fortwo and forfour debut smart new direction
Since being introduced in 1998, over 1.5 million of the smart fortwo city cars have been produced. The company has now revealed the third-generation, with the new fortwo and forfour models boasting a colorful new design, a range of modern engines and turning circles tight enough to take on the narrowest city streets.
The new vehicles the choice of either a 1.0-liter or 898 cc three-cylinder engine. The 1.0-liter engine is naturally aspirated, and makes 52 kW (71 hp) and 91 Nm of torque from 2,850 rpm. The most powerful engine, however, is the smaller of the two. The 898 cc (0.9-liter) engine is turbocharged, and generates 66 kW (90 hp) and 135 Nm from just 2,500 rpm, perfect for zipping in and out of city traffic. A basic 45 kW (60 hp) engine will also be available a few months after launch, and all engines are rear mounted.
Small engines are advancing rapidly of late, with Ford's 1.0-liter EcoBoost winning awards all over the world. So it's no surprise that Daimler has chosen to launch the third-gen models with a range of efficient three-cylinder motors. All engines will be available with a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed dual-clutch auto.
Along with new engines, the new smart fortwo and forfour sport a completely new exterior design. The old Fortwo was a "one-box" design, with no real bonnet. For the new car, smart's designers have taken a more conventional approach, giving the car a more traditional silhouette with a proper hoodline.
At the front of the car, both the forfour and fortwo have a new honeycomb grille, which can be optioned in colors that match or contrast with the body. This contrast theme runs throughout the car. As well as the grille, smart's "tridion" safety cell can be painted in a wide range of colors beyond just the body color, with up to 40 combinations available.
The tridion safety cell is one of smart's biggest calling cards. The cell is made of high-strength, hot formed steel, and is designed to hold up in frontal impacts with larger cars.
On the chassis front, the new vehicles boast a track 100 mm (3.9 in) wider than its predecessor, which allows the wheels to be positioned further out and should help with a more stable feel on the road. Special attention has been paid to the turning circle, which on the fortwo is just 6.95 m (22.8 ft). This is partially due to the Smart's steering, and partially due to its tiny 2.87-m (9.4-ft) wheelbase.
The suspension has also been totally redesigned, with more travel than before for "markedly increased ride comfort." On models with sport suspension, the fortwo and forfour sit 10 mm (0.39 in) lower than the standard car and are more stiffly sprung.
Inside, there are three different trim levels available – Passion, Prime and Proxy. While all cars are fitted standard with features like daytime running lights, upper spec models can be optioned with luxuries like a leather multifunction steering wheel and heated seats.
Big news out of the new interiors is the way it integrates drivers' smartphones into the infotainment system. Cross Connect is a smartphone app that allows people to use internet radio and find parking, and can be integrated through a specially designed cradle in the dash. The advantage of running infotainment through a smartphone is that it is easier to update the system or download apps when required.
For audiophiles, a JBL sound system can be optioned with eight speakers in the fortwo and 12 in the forfour. In the smaller car, the JBL system puts out 240 watts, and uses a six channel amplifier, while the bigger forfour takes advantage of an eight channel amp.
A raft of active safety features is necessary to compete in the small car market, so the new smart cars are available with the option of lane keeping assist and forward collision warning. Standard on all new fortwo and forfours is Crosswind Assist, which is active over 80 km/h (50 mph) and helps prevent the light car getting buffeted around on the highway.
The new smart lineup will be available from November in Europe, with the new fortwo to start at the same price as the current model. The forfour will be around €600 (US$810) more expensive with the same engine.
Daimler's launch video for the new smart lineup is below.