Cute but astute
DAVE FALL feels like a nut in its shell in the FourTwo
THE Smart range of cars have been available in South Africa since 2007 and the latest models remain the designers’ answer to all parking problems.
Launched last week in Cape Town, the new Smart is completely redesigned, but both the two-seater and four-seater are still available in four trim levels: Base, Passion, Prime and top-ofthe-range Proxy.
The engine in the rear is either a normally aspirated, 52 kW/91 Nm 999 cc three-cylinder or a turbo-charged 898 cc that makes 66 kW and 135 Nm.
Power goes to the front via a five-speed manual or a decent six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, the latter being a standard fixture on the turbo engine and adding R30 500 to the prices listed at the end.
Having been party to a crosscountry drive from Beit Bridge in the north to Cape Town in a 2007 year model Smart FourTwo, I can assure you this is not for the long road.
It is made to sniff out parking in congested European cities, where you often see two to a parking meter. And the tiny engine is frugal enough to possibly embarrass a moped or scooter rider.
The FourFour is also very frugal, but offers five doors — just like its much cheaper competitor from Germany, the VW UP! now does.
But it was the tiny FourTwo that impressed me most on a blustery morning trip in the Western Cape last week. As a veteran MG driver I was prepared for a tiny cabin and being blown about by the Cape winds, but none of this transpired and I actively enjoyed driving the Smart FourTwo.
There is also a surprising amount of space once you have settled into the comfortable driving seat, while the retro-style dials and instruments are also appealing to the eye.
The powerplant and transmission comes courtesy of the Renault Twingo due to some liaison deal of days gone by and with that all the exceptional fuel consumption figures this French car manufacturer is renowned.
At the press conference later in the day I learned that the “tridion safety cell” (think Formula One cockpit) assumes the main role in occupant protection.
For gridlock in the CBD of Cape Town is now the norm and pulling up in traffic every few minutes meant being crammed from all sides by suddenly much bigger cars. With a wheelbase of just 1,87 m the FourTwo really is certainly diminutive.
But just like a nut is protected by its hard shell, the Smart’s shell is made up of 75% highstrength steel to keep the occupants safe from harm. In conjunction with further components such as crash boxes and deformation elements, the safety cell works its magic in a minimum of space. Now that’s reassuring.
Inside the kit fitted across the board is also impressive — although at launch only the fivespeed manual ’box varieties were available for evaluation (the auto versions are expected around July). As an Apple puppy I can vouch the Smart’s media system — also shared by the Twingo — is topdrawer, simple and intuitive to operate via the multi-touch display; in addition to a hands-free function and music streaming by way of Bluetooth — which neatly interfaces through Aux, USB and an SD Card. The optional TomTom satellite navigation that boasts really useful traffic snarl-up info, can even be controlled by voice command.
Other creature comforts include power steering/windows/ wing mirrors and the luxury of a multi-function steering wheel the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Factor in five airbags for up front and even a kneebag for the driver and this is the safest super mini for buyers with no need to rush and a big need to park.
All smart models come standard with a smart Service Plan — three-years/60 000 km.
Prices FourTwo and FourFour
Base R174 900 ............... (R210 400) Passion R194 400 ........ (R229 900) Prime R203 400 ............ (R241 400) Proxy R207 400 ............ (R242 900)
Able to turn on a dime, the 2016 Smart FourTwo is surprisingly spacious and packed with kit even on the Base model.