American forfour review

This is not so negative, from the Washington Post:
Downsizing SUVs for the City
2004 smart forfour
By Warren Brown Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, February 8, 2004; Page G01
We were tourists in danger of an accident, lost in the center of Rome in evening rush-hour traffic, experiencing motorized anarchy at its worst.
There were red lights. People drove through them. There were stop signs. Motorists ignored them. There were motorcyclists speeding, darting between moving vehicles, and riding too close to our 2004 "smart forfour" compact sedan. We could have killed them.
Ours was a test drive gone awry. The people at Smart GmbH, the small-car subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz, urged us to avoid Rome's legendary rush-hour madness. But my co-pilot, Paula Champa, an automotive writer from New York, made the mistake of asking me to share navigational duties.
I shared. We got lost. Paula took back the map and told me to drive. Too late! Cars and motorcycles were coming at us from everywhere.
But it proved to be a fortunate error. After all, we had come from the United States to thoroughly check out the smart forfour -- a minimalist urban runner that even eschews capitalization of its product and corporate name.
The forfour is the predecessor of smart vehicles that will begin arriving in the United States in 2006, first as the "smart formore," an all-wheel-drive model best described as an urban sport-utility vehicle (USUV), and then as a "smart fortwo" city coupe and convertible.
The U.S-market smart cars will be bigger and equipped with more powerful engines than the European models -- a corporate marketing decision that seems to undermine their essential value as fuel-efficient, low-polluting city mobiles.
But European auto manufacturers believe that Americans dislike small cars. They fear that small, low-powered cars will be rejected out of hand in the U.S. market.
Thus, from their perspective, it makes sense to introduce the smart formore all-wheel-drive USUV before bringing models such as the smart fortwo coupe, forfour city sedan, or the smart roadster -- all of which are on sale in Europe and other non-U.S. markets.
"We first want to establish credibility by presenting a quality alternative vehicle in a segment [SUVs] that is popular in the United States," said Andreas Renschler, executive vice president of the Mercedes Car Group, which includes smart.
The smart formore will be built on a different platform than the tested front-wheel-drive forfour. But it will retain all of the forfour's virtues -- fuel-efficiency, unique styling (dual-tone, dent-resistant plastic panels, for example), and a city-friendly size.
"City-friendly" means the forfour is easy to park. For example, Paula and I had no problem finding a safe spot to pull off road in congested center-city Rome to look at a map and figure out just how lost we were.
"City-friendly" also means easily maneuverable. I am convinced that had we been in anything larger than the little forfour, we would have been hit at least seven times. But the forfour has the agility of a motorcycle. It steers easily, handles well, and scoots out of harm's way with aplomb.
We were concerned that the forfour's low weight, approximately 2,123 pounds, and its tiny 100-inch wheelbase would work against us in a crash. But our minds were eased by the car's steel-cage crash structure, steel-beam reinforced side-impact barrier protection, three-point seat belts, and dual-front air bag. The forfour also comes with a stability control system to help reduce the risk of rollovers. Front-seat-mounted side air bags are optional.
But, as it turned out in nearly four hours of wandering, we did not need any of those things. We simply needed a compass.
2004 The Washington Post Company
2004 smart forfour city compact (DaimlerChrysler)
Nuts & Bolts
Downside: Although it worked wonderfully well in the city, the forfour needs a bit more oomph and smoother transmission shifts on the highway if it (and its other smart car iterations) are going to please American drivers. The test car came with a 1.1-liter, 75-horsepower, inline three-cylinder, gasoline engine. A 1.5-liter, 95-horsepower, inline four-cylinder engine was available, but was not tested at the time this column was written.
Head-turning quotient: Italy is a big buyer of smart cars. Italian consumers bought 32,600 smart fortwo coupes, convertibles and roadster-coupes last year. That's more than 25 percent of the 124,700 smart cars sold globally in 2003. So the new for 2004 forfour drew lots of favorable attention in Rome and environs. Some of the people ogling the car were happy to give us directions.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Triple aces in tight, bumper-car city traffic. Competent highway acceleration. The car is great for scoots about town and suburbs.
Capacity: The smart forfour, as its name implies, has seating for four people. There is enough rear cargo space for four bags of American groceries. The fuel tank holds 13.7 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.
Mileage: We averaged 38 miles per gallon in combined city-highway wandering.
Prospective U.S. pricing: Of course, no U.S. prices have been set yet on the proposed smart formore all-wheel-drive SUV or on the tested forfour sedan. But look for prices to range from about $15,000 to $25,000. Special hot-rod Brabus smart cars will cost more.
U.S. market prognosis: Both BMW with its Mini Cooper and Mazda with its splendid Mazda 3 have proved that Americans will buy premium small cars if those cars deliver excellent performance and styling, good packaging, fuel economy, reasonable safety, and lots and lots of attitude. The forfour gets a fair grade for city-highway performance. It gets top marks in styling, packaging, fuel economy, safety and, most certainly, attitude. It deserves a shot at the U.S. market along with the tested smart fortwo and really neat smart roadster.
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Yes, but also a lot less informative. Just says that it steers well in big-city streets (but maybe that's the buyers of such cars need to know...).
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling
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