What does Smart stand for? Quirky, small, lightweight trendy transport, perhaps. But that doesn’t necessarily compute when the demands of creating a supermini to match Europe’s best are the requirements. And that’s the new Smart Forfour in a nutshell.
Despite the avant-garde styling that fits perfectly with the more esoteric members of the range, underneath is a thoroughly conventional (and far from perfect) supermini. And one that’s lacking in the character so abundant in the others.
Or that’s what we thought until we drove the Forfour 1.1-litre three-cylinder. Basically, this is the only one that’s going to remotely satisfy if you’ve already bought into the brand.
If you want proof that an engine can radically alter a car’s character, here it is. With the 75bhp three-cylinder under the bonnet, the boominess of the four cylinders disappears, as does the rather ordinary way it goes about its business. Instead, you get a real perkiness – the pleasing, hummy throb that only a three-cylinder petrol can provide – and a shade more flexibility at low revs.
Admittedly, outright performance suffers, especially when you’re attempting to recover from an enforced drop in pace, but the aural rewards are worth it.