First Drive: Smart forfour

The Smart fortwo’s raison d’être is it’s size. The fact that it’s just two-thirds of the length of a SEAT Ibiza, or half a Bentley Arnage, means it can squeeze in practically anywhere. It’s the ideal city car, if you can cope with the fact that it’s a strict two-seater.

If you can’t, then here’s the Smart forfour. As the name suggests, this is the bigger brother to the fortwo, with an extra 80cm of bodywork, two more doors and two more seats added to the mix.

This makes it a more enticing proposition to many, especially when you consider that it’s only around £500 more than its smaller sibling, but it does put it up against some formidable competition in the form of the Skoda Citigo, Hyundai i10 and Renault Twingo.

The latter is of particular concern, as it shares a great deal with the Smart. As part of a joint-venture, a lot of the oily bits underneath the skin are shared, although the engineers at Smart have heavily revised various parts, including the suspension and steering.

Whilst it’s not unique to the forfour, the steering is exceptional. A turning circle of just 8.65 metres means it can spin round on virtually any road, with plenty of room to spare. Gone are the days of three-point turns or multiple maneuvering in to parking spaces.

That’s all aided by the fact that it’s incredibly easy to drive. Having the engine at the rear means that the steering doesn’t need as much assistance, so remains light with very little unnatural electrical help. Good visibility all round and an optional rear-view camera make it a breeze to guide through city streets, the forfour whizzing around in such a way that you can’t help but smile at how effortless it all is.

Head out of the city and the ride is surprisingly composed, while roadholding is plenty good enough for the kind of car it is. If you’re expecting the rear-engined layout to translate to a spirited drive you’ll be disappointed though, as the car is set up to behave as any other front-wheel drive car would. This is no mini-911.

Power on the entry-level model is provided by a 1.0-litre engine that produces 70PS. This works fine in the fortwo, but the bigger forfour needs a little more poke, so the 0.9-litre turbocharged option is the one to go for.

With that you’ll get 90PS, which translates in to a 0-62mph time of 11.2 seconds, without affecting economy too much. Official figures suggest 65.7mpg is achievable, but our spirited drive around the wilds of North Yorkshire returned a figure just below 50mpg. CO2 emissions for all models are below 100g/km though, so there won’t be any car tax to pay while company car drivers will benefit from a BIK rate of just 12 per cent.

Any money saved there could be spent on ticking the options list, but the forfour comes well equipped as standard. Every model receives climate control, DAB stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, alloy wheels, cruise control and multi-function steering wheel.

There’s textured fabrics across the dashboard too, a leather steering wheel and comfortable yet stylish seats to add to the grown up feel. Even in the back, accessed through doors that open to 85 degrees, you’ll find enough room for two adults, although there’s no third seat option so this remains strictly a four-seater.

A reasonable size boot sits behind too, despite having an engine hiding underneath it, although the 185 litres of storage on offer doesn’t compare too favourably with its more conventional rivals. There’s no extra storage under the bonnet either, so you might need to pack carefully, but at least there’s no end to the creative storage options in the cabin.

Fold all the seats down and you can even squeeze a Billy bookcase in from IKEA, if that’s your wont.

Your goods, and passengers, will all be kept safe too, thanks to a list of acronyms as long as your arm, five airbags, brake assist, crosswind assist (to prevent the slimline forfour being blown off-course), speed limiter and tyre pressure monitoring, as well as a four-star Euro NCAP rating.

Whilst the £495 increase over the fortwo makes the forfour look like exceptional value, the fact is that it’s still rather an expensive option. And, while that packaging is undoubtedly clever, its rivals pack in more space and offer greater flexibility.

They also do it at a far lower price, with the Hyundai i10 being a full £2,000 cheaper. That makes it a very difficult car to recommend if you’re after a simple city transport. At that point there are indeed better options.

Instead look at the Smart forfour as a fashion accessory and it gets a little more competitive, costing slightly more than a Fiat 500 and about the same as a Vauxhall Adam. In that company, it could just about hold its own.

Model Tested: Smart forfour prime Premium Plus 90 hp
Price: £14,205
Engine: 0.9-litre turbo petrol
Top speed: 102 mph
0-62 mph: 11.2 seconds
Power: 90 PS (89 bhp)
Torque: 135 Nm (100 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 65.7 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 99 g/km
VED Band: A / £0 per year
Car insurance group: 9E
Kerb weight: 995 kg

Phil Huff

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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