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Car buyers guide

Smart Forfour 1.1 Pulse

October 2004

picture of car from the front picture of car from the rear picture of car interior picture of car detail

Likes:

  • Funky styling a refreshing change in conservative market
  • Generous levels of interior space make the Forfour surprisingly versatile
  • Large range of extras allow buyers to personalise their purchase
  • Manual gearshift a welcome addition to a Smart vehicle

Gripes:

  • 1.3 and 1.5-litre petrol engines offer only a small advantage over the 1.1
  • Semi-auto gearbox still lacks refinement and delivers jerky upshifts
  • Going mad with the options list will hit you hard in the wallet
  • Low-cost 'Black' variant lacks the visual glamour of the rest of the range

It was only a matter of time before Smart took the plunge and directed its attention towards the traditional supermini market. Aside from being based on Mitsubishi's conventional Colt, the Forfour is anything but straightforward. Familiar Smart styling traits have successfully transferred from the company's other products, and the car boasts a cabin that rivals regular superminis for both space and versatility.

The supermini sector may think that it's a market full of stylish cars about town, but the reality is that, of late, car makers have opted for the conservative route. With superminis proving the most popular among private buyers, unleashing a radical-looking variant on the general public might prove disastrous for a firm's bottom line.

Save for the Mini, no car has really broken through the style barrier and stolen buyers hearts in the same way that BMW's baby has. Smart believes its Forfour offers a similar amount of charm and will some day rival the Mini in terms of popularity and sales.

In the Forfour's defence, the car does look cute - but needs to be specified in the right (or should that be bright?) shade for the maximum effect. The car's cabin is another area where fun wins the day. While you won't see oversize circular dials you do see chunky control surfaces and a distinctly un-Mini-like amount of space. The former help to detract from the car's Mercedes and Mitsubishi roots (it shares its underpinnings with the Colt), while the latter means your friends won't be impersonating sardines - unlike if sat in the Mini.

So far so good, but the Forfour is more than just one of Smart's buzzy two seat Fortwos with extra doors. Granted the family resemblance is there along with the Porsche 911 howl of the entry-level three-cylinder engine, but the inclusion of a regular manual gearbox across the range, diesel engines and big car levels of occupant safety and space should signal to anyone wavering that this is one supermini that thinks big.

Our verdict on the Smart Forfour 1.1 Pulse

Some critics will dismiss Smart's Forfour as a style-led supermini with a premium price tag. To do so is to miss the point. Careful selection can produce a car with the right kit, in a decent colour combination and powered by a sensible engine for a reasonable outlay. You'll be in good company if you want to treat the Forfour as fashionable indulgence, though. Just like the Mini, you can spend a fortune in a bid to make your car stand out from the crowd. Either way, the four-door Smart is worthy of recommendation.