Redesigned Smart has been launched in UK

Redesigned Smart has been launched in UK

Smart is now completing the European launch of its new generation Forfour, about six months behind the Renault Twingo with which it was co-engineered and is built at the French automaker's Novo Mesto plant in Slovenia.

Unlike Renault, however, Smart also has the more compact two seat Fortwo, based on the same platform as the Forfour and Twingo, which it builds at its Hambach factory in France. Renault has no plans for its own version.

Although the Fortwo and Twingo share common structures and powertrains – three-cylinder engines of 999cc normally aspirated and 898cc turbocharged – there are significant differences between them.

Smart says that 95% of the parts owners see and touch and 25-30% of those hidden from view differ between the two cars.

All the external body panels are unique to each car and Smart has modified some of the frontal crash structures to meet its own internal standards. A Forfour recently emerged with its passenger cell unscathed after a 30mph, 50% offset frontal crash with parent company Daimler’s largest car, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which is more than twice the weight.

Rodolfo Schoneburg, head of vehicle safety at Mercedes, said the company designed its large cars not only to protect occupants but also to reduce the loads on smaller vehicles in an accident.

The Smart also has a driver’s knee airbag and Daimler’s forward collision warning system and stabilises itself using the ESP system in crosswinds. It has wider opening rear doors (maximum 85 degrees) than the Twingo and a different rear seat folding system which can add up to 12 cm extra load height.

The interior trim is unique and the two cars have their own audio and app-based multimedia systems and equipment packages. Smart will also offer a wider range of models with the twin clutch automatic gearbox which becomes available to both manufacturers in the second quarter of this year plus variable gear ratio steering with both engines instead of just the turbocharged version. In turn, however, it will cost considerably more and be marketed as a premium small car.

The Fortwo is just under 2.7m long compared with the 3.5m Forfour which gives it a London taxi beating turning circle of only 6.95m. Despite structures and powertrains shared with the Twingo and Forfour, it also has the proven Tridion safety cell of previous two seat Smarts.

[The previous ForFour, axed after only a short production run shared platform and some other parts, including engines with Mitsubishi's European Colt and was built alongside the Japanese model at NedCar in the Netherlands. That plant is now assembling Mini hatchbacks under new owners and licence - ed.]