These ingredients though, have been put together with care and flair to create quite an aspirational, premium choice in this class.
There’s a price to pay for this of course, but it’s not exorbitant and the issues of practicality, efficiency and connectivity have all been very cleverly thought through. In short, if you’re shopping in this segment, you’d probably like one.
The car comes to us as part of a joint development that’s also brought us the third generation Renault Twingo and, as with that model, the engineering’s slick enough to disguise the unusual configuration. Take a drive in the forfour and if you didn’t already know that the engine was in the back, you’d be unlikely to guess the fact – which is probably about as big a compliment as I could pay smart regarding this forfour's handling neutrality. Essentially, though the driving position is a little more commanding than most, in every other respect, on first acquaintance at least, it feels just like any other modestly-powered city runabout.
Or at least it does until you come to tightly twirl the wheel. In this car, the front wheels can turn to an impressive 45 degree angle, more typically, urban runabouts are limited to about 30-degrees. As a result, the car offers a super-tight turning circle of just 8. 65m.
The engine most buyers will opt for, the 71bhp 1. 0-litre petrol unit, three cylinders in size - as is common in this segment - but offering a mere 91Nm of pulling power, which explains the distinctly leisurely performance.
If you really can’t face going quite that slowly and feel prepared to pay a little more for your forfour, then you will quickly be directed towards the other mainstream engine on offer, the more modern 90bhp unit the brand has borrowed from Renault. It too is a three cylinder similarly sized petrol powerplant, but the addition of turbocharging makes quite a difference, upping pulling power by nearly 50% to a heady 135Nm and improving the 0-62mph time to a more acceptable – and probably more achievable – 11. 2s.
A smart needs to look like one – as the forfour does. So there’s the familiar distinctive outline of the tridion safety cell as part of the usual fashionable two-tone paint finish, and a design that’s pretty much identical to that of the brand’s smaller fortwo model from the A-pillars forward. Basing the car on smart’s tiniest offering means that the second generation forfour must be a size smaller than it was in MK1 model guise, citycar rather than supermini-shaped.
In fact, it’s very small indeed, the mere 350cm length making the five-door design actually more compact than three-door citycars like Fiat’s 500 and Ford’s Ka. Indeed, it’s only 80cms longer than the miniscule fortwo. To facilitate this, the bonnet’s tiny, helping with a turning circle that’s tighter than that of a taxi. Such are the benefits of smart’s decision to put the engine in the rear.
Being rear-engined defines the 3. 5-metre-long car in other ways too. With no oily bits at the pointy end, the front wheels can be pushed right to the corners, which improves stability - as well as increasing cabin space to such an extent that the interior of the forfour is virtually as big as that of a Fiesta-sized supermini from the next class up. As a result, some have hailed this design as one of the most significant small runabouts we’ve seen since the original Mini.
Its smartly fashionable inside too, the dashboard a two-piece affair, with the upper part trimmed in a lovely mesh-effect fabric coating that looks great, though I wouldn't want to have to try and get melted chocolate out of it. This can be colour-co-ordinated alongside the central seat facings and the middle panels in the doors, with orange, blue or black themes, depending on the model you choose.
Most eyes though, will be drawn towards the centre console, particularly in a plush model fitted with the brand’s clever smart Media-System with its 7-inch touchscreen display and 3D navigation set-up.
Otherwise, your main tools of operating functionality are housed in the semi-circular binnacle you view through the three-spoke leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel.
You’ll be expecting low running costs from your forfour and, by and large, they don’t disappoint. The 71bhp 1. 0-litre forfour model is capable of returning 67. 3mpg on the combined cycle and 97g/km of CO2, which, as you’d anticipate, is pretty much the same as you’d get in the equivalent version of this car’s Renault Twingo design stablemate – and only fractionally more than you’d record at the wheel of smart’s tiny fortwo.
Go for the other mainstream forfour engine option, the 90bhp 0. 9-litre turbo unit, and your fuel and CO2 figures will stay much the same – expect 65. 7mpg on the combined cycle and 99g/km of CO2. All of these figures are extremely class-competitive and whatever your engine choice, opting for the ‘twinamic’ automatic gearbox has virtually no impact on your running cost returns.
Here, at last, is a smart model that can really build on the success of the brand’s little fortwo. The forfour takes all that’s good about that little city runabout and adds the extra seating and versatility that many urban drivers will need.
Yes, some other rivals might be cheaper, slightly more efficient or a little better built. In buying any one of them though, you’ll miss out on the cleverness that you’ll enjoy every day in this car. When marvelling at how easy it is to see out of, how simple it is to park, and how tightly it can turn. An ordinary conventional citycar can’t function in this way – and after driving a forfour, you might start to wonder why. Here perhaps, you might think, is a more definitive take on fashionable city motoring – for four.