|Model tested:||Smart ForFour|
|Transmission:||5-sp man/6-sp auto|
|Economy / CO2:||67.3mpg/98g/km|
Smart ForFour (overall score = 3/5)
When Smart burst onto the scene in the late 1990s it was supposed to kick-start a revolution in urban transport, but sadly that didn’t happen. The Mercedes subsidiary is still here though, with its neatly styled ForTwo and ForFour, the latter the result of a joint venture with Renault which offers the same car as the Twingo. In a world of homogenous design the Smart ForFour stands out with its two-tone paintwork, curvaceous panels and some clever packaging – but this is a car that’s far from perfect.
Smart doesn’t do conventional design, and while that means its cabins aren’t dull, the ForFour’s dash might faze your pupils. It’s busy (as is the multi-function steering wheel) with a strip speedo in an arc that isn’t easy to read at a glance. The rev counter is in the top right-hand corner of the dash, on a pod, and the small digital speedometer measures in kmh even though the cruise control and analogue speedo are in mph.
The cabin feels high-quality but there’s no touch-screen display, the steering wheel adjusts only for rake and the door mirror adjustment is awkward because the switch is sited at a weird angle on the door. Meanwhile there’s a lack of oddments space, the rear door windows don’t wind down (but they do pop open) and there’s seating only for two in the back, where occupants get reasonable head and leg room. On the plus side there’s a conventional handbrake and the driver’s seat is height-adjustable, so it’s not hard to find a comfy driving position.
ForFour buyers can choose between 71bhp 999cc naturally aspirated or 90bhp 898cc turbocharged petrol engines; both are three-cylinder units. As standard the ForFour comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, but our test car came with the optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, dubbed Twinamic. It’s a £995 option and aside from the fact that you’ll probably want a manual gearbox anyway, the Twinamic transmission isn’t as slick as you might hope. The ForFour and Twingo are unique in the segment, in being rear-engined and rear-wheel drive, but you don’t notice that at all when driving, other than the extra-tight turning circle which improves manoeuvrability no end. High-speed refinement is no better than average but the ride and handling are excellent and there’s no shortage of performance, right up to motorway speeds.
There are four trim levels available for each of the two engines (the 90bhp unit costs £595 more than the 71bhp alternative), manual or automatic transmissions and four equipment packs. The entry-level 71bhp ForFour Pure costs £10,535 for which you get climate control, central locking, Bluetooth and electric windows, electrically adjustable door mirrors and height adjustment for the seat belts, driver’s seat and steering wheel.
The Passion (from £11,910) adds alloy wheels and jazzier interior trim while the Prime (from £12,605) has a panoramic roof, leather trim and heated front seats. The Prime Sport Premium costs from £14,045; this range topper brings 16-inch alloys, lowered suspension, a multi-function steering wheel, rear parking sensors plus sportier trim inside and out. At £16,055 including options, our Night Sky Prime special edition didn’t impress with its value, but stick with a 71bhp Prime for £12,605 without options and the ForFour is easier to recommend from a financial point of view; whether or not it will otherwise suit you and your pupils, only you can decid