Review: Smart Forfour (2004 – 2006)

Rating:

Funky-looking, versatile hatch with plenty of safety kit. Manual versions drive well. Four stars for the diesels, by far the best in the line-up.

Slow gearshifts with the semi-auto. Not all second-hand ones will have a three-point seatbelt for the middle rear seat. Could have been a contender but arrived two years too late.

Recently Added To This Review

14 February 2017

Report of actuator astarting to fail on Smart ForFour automated manual. W hen the car is at idle and in A, if driver presses lightly on the accelerator it seems to jump in and out of gear. Same happens... Read more

11 March 2014

2005 Smart ForFour 1.5 Softouch automated manual stuck in gear. MB Tonbridge first replaced the battery for £181 but that did not cure it. Fault was with actuator, replaced in 1 hour. After the... Read more

16 June 2005

New Forfour Purestyle at just £7,295 and Coolstyle at £8,595 from August 2005. Read more

Smart Forfour (2004 – 2006): At A Glance

Why do all small cars have to be so boringly the same?

Polo, Fiesta, Yaris, Mazda 2, Clio, 206. Theyve all got an engine in the front and three or five doors. And theyre all basically boxes. The only exception is the Honda Jazz which is very clever inside, but still a five-door box outside.

This huge chunk of the car market badly needed shaking up. And heres the car to do it. The first sensibly priced five-door hatchback that screams fun, fun, fun.

The smart forfour isnt a single car. Its a proper range with five different engines to choose from, two different gearboxes and a simple yet clever interior.

Actually its forfive because there are five proper three point seatbelts in there and plenty of room for three big bums across the back seat. This slides backwards and forwards, Yaris-like, by about six inches, which is enough to give limo-like legroom at the expense of the shopping bags in the back. But theres still plenty of room, with a luggage capacity slightly better than cars like the new Fiesta. Unlike the Yaris, the seats also bi-fold to leave a big, fairly flat floor and up to 910 litres of luggage space up to window level.

Smart ForFour 2003

Smart ForFour 2004 Road Test

 

Smart Forfour (2004 – 2006): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 3752 mm
Width 1684 mm
Height 1450 mm
Wheelbase 2500 mm

Full specifications

It doesn't lack much either, as an entry-level model. You get four-wheel disc brakes with ABS with Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Acceleration Skid Control. There's power steering, electric front windows, a radio/CD player, a sliding, folding rear seat with a 60/40 split backrest (though unlike the Colt's it doesn't remove). There are oddment spaces for just about everything you could chuck at them. The coloured plastic panels are all deformable, so shrug off minor bumps. And, don't believe first driving reports, as long as you go for a manual, the car drives very well.

Child seats that fit a Smart Forfour (2004 – 2006)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Smart Forfour (2004 – 2006) like to drive?

At first, the steering of the 1.1 felt a bit sticky and dead compared to the featherlight Colt. But I soon get used to it and found I could push the Forfour a lot harder on corners. It doesn't shout ‘fun' like a MINI, but it can still run rings around most of the cars in its class, including the Fiesta, 206, Polo and Jazz. The car has the same gutsy 75PS three-cylinder engine as the Colt, which doesn't make it a sportscar by any means, but it's enough. And because SMART specifies different springs and suspension bushings for the Forfour, it handles better than the Colt, with no tail wagging at speed.

That's the base model. If you have more money to spend, forget the other 1.1s and even the 1.3s. Go for one of the diesels. The twin-chain-cam four-cylinder 1.5 litre common-rail direct injected engine sets a new standard for small diesels. It comes in two outputs: 68PS and 95PS, a £1,000 price hike achieved simply by reprogramming the ECU because the engines are otherwise the same.

The 68PS Forfour diesel grips better at the front than the 1.1 and, with a lot more torque, feels much punchier out of corners and roundabouts. It's still not quite as much fun as a MINI, but enjoyable and nippy enough to match the Forfour's cheeky looks.

The more powerful 95PS felt sporty the first few metres I drove it. The steering was much more positive and I could feel the front tyres clawing the road surface. The one I drove was the cheapest £10,995 Pulse spec on standard 14" steel wheels with 175/65 R14 tyres. Yet it was a hoot. Quick and grippy when I wanted it to be. Docile when I didn't. Maybe it is yet another case of standard wheels and tyres feeling much better than the marketing men's big alloys with wide ultra low profile rubber.

I spent a couple of hours revisiting Cheadle Hulme where I lived as a nipper and hadn't seen for nearly 40 years. Trying to retrace the walk to and from school after 40 years of town planning meant a lot of stops and starts, and the Forfour didn't object at all. In fact the Forfour received its first compliment parked at the front of the school, from a mum picking up her son with a Jeep Cherokee. She not only noticed it, she was keen enough to tell me she thought it was a really nice car.

I could write endlessly about the trim combinations, the long as your arm option list, the interchangeable coloured plastic panels that allow you to change your car without changing your car. But you'll find all that in the detail below.

Just a few last things: Go for the phone kit that turns your car into a phone because it uses a plug-in cradle adaptor for your existing phone rather than Bluetooth. Swap your phone and you swap the adaptor. This makes the car friendlier to more phones than the sometimes incompatible Bluetooth kits.

A mere £80 buys you a third lap and diagonal rear belt and headrest, turning the Forfour into a Forfive.

SMARTs have aroused so much enthusiasm that the SMART Club is now the second biggest one make car club in the UK, second only to the MG Car Club. (www.thesmartclub.co.uk)

If 109PS isn't enough for you, at sometime next year there will be a 180PS Forfour Brabus.

And if you fancy a 75PS £7,995 Black, grab one soon. Next year it gets replaced with a 66PS Pure model with less kit for the same money.

Finally, someone's bound to ask, so I'll anticipate the question. If I had the choice between a SMART Forfour and a MINI Cooper for the same money, which would I go for?

It would have to be the SMART Forfour 95PS CDI Passion in Silver Tridion with the melon green metallic panels like the car pictured in front of the shops. Until I changed my mind about the colour.

UPDATE 23 JANUARY 2005

A week in a 95PS CDI Passion confirmed my choice. I did about 500 miles and averaged around 45mpg. Gearing in 5th gives about 28mph per 1,000 rpm, which is about right. It's a bit noisy, but not excessively so and the radio volume automatically rises to compensate. Handling and grip on 195/50 R15s was very good, eveh quite sporty. The diesels definitely handle better than the petrol cars.

 

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.0 50–52 mpg 15.3 s 128–133 g/km
1.1 50 mpg 13.4 s 135 g/km
1.3 47 mpg 10.8 s 143 g/km
1.5 48 mpg 9.8 s 140 g/km
1.5 CDI 68 59 mpg 13.9 s 116 g/km
1.5 CDI 95 59 mpg 10.5 s 126 g/km
Brabus 42 mpg 6.9 s 159 g/km

Real MPG average for a Smart Forfour (2004 – 2006)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

93%

Real MPG

28–68 mpg

MPGs submitted

44

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Smart Forfour (2004 – 2006)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Recovery firm wants to charge me £138 - should I pay?

My 10 year old Smart Forfour lost its oil while driving recently. I stopped immediately and arranged for recovery to my local garage with my recovery provider. After a 10 day wait for a replacement sump the car was repaired at my expense. At the breakdown companies request I sent them a copy of the repair invoice to (I thought) prove that the car was repaired and roadworthy. To my astonishment they have now sent me a bill for £138 saying that this fault is damage to the underside of the vehicle and is something that could be claimed from my insurance company. Having paid for my recovery policy and for the repair to the car where do I now stand with respect to this unexpected bill from the breakdown company?
Many breakdown policies do not cover damage; they only cover breakdowns. The same is true of the AA and RAC. But, of course, if you claim the £138 from your insurer this could cost you more than £138 in subsequent increased premiums.
Answered by Honest John
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