smart forfour 1.5 cdi pulse
Our Rating

4/5

smart forfour 1.5 cdi pulse

smart's surprisingly conventional diesel supermini was an excellent effort.

Despite improving sales during 2004, smart came very close earlier this year to being abandoned by parent company DaimlerChrysler. The brand's future was assured with the acceptance of a recovery package (costing over $1 billion) which, among many other things, involved abandoning development of the formore SUV and discontinuing production of the fortwo-based roadster and roadster-coupé.Production of the forfour, however, is unaffected. There's a certain irony in this, since the forfour is nowhere near as radical as the original smart city cars. Far from it - this is easily the most mainstream car smart has ever produced, but in business terms it's the one that works best.Essentially, it's the same thing as a Mitsubishi Colt. The cars are built on the same production line and share the same platform, the same range of engines, and many of the same features, both good and bad. The movable rear seat is one of the good ones - in such a short car you're never really going to get much in the way of either luggage space or rear passenger legroom, but at least here there's a certain amount of flexibility.A bad feature common to the forfour and the Colt is the use of very thick windscreen pillars. These would be a problem on any car, but on a small one there is the added disadvantage that you inevitably sit very close to at least one of them. This maximises the blind-spot effect and makes city driving a more tense affair than you would expect of something that is at least to some extent a city car.Despite almost everything mentioned above, the forfour is by no means just a rebadged Colt. The design philosophies of Mitsubishi and smart do eventually begin to diverge, most noticeably in terms of exterior design. The forfour, which I think looks better in real life than in photographs, is refreshingly different without suffering from an overdose of the cutes.There are two sets of colours to choose from, since the tridion safety cell is always distinguishable from the non-structural panels, and our test car had what I reckon is by far the most effective combination of starlight silver metallic for the panels and titanium (a dark metallic grey) for the cell. Unfortunately, you have to pay extra for this effect, since these colours are options costing £275 and £175 respectively.The interior design relates back to that of the fortwo in many respects, and they nearly all work. One practical objection is that the speedometer is semicircular, which is fine in the fortwo since the speed range doesn't amount to much. The forfour's speedo extends to 130mph, and packing that lot into 180 degrees means that the 10mph increments are very close together. It's easy to glance at the dial and think that you're doing 30mph when closer inspection would reveal that you're rapidly approaching 40.The test car used the 1.5-litre cdi turbo diesel engine in 95bhp form (a 68bhp version is also available). Quite a lot of engine noise finds its way into the passenger compartment, but that's not much of a problem. The only diesel engines which sound really bad are the ones with four cylinders; this one has three, which means it sounds like either a baby Porsche 911 or a monster smart fortwo, depending on how your imagination is working today.More importantly, this is a very gutsy little unit which gives the forfour impressive performance. The figures shown at the end of this article look impressive, but the car's real-world behaviour is much more so. The gearing has been superbly judged - a fraction higher would be too much - so the forfour gives a superb combination of remarkable fuel economy and storming mid-range urge.Furthermore, the forfour matches this performance with both excellent handling (perhaps the turn-in is a little sudden, but not to worry) and equally impressive ride quality. Every Mitsubishi Colt apart from the 1.1-litre is quick enough to send its suspension into confusion and create an uncomfortable ride for the occupants. If any forfour had the same problem, it would be the diesel, but at no stage of this test did I think that the cdi was anything other than a vast improvement on the Colt in this respect.The forfour appealed to me far more than I thought it would. I have never really liked the smart city cars (though I appreciate why a lot of other people do), and I don't think the company got the roadster or roadster-coupé right until it brought tuning company Brabus in to sort things out. I had assumed there would be things about the forfour that I wouldn't like, but there were remarkably few. To me, it's the big surprise of the year so far. Engine 1493cc, 3 cylinders Power 95bhp Transmission 5-speed manual Fuel/CO2 61.4mpg / 121g/km Acceleration 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds Top speed 112mph Price £10,995 Details correct at publication date

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