22 July 2004

Autocar has caught Smart’s Fortwo replacement testing in Germany for the first time. Due to reach UK showrooms towards the end of 2006, the second-generation microcar sticks to its roots, with tiny dimensions, rear-mounted three-cylinder engines and an upbeat two-seat cabin.

Even with an overall length of around 2585mm – up 80mm – the new Fortwo will remain the shortest car on sale. Smart is also retaining its trademark Tridion steel safety cell and plastic exterior panels, and it will again be sold as a coupé and cabriolet. The new entry-level Smart has been re-engineered from the ground up to quell concerns about its high-speed stability and lumpy ride. A new rear-wheel-drive platform has wider tracks than the existing Fortwo for a more stable stance. Examine our scoop photos closely and you can see the rear wheels on this prototype sit further back in the wheelarches than on today’s car, indicating that the 1810mm wheelbase will be stretched. The geometry of the MacPherson strut (front) and De Dion (rear) suspension will be totally overhauled, and insiders at Smart’s HQ in Sindelfingen claim the main challenge is to improve its dynamic abilities. ‘In combination with a lowering of the centre of gravity, the mechanical changes will make it a much more appealing car to drive,’ said one official. Significantly, the car seen here wears plates from the German city of Bottrop, suggesting Smart’s performance partner Brabus is involved in the development.

Updated versions of Smart’s turbocharged 698cc petrol and 799cc three-cylinder, common-rail diesel Suprex engines will be mated to a heavily revised six-speed sequential-shift Getrag gearbox. No traditional manual will be offered, owing to the Fortwo’s tight packaging.

Autocar can reveal Smart is also planning a new sub-B segment offering to slot between the city car and the Forfour supermini. It is conceived around a three-seat layout and, if it is approved by Mercedes chairman Jürgen Hubbert, the production car will be called Forthree.

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