A crossover based on Renault-Smart’s new rear-engined city car platform is on the drawing board

Mercedes-Benz is seriously considering building a Smart SUV or crossover based on the architecture shared by the Smart Forfour, new Fortwo and Renault Twingo.

Although sales have started strongly for the combined Renault-Smart project, both companies are looking at ways to increase the total annual output of this unique rear-engined platform.

According to the latest sales figures, Renault shifted just over 10,000 Twingos in February alone and Smart about 3700 each of its models.

This suggests that the Fortwo and Twingo - which are built together at Renault’s Novo Mesto factory in Slovenia - could achieve an annual combined production of more than 160,000 units.

However, the Smart-Twingo platform shares very little with any other car, in addition to the drivetrain being substantially unique. So an annual production run of 300,000 would probably be seen as ideal for the factory’s longer-term profitability.

Indeed, Mercedes announced last year that it wanted to see individual production lines under individual managers and has a target of building five different model variants on each production line.

Judging by the current state of new car sales in Europe, it seems Renault must also be tempted to work with Mercedes on a rugged baby SUV. Supermini-sized models are already a smash hit with European motorists and it seems likely that city-car-sized crossovers will be the next significant trend.

Figures for February show that the Renault Captur is now the 13th best-selling car in Europe, having shifted 13,794 units, only a handful of registrations behind the Ford Focus.

Other compact crossovers are also selling strongly, including the Vauxhall Mokka (11,992 units) and the Peugeot 2008 (11,624 units).

Any Smart crossover is expected to be at least two and a half years away. It could be slightly longer than today’s Forfour, which is just 3.75 metres long, as a result of the styling demands of more aggressive-looking front and rear bumpers. But it will retain its extremely tight turning circle and useful 2.2m-long interior load length. Prices could start at about £12,400.

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Our Verdict

Smart Forfour
Smart Forfour in Prime spec is priced from £12,315

Smart aims to stamp some Mercedes-Benz hallmarks on the city car class

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Comments
9

14 May 2015
Does Noddy actually need an off-road vehicle? Why, yes - to visit Big Ears, who lives in the "hilly, lumpy, bumpy part of Toyland"

14 May 2015
Not everyone wants a big German phallus extension.. Ala BMW Audi, most 4x4's We have had a smart for last 5-6 years, and gearbox aside had been a pleasure to own and ideal for city work.. Always thought most obvious missing Smart model is a Van version. perfect size for city deliveries extra

14 May 2015
Couldn't they build a new Roadster/coupe too? There is no tiny, great handling and cheap sports cars in the market and I always had a soft spot for the Smart Roadster.

14 May 2015
This trend towards ever smaller so-called SUVs is becoming a nonsense. What's proposed here is a slightly larger rear-engined and still RWD city car with a slightly raised ride height and butched-up appearance. It will, of course, sell to gullible fashionistas. The much derided Suzuki Jimny at least has 4WD and is capable of going further off road than mounting a kerb in Tesco's car park.

14 May 2015
Daniel Joseph wrote:
This trend towards ever smaller so-called SUVs is becoming a nonsense. What's proposed here is a slightly larger rear-engined and still RWD city car with a slightly raised ride height and butched-up appearance. It will, of course, sell to gullible fashionistas. The much derided Suzuki Jimny at least has 4WD and is capable of going further off road than mounting a kerb in Tesco's car park.
I'd consider one of these, not because its fashionable, but because of a back problem which means getting into a higher vehicle is much easier on my bad days. But I'd also want a 3-door version for its further back B-pillars, but no manufacturer seems to want to build such a vehicle anymore.

14 May 2015
catnip wrote:
Daniel Joseph wrote:
This trend towards ever smaller so-called SUVs is becoming a nonsense. What's proposed here is a slightly larger rear-engined and still RWD city car with a slightly raised ride height and butched-up appearance. It will, of course, sell to gullible fashionistas. The much derided Suzuki Jimny at least has 4WD and is capable of going further off road than mounting a kerb in Tesco's car park.
I'd consider one of these, not because its fashionable, but because of a back problem which means getting into a higher vehicle is much easier on my bad days. But I'd also want a 3-door version for its further back B-pillars, but no manufacturer seems to want to build such a vehicle anymore.
Good point by Catnip regarding higher entry-exit point - a significant failing of the old XJs. I remember Ford had a proposal for a saloon with higher seating position but nothing came of it. On the other hand, full sized SUVs are far too high to climb into for everyday motoring.

14 May 2015
Fair point about the higher seating position. The (European) Ford Fusion became very popular amongst more mature drivers for exactly this reason, although this was not its intended niche: Ford launched it as an "urban activity vehicle" aimed at trendy and sporty young city dwellers, who stayed away in droves when they saw their grandads driving around in one. I quite liked its unpretentious looks. The Fusion did not pretend to be anything other than a taller, boxier supermini and had no SUV affectation, unlike its EcoSport successor.

15 May 2015
catnip wrote:
Daniel Joseph wrote:
This trend towards ever smaller so-called SUVs is becoming a nonsense. What's proposed here is a slightly larger rear-engined and still RWD city car with a slightly raised ride height and butched-up appearance. It will, of course, sell to gullible fashionistas. The much derided Suzuki Jimny at least has 4WD and is capable of going further off road than mounting a kerb in Tesco's car park.
I'd consider one of these, not because its fashionable, but because of a back problem which means getting into a higher vehicle is much easier on my bad days. But I'd also want a 3-door version for its further back B-pillars, but no manufacturer seems to want to build such a vehicle anymore.

Have you tried the current twingo/forfour? It's a pretty high up seating position and I'd imagine more akin to the Modus/Captur than the old twingo or clio.

I suspect any offroad styled version would be largely a visual exercise without much increase in height, maybe a little from bigger wheels.

14 May 2015
... I suspect if built, it would be the most widely sold variant of the four four, hence from business perspective a right choice. After all these firms are in car business to make money.

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