The 1.0-litre 70 feels quite pedestrian by the standards of the class, particularly below 2500rpm, and you have to keep the revs up to avoid stalling when you pull away. However, once you get used to it, the engine is fine for town use, but on faster roads its lack of power makes keeping up with traffic hard work, and overtaking tricky.
The addition of a turbo to the slightly smaller 0.9-litre 90 makes it much sprightlier. It picks up smartly from low revs and has a wide spread of power. If you venture out of town, and to open roads and motorways, it has enough punch to get up to speed and cruise at a steady 70mph with ease, making it the one we recommend.
For something sportier there’s the Brabus version. This uses the same 0.9-litre engine, but boosted to 107bhp. While acceleration is brisker, it’s far from quick, so we’d recommend going for a Mini Cooper instead.
Opt for the 80bhp electric model and it offers smooth, zippy acceleration off the line, which is very useful around town – although it doesn’t feel quite so urgent as the acceleration you get in the smaller Fortwo.
Smart Forfour ride comfort
Prime and Passion trims come with 15in wheels and standard suspension, the most comfortable package for a Forfour. Even then, compared with the well-controlled ride in a VW Up, the Smart fidgets too much over patchy surfaces, and is quite bouncy across a series of dips and crests.
We’d suggest you avoid the sports suspension and larger 16in wheels supplied with Proxy trim. While the firmer settings produce slightly better body control, the suspension’s extra stiffness means the car thumps and crashes over speed bumps and large potholes. The same is true of the even more stiffly sprung Brabus version.
Smart Forfour handling
The Smart Forfour’s 8.7m turning circle is over a metre tighter than the VW Up’s. This, and the fact that the steering is really light, means that it can perform U-turns like a London cab, and doesn’t require much effort to park in tight spaces. The downside is that it needs a lot of turns to go from lock-to-lock, so you have to do a fair amount of arm twirling to get around tight bends. It also provides a lot less feedback on faster roads than, for example, a VW Up’s steering.
On the standard suspension the Smart suffers from a bit of body roll in corners, while the fact that the engine’s located in the back of the car makes it feel less grippy at the front than its rivals. There’s a Crosswind Assist system fitted as standard but even so, the Hyundai i10 or Up feel more stable at speed.
The sports suspension reduces much of the Forfour’s body roll and improves stability but even so, it’s nowhere near as fun to drive as the Up. Likewise the Brabus model. It might claim to have hot-hatch credentials, but a Mini Cooper and Fiesta ST are leagues better in the bends.
The handling is better on electric models. The electric battery is stored under the seats which adds more weight to the car but gives it a lower centre of gravity. That, along with firmer suspension, helps to keep body roll in check.
Smart Forfour refinement
Smart says the Forfour is 40kg heavier than the Renault Twingo, the model’s close relative, because it has extra sound-deadening material. Even so, you still hear quite a lot of the engine’s three-cylinder thrum, especially at high revs.
There’s also noticeable wind noise from around the front pillars and doors at higher speeds, and you can hear the suspension thudding away beneath you on bumpy surfaces.
In addition, the 1.0-litre engine needs to be revved quite hard to avoid stalling it off the line. This, plus the vague clutch and brake pedal feel, makes the Forfour tricky to drive smoothly around town. On the plus side, the five-speed manual gearbox does have a light and slick action.
The Brabus version gets a sportier exhaust that does make it louder, but this is in keeping with the character of the car. The electric model is blissfully quiet around town. Out on faster roads road noise is quite noticeable, as well as a bit of wind noise.
This non-turbo 1.0-litre has adequate performance for pottering around town. However, venture onto more open roads and it needs to be worked hard to keep pace with traffic.
Our pick 0.9-litre 90 Turbo petrol
This is our favourite engine. The extra power from the turbo means it works well in town or on the motorway, while it still delivers good fuel economy and low emissions.
0.9-litre 109 Turbo
Fitted to the Brabus ForFour model only, it has 107bhp for a bit more poke. However, 0-62mph takes 10.5secs so it’s not exactly quick by hot-hatch benchmarks. Comes with a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox as standard, which is quite clunky in stop-start traffic.
80bhp Electric Drive
The electric Forfour is a hoot around town. Its nippy acceleration will help you see off just about everything from the traffic lights up to about 20mph, and it’s delightfully quiet as well. It’s not well suited to motorway journeys though. There’s a lot of road noise and it feels underpowered at high speeds.