Smart is set for a major product overhaul that will give it a successor to the discontinued Forfour supermini.
Petrol, diesel, hybrid and all-electric powertrains are all part of the plan for both this car and the all-new Fortwo, as Smart prepares to take on BMW’s Project i city car.
In a move that its chairman, Dieter Zetsche, says will provide Smart with financial stability and the scope for growth, parent firm Daimler will jointly develop the third-gen Fortwo (due in 2012) and the new Forfour (planned for 2014) in partnership with Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan.
The first car to hail from the partnership will be a Fortwo replacement. The compact two-seater, set for launch in coupé guise in 2012, will use a new modular platform that is in the final stages of development at Mercedes-Benz’s R&D centre in Sindelfingen, Germany.
It will be followed by a new Renault city car based on the same platform and produced alongside the Fortwo at Smart’s existing factory in Hambach, France.
As with today’s model, the new Fortwo and its Renault sibling will continue with a rear-engined/rear-drive layout and exposed ‘tridion’ safety cell.
Two years after the new Fortwo, Smart will again try to muscle its way into Europe’s largest market segment with a successor to the four-door Forfour. It will use a lengthened version of the Fortwo platform, complete with its rear-engined/rear-drive layout. It will share this platform with Renault’s next Twingo and will be built alongside it at Renault’s factory at Novo Mesto, Slovenia.
The set-up should provide generous economies of scale between the Fortwo and the Forfour. Sources say this will allow the new car to be priced more keenly than the old one.
Unlike the first Forfour, which used a conventional two-box design, the new model is set to adopt a more upright one-box profile. At 3500mm in length and 1550mm in height, the new Smart will be around 800mm longer than today’s Fortwo.
The new car will retain the exposed safety cell but is likely to use steel panels in place of the Fortwo’s composite ones for ease of manufacture. The Forfour should also adopt a combination of conventionally hinged front doors and sliding rear ones; the latter set-up was previewed on Mercedes’ F800 Style Geneva show concept.
Inside, the Forfour will provide seating for four adults. As with the Fortwo, the seats will be set high for ease of entry. Luggage space will be limited, with the boot compartment sitting above the engine at the rear. But fold-down rear seats will be standard, allowing owners to tailor the space to their own requirements.
Power for the new Forfour will come from a new range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines that are under development as part of the Daimler/Renault-Nissan co-operation. Set to range in capacity from 1.2 to 1.8 litres, the new direct-injection petrol and common-rail diesel units will find their way into a wide range of compact Mercedes, Nissan, Renault and Smart models. In both Smarts, the engines will be mated to a dual-clutch gearbox.
As with the Fortwo, Smart is also planning to provide the new Forfour with hybrid and plug-in electric driveline options as part of a broader strategy aimed at lowering Mercedes’ overall fleet CO2 average to below 140g/km by the middle of the decade, in line with EU emissions regulations.