Mercedes-Benz is set to join forces with Renault in a deal that would provide its Smart division with a contemporary front-engined, front-wheel-drive platform as the basis for a frugal new Forfour model.
The new Smart, due out in 2013, is planned to sit on a lightly modified version of the Renault Twingo’s underpinnings, complete with a 2370mm wheelbase.
Speaking about the new car over the weekend, a highly placed Mercedes-Benz official told Autocar, “It’s a key component in plans to grow the Smart brand. We looking to diverge into other potentially lucrative market segments, not only in Europe but also on a worldwide basis.”
In keeping with its name, the new Forfour has been conceived to offer seating for up to four adults in a unitary steel body that is expected to stretch to no more than 3600mm in length, 1700 in width and 1500mm in height.
As with the first-generation Forfour, developed in co-operation with Mitsubishi and launched in 2004, the second model will also have a five-door hatchback design.
At this early stage, it is not known whether the deal between Mercedes-Benz and Renault will extend to engines and gearboxes, although German media reports suggest the two are looking at deep integration in a move aimed at extracting the sort of economies of scale achieved by rival car makers PSA (Citroen-Peugeot) and Toyota with their similarly sized C1, 106 and Aygo.
This would suggest further collaboration on small-capacity petrol and diesel units, including possibly a new generation of highly efficient three-cylinder engines already under development at Mercedes-Benz.