6

This is the reborn second-generation Smart Forfour - a Daimler-fettled sister car of the recently launched Renault Twingo.

It features the same four-seat, rear-engined, rear-drive configuration – the companies collaborated on the platform and running gear of both cars – but the differences elsewhere are marked. They need to be, given that the step up from the entry-level Twingo to the equivalent Forfour is £2125.

Solid justification can be found for most of the price hike by casting your eye over the kit list. Unlike the Twingo, the Forfour comes with a wealth of equipment.

Standard equipment includes luxuries such as climate control, electric windows, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, Crosswind assist, cruise control and hill start assist. There are also four trim levels – Passion, Prime, Prime Sport and Brabus Sport.

Those pining for a Passion-spec model will see their Forfour anointed with 15in alloy wheels and a fabric upholstery, while Prime adds heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof and an iPad cradle for the rear seats.

The mid-range Prime Sport models gains sports suspension, 16in alloys, chrome exhaust and stainless steel pedals, while the Brabus model sees 17in alloys and an aggressive bodykit.

While those craving a more al fresco ride can opt for the Night Sky ForFours, which come with a retractable cloth roof.

The price walk of just £495 from the two-seat Smart Fortwo also helps the Forfour’s case. 

The Smart’s exterior is different, too, and elements of the interior have been reworked to exude a more upmarket feel. For example, the display in the instrument cluster emulates the look and functionality of that seen in pricier Mercedes-Benz models. There have also been suspension, steering and engine calibration changes.

The Forfour is not as small as you might expect. A five-door Volkswagen Up is only 3.5cm wider and 4.5cm longer, for starters. Still, it’s a compact footprint and one that doesn’t overly compromise interior room.

Yes, leg room in the back can be tight if the front seats are slid back some way, and the boot is smaller than that in the Up, but the cabin feels quite spacious otherwise. The seats and driving position are comfortable for all but the longest trips and some practical compensation is offered by rear seats that fold easily to boost the load space.

It is clear that a lot of finesse has been applied. Grab one of the rotating air vents, for example, and you’ll find that it swivels and holds its position in a slick, solid-feeling fashion. Only some wind noise from around the doors and the lack of a clutch footrest and somewhere proper to put your mobile phone detract from the pleasant ambience.

Where the Smart really strikes a home run is its turning circle. It’s a mere 8.65m, which is well inside the Up’s 9.8m. Consequently, the Smart is a doddle to manoeuvre.

It’s not a bad performer on the road, either. The naturally aspirated 89bhp 898cc triple can be wound out in quite a satisfactory fashion, and there’s also a cheaper 70bhp 1.0-litre triple which acts as the entry model. You’ll have to work your way around the neat, slick gearbox, though, especially if the car is laden or you’re tackling inclines.

The steering is adequately weighted and precise for a city car and there’s little body roll. The ride quality is quite pleasant as well, although the suspension makes a fair bit of noise when tackling more notable disturbances in the road.

As with the Fortwo, the brakes are a little spongy. But there is fun to be had here, and it does feel a little sweeter than the Renault equivalent.

More fun is the Brabus version, which enjoys a 19bhp upgrade, taking the three-cylinder 898cc engine up to 107bhp. The expected exterior upgrades consist of beefed up front bumper, Brabus alloys, rear diffuser and chrome pipes, while revised software speeds up the gearshifts, and the chassis has been upgraded by Mercedes’ performance ally. While those after an eco-friendly version will be able to get their hands on a fully-electric version in 2017.

The quirky-looking Smart Forfour is a pretty decent piece of machinery and it does have its charms; such as it's wide-opening doors, tight turning circle, and its clever and spacious four-seat interior.

However, it's pricey to buy. For less than £12,000 you can have a very well-equipped Volkswagen Up, which matches the Smart in many areas and drives and feels more akin to a car in the class above.

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