smart fortwo & forfour
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
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...