If you must have a Forfour, this is the one to get.
29 June 2004

It seems that the further Smart stretches its brand philosophy into the mainstream, the less we like the results. Note how we preferred the Forfour with the diminutive 1.1-litre petrol triple to one with the more conventional 1.3-litre four cylinder. 

But for this car, the signs are promising, because the diesel is a variant of the four cylinder engine fitted to the new Mercedes A-class, but with one cylinder lopped off.

The 1.5-litre unit features common-rail direct-injection and is available in either a 68bhp version or (as tested here) a 95bhp version with 155lb ft developed at 1800rpm.

Seasoned Smart drivers will instantly recognise the deep, thrummy idle that sounds at odds with the small capacity, and the surging turbo-fed power delivery once moving. Boost arrives smoothly but firmly at around 1600rpm, providing a respectable kick in the back and enough pace to give the Forfour a sprightly feel in traffic.

It’s not quiet, however, and despite the inclusion of a balancer shaft to smooth the triple’s irregular beat, vibrations can be felt through the seat and floor. Those that have bought into the whole Smart experience will no doubt call this a loveable dose of character, but for the rest of us it smacks of poor refinement.

Sadly, another Smart characteristic is the six-speed transmission’s pause between gearchanges. This is a new, improved ’box, but despite promises of a quicker shift time, each change still punctuates progress more than you’d hope. Forget to lift between changes and it’s plain awkward, becoming a chore around town. Still, the CDI is very frugal; Smart claims 64mpg on the combined cycle.

The rest tallies with our previous impressions. It’s interestingly styled, with plenty of space and a fresh approach to small car interiors. What it doesn’t do is drive in a way that makes it better than the competition. There’s negligible steering feel, the ride is choppy over larger intrusions and body roll is pronounced.

Like the Brabus Roadster below, the Forfour is an expensive way to express individuality. But if you’re taken by the Forfour’s looks, the CDI is the one to have.

Adam Towler

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