GCF Test Drive: Smart Forfour

I've always taken a stance against extraverted vehicles that act as fashion accessories.  Coming from the VW tuning scene as my old stomping grounds over a decade ago the ideology was simple:  Performance first - styling second.  It was a major faux pas if you had the "looks" but nothing under the bonnet to back it up.  The sub-culture of German car tuning emphasized engine performance so much that terms like, "stealth" and "sleeper" entered the vernacular.  It was all about having the (horse) power but not flaunting it.  Hollywood script writers call this the "strong but silent type".  These principles still hold true today with the German car tuning scene but over the years they have become obscured especially with the merging of other European, Japanese and American brands that have jumped onto the bandwagon of a multi-billion dollar aftermarket car scene.


Over the years, my interpretations of "Performance first - styling second" have faded.  I realize that sometimes performance isn't always the objective.  For some folks, having an eccentric car is about self expression and in some extreme cases it's about art.  Yes, we have the few emotionally deprived people who will do anything for attention but overall it's an outlet to rise above the mediocrity of our daily lives and feel a little special for a brief moment.  Given my background my initial gut reaction to the Forfour was distasteful.  I viewed the Forfour as a fashion accessory for its bright colors and quirky design.  However, after spending a week with the Forfour I was brought back down to earth and realized that I was slipping back into my old (Performance first - styling second) ways of thinking. 


The Forfour provides an opportunity to be noticed, not only for the sake of attention, but for self expression.  Smart defies conventional car styling and allows an individual to choose from a huge palette of styling options, textures and colors for the possibility of creating a unique car.  With consideration to the exterior design overall, the Forfour is an attractive looking vehicle with sporty wheel arches and an unmistakable front end.  However, the rear view tends to lose some of its appeal with the rear wheel flairs looking a bit over done as they bulbously merge into the rear bumper.  Same goes with the "Flash Gordon" styled vertical tailamps in the upper rear C-Pillar.  Looks a bit odd but given the eccentric nature of the car it somehow works.


The stylistic demeanor of the Forfour continues into the interior with up to four equipment levels depending on your country: Pure, Pulse, Passion and BRABUS in addition to various special and limited editions.  Our test car came in top level Passion trim which includes 15 inch alloy wheels, air condition and a panoramic glass roof.  The interior trim was well designed and visually appealing.  However, the trim materials were quite cheap and stitched together poorly.  The fabric material that covered the dash panel was some kind of stretch nylon which reminded me of spandex cycling shorts.  The instrument cluster looked like a Fisher-Price toy and the speedometer and tachometer needles looked like bent paperclips painted pink.  Seats were comfortable and the rear bench seat which split 60/40 slides forwards and backwards as one solid unit but at the sacrifice of rear luggage space.  Nevertheless, leg room for rear passengers is plentiful.  The best part of the interior is when you look up - out of the panorama roof.  It gives a nice sense of openness which is always welcomed in a compact class vehicle.


The Forfour utilizes a steel tridion safety cell which acts as the protective passenger frame.  Depending on the trim level, the tridion cell is available in three metallic colors: black, silver or gray.  Combined with the 10 exterior panel colors which are made of deformable plastic there are 30 possible color combinations.  The advantage of the ding proof plastic exterior panels is that you never have to worry about how closely someone parks next to you for fear of reckless door swinging.  However, the disadvantage is in the seasons.  The temperature during the hot months make the plastic panels expand which can make shutting the doors difficult.  In our test car I experienced exactly this problem.  You really had to swiftly swing the door to get it to shut properly.  And no, it wasn't just a latch adjustment needed because all four doors behaved the same way.  You could also see on the inside of the door pillars (tridion cell) where the door panels were rubbing on the paint.  Conversely, the panel contraction experienced during the colder months causes large unattractive gaps between the panels which don't exactly communicate craftsmanship. 


Undoubtedly the Forfour appeals to those seeking design and expression.  However, the reason which snapped me out of the notion that the Forfour was only a fashion accessory was the fact that the Forfour was a blast to drive.  Our Forfour was equipped with the 1.5L CDI 70kW/95hp 3 cylinder with 210Nm/154 ft-lbs. of torque.  Just looking at these specifications tells me this is a decent accelerating vehicle given its weight of only 1090 kilograms (2403 lbs.).  But the Forfour performed much better than I expected.  Although, the ride was a bit stiff with bumps being somewhat harsh and a little too much body roll the Forfour managed to stick its turns well.  The braking from the standard four wheel disc brakes along with ESP was also very good.  Never in a million years would I ever expect myself to say these words but the most enjoyable part was the torque/acceleration out of this diesel 3 cylinder.  I have become a Smart car convert and I am finding myself yearning to check out the Forfour BRABUS with almost double the torque and horsepower.



Base Price (1.1L Petrol 55kW/75PS)

Finland  15.990 -EURO

UK  £7,990

Germany  12.770 -EURO


Price as tested

Finland  23.990 -EURO

UK  £12,370

Germany  15.650 -EURO
















Gallery: GCF Test Drive: Smart Forfour