Daimler’s joint venture with Renault has split its Smart brand’s production base once again, the two-seat Fortwo Coupé and Cabriolet being built at its long-time factory in Hambach, Germany, but its four-seat Forfour being made in Renault’s Novo Mesto plant in Slovenia alongside the related Renault Twingo.
Unlike its direct predecessor, though, the Forfour is ostensibly a stretched Fortwo. At just under 3.5m in length, it’s small even by city car standards – just as you’d hope a Smart would be – and because its front wheels are unencumbered by having an engine stuck in between them, it also has a 9.1m turning circle, which is a good 10 percent tighter than the average supermini’s.
Where piston-engined Forfours are concerned, customers can choose between 70bhp 1.0-litre normally aspirated, 89bhp turbocharged 0.9-litre and 108bhp 0.9-litre turbo petrol engines – all of them cradled underneath the boot floor and driving the rear wheels.
In this Electric Drive version, the space the petrol engine would otherwise occupy is taken by an 80bhp, 118lb ft AC synchronous electric motor, which drives the rear wheels through reduction gearing.
The motor draws its power from a lithium ion drive battery housed under the cabin floor, with 17.6kWh of storage in all.
That’s slightly less than you get in a Volkswagen e-Up and quite a lot less than you get in the base-level Renault Zoe.
Range is claimed to be 95 miles on the notoriously unreliable NEDC driving cycle test – not exactly stellar by EV standards. Then again, if any kind of electric car can carry off a limited battery range, it’ll be an urban specialist like a Smart.
Suspension – overhauled significantly for the launch of the current Fortwo and Forfour – is via front MacPherson struts and a rigid rear axle that is similar in concept to a torsion beam set-up but tailored to suit the Smart’s particular packaging and its need to accommodate rear-wheel drive.
Coil springs are standard, while the car comes on 15in alloy wheels of mixed rim widths, although our test car came on optional, wider 16s.
The published kerb weight for the Forfour Electric Drive is 1200kg on the nose, making the car 225kg heavier than the equivalent 1.0-litre Forfour but marginally lighter than the e-Up. It is still unquestionably a very heavy city car, then, but not exceptionally so.