gine, and cus­tomers are en­cour­aged to go ba­nanas with the di­verse paint and dé­cor pal­ette.

Should you ever get tired of your choice, the near­est autho­rised Mercedes dealer (who sells and ser­vices smarts) can help you fit some body pan­els of a dif­fer­ent colour. Bril­liant.

At the lo­cal launch of the new model, Mercedes-benz S.A. also in­tro­duced the big­ger for­four – which fi­nally re­sem­bles the fortwo in shape and tech while cater­ing for city dwellers that need rear doors or more lug­gage space.

Sales pre­dic­tions ac­tu­ally put the four-door model ahead of the two-door by nine to one.

That may hap­pen be­cause of the four- door’s at­trac­tive pric­ing; which is just a few thou­sand dol­lars above the smaller car.

It’s also a ground-up re­design and, bar for in­ner-city an­tics, it feels more com­posed and re­fined than the lit­tle smart. The longer wheel­base adds more high- speed sta­bil­ity, com­fort and re­duced noise ( en­gine) lev­els.

In­no­va­tive con­sid­er­a­tions for the S. A. mar­ket in­clude the ad­di­tion of an elec­tric model. In Europe, smart E.V.’S are the best­sellers in their class for both ver­sions.

There was also talk of tur­bocharged en­gines (66kw) with dual-clutch auto’boxes ar­riv­ing later; as will the naughty Brabus fortwo (88kw). In some crowded Euro­pean and Amer­i­can cities with their lack of space and park­ing, these wee cars are of­fered in the “car2go” public rental schemes; which are also be­ing con­sid­ered for large cities in South Africa.

More high­lights of the up­dated smart range in­clude nifty seats, LED day­time lights, tight turn­ing radii, short over­hangs, ESP with cross­wind as­sis­tant and fresh telem­at­ics ( read: me­dia and

nav­i­ga­tion).

For­four’s rear doors open up to 85° and it sports a two-piece tail­gate for easy load­ing. We also found trendy tex­tures and mod­ern cab­ins in­side the high­strength “trid­ion” safety cell.

This ex­tremely rigid pas­sen­ger pro­tec­tion cage is prob­a­bly one of smart’s big­gest stum­bling blocks in this neck of the woods. Es­pe­cially the pe­tite fortwo is of­ten knocked down in dis­gust: “Nee jong, I wouldn’t want to be in that when a truck hits you!”

Well, if you drive any­thing older than ten years – es­pe­cially a bakkie or SUV – you’d be wrong.

Sport­ing five stars in the strict EURONCAP crash-test rat­ing, a smart is one of the safest places to be. And if a truck de­cides to play chicken with you, even a 4x4, big bakkie or Mercedes SClass won’t be much help.

And just to show what a smart can with­stand, they smacked one into ex­actly that – an S-class.

The re­sult is im­pres­sive.

To wrap up, the new mod­els from smart have grown up with­out be­com­ing large. Where other man­u­fac­tur­ers at­tempt of­ten painful splits to cover as many as­pects as pos­si­ble, they are like a breath of fresh air.

Cool, small city cars which have be­come more ag­ile, ver­sa­tile, funky and – you prob­a­bly saw this one com­ing – smart.

Ci­tyh Slick­ers don’t come more in­no­va­tive, ef­fi­cient or funky than these...

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