This is positively staid by Smart standards – a four-seater supermini with transverse four-cylinder engines, a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. It’s all a far cry from the two-seater Rubik’s Cube of a city car and the ’60s-throwback roadster.
Smart is not entirely abandoning its eccentricities with the aptly-named Forfour, though. There will be three-cylinder engines in the range (a 1.1 petrol rather than the pint-pot affair that powers the company’s other models, plus two 1.5-litre diesel triples) and a two-pedal semi-automatic ’box remains an option. The outer body panels are again made of plastic, though here they are bolted to a conventional steel sub-structure rather than the Tridion safety cell that’s a core feature of other Smarts.
Still, the Forfour is a more-or-less conventional small car. It's the product of a joint venture with Mitsubishi which has also spawned the new Colt, a steel-bodied supermini similar in style, size and appearance to the Honda Jazz. Both go on sale in September.
Their creators are coy about who did what exactly. The gist seems to be that Mitsubishi contributed its know-how with small cars and low-capacity petrol engines while Smart brought Mercedes-Benz’s common-rail diesel technology and its experience with clutch pedal-less gearboxes to the table.
Both cars will be offered with the 1.1-litre, 75bhp three-pot engine as well as a couple of four-cylinder units – a 95bhp 1.3 and a 109bhp 1.5 – and a 1.5 turbodiesel triple tuned to deliver either 68 or 95bhp. The five-speed manual ’box comes from Mitsubishi, the six-speed semi-auto from Smart, though it’s an all-new ’box with twin cones so that as soon as you select one ratio, the next is primed for action. The idea is that the shifts are quicker and smoother than the frustrating lurches of other Smarts. There’s also a full-auto mode.
Smart has managed to preserve a family look by painting the visible parts of the Forfour’s metal structure a different colour to the plastic doors, wings, bonnet, roof and tailgate, and through the style of the lights. Finger-wide panel gaps, particularly around the doors, lend the Forfour a tacked-together feel, but interior materials and surface finishes make the cabin the company’s most tactile yet.