Cute but as­tute

DAVE FALL feels like a nut in its shell in the FourTwo

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

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)

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

Able to turn on a dime, the 2016 Smart FourTwo is sur­pris­ingly spa­cious and packed with kit even on the Base model.

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