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Smart ForFour 2004 review: snapshot

What's even more amazing however is the price, because at a starting figure of $23,900 the ForFour is within cooee of main stream models.

We stop short of calling the funky four-seater "ordinary", because the ForFour is anything but ordinary – but you can see what we are getting at here?

The philosophy is simple – if you must drive an econobox, it doesn't have to be a boring one – not when you can have a Smart for around the same price.

To wit the car is available in 30 different combinations of colour.

Readers will no doubt be familiar with the funny little Smart ForTwo that has been getting around for 12 months.

Designed for the narrow, congested streets of Europe's cities, the tiny two-seater works well in its element, but doesn't translate particularly well to the Australian environment – not when you can buy a Japanese hatch for less, that is not much bigger and seats four.

The ForFour on the other hand is an entirely story, as we discovered this week.

Before going on we should explain that Smart is part of the DaimlerChrysler#comcorrect empire which also owns Mercedes-Benz.

Previously the company was a little coy about publicising the Benz connection but is happy to play it up this time.

We should also explain that DaimlerChrysler owns Mitsubishi and that the Smart ForFour and recently released Mitsubishi Colt share many components.

Mitsubishi was responsible for the vehicle underbody, exhaust and tank system, while Smart was took care of the electricals, front axle, crash management and lighting system.

The two cars sit on a different chassis but about 40 per cent of components are shared, including a 1.5-litre engine – but with many differences.

Two versions of the ForFour are available – a 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre model – equipped to sporty European Pulse specifications, but with some extras thrown in.

We're still not sure that two models are really necessary, given Aussies' penchant for larger, more powerful engines, but both models have much to offer.

While the Colt's 1.5-litre engine delivers 72kW of power and 132Nm of torque, ForFour's 1.5-litre cranks out 80kW and 145Nm.

ForFour's 1.3-litre engine meanwhile is good for 70kW and 125Nm.

Transmission is a choice of either five-speed manual or six-speed "soft touch" auto.

We were able to sample both models at the Australian launch this week and can report the ForFour is an exciting and lively addition tot he range.

The look and feel is sporty, with torquey engines that like to rev, a good power to weight ratio and tyres that hang on.

Suspension travel is limited and the car jumps around a bit on bumpy roads, bottoming out from time to time.

Inside rear legroom is good but is at the expense of luggage space.

However the rear seat can be moved backwards or forwards 150mm for more room and tumbles and folds for carrying larger items.

Weighing in at less than 1000kg, the ForFour is a light sipper too, with both engines returning around 6.0L/100km or better using premium unleaded.

It will run on standard unleaded but with a decrease in power.

Standard equipment includes 15-inch alloy wheels, airconditioning, CD player, electric windows for driver and front passenger, 3-spoke steering wheel with electric power steering, remote central locking including drive lock, immobiliser and anti-theft alarm system, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with Hydraulic Brake Assist, anti-lock braking system (ABS) including electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), disc brakes at front and rear, tridion safety cell and side airbags in front.

The Smart ForFour is available from selected Mercedes-Benz dealers.

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Range and Specs

Pulse 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $2,640 – 4,070 2004 Smart Forfour 2004 Pulse Pricing and Specs