Smart ForFour Night Sky

Accomplished city car with folding fabric roof

6.4
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 8 reviews
  • Youthful styling
  • Cheap running costs
  • In-town manoeuvrability
  • Not great for long journies
  • Tight back seat
  • Slow basic model
 

£12,940 - £20,610 Price range

 

4 Seats

 

61 - 67 MPG

Review

The Smart ForFour Night Sky is a five-door city car with a folding fabric roof. As with the regular ForFour, the Night Sky rivals models such as the Toyota Aygo X-Wave, Citroen C1 Airscape and the Renault Twingo.

As with the Twingo, with which it shares most of its parts, the ForFour has a rear mounted engine that gives the car an incredibly tight turning circle. Factor in cheap running costs and the Smart’s small dimensions and it is clear the ForFour belongs in the city.

Having the engine mounted under the boot floor frees up passenger space, but the Smart can’t match the Volkswagen Up for interior space and adults will feel crushed on the back seat. Things are not helped by the car’s lack of winding rear windows that accentuate the cabin’s claustrophobic feel.

The ForFour is one of the more pricy small cars on the market, but the extra outlay is balanced by the car’s generous list of standard equipment. Highlights include climate control, remote central locking and cruise control.

 

Get sat behind the steering wheel of the ForFour and it is clear that’s it’s aimed at the youthful end of the market. Smart used a full complement of shapes when building the Smart’s interior and it features circular air vents and a half-circle instrument binnacle, while the main controls are framed by rounded-off rectangles and a rev counter sprouts from the corner of the dashboard like a stubby insect antenna. Choose Proxy trim and you also get blue fabric covering the majority of the dashboard and door cards, which boosts the car’s youthful appeal, but might not be to everyone’s tastes.

One of the biggest selling point of the ForFour Night Sky is its folding-fabric roof that runs nearly the full length of the passenger compartment. It can be opened and closed in just 10 seconds and works at speeds of up to 62mph.

Smart offers the ForFour with a variety of packs that make it readily customisable. One of the best is the £795 Premium Pack, which adds a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat-nav and 3D maps. The system can mirror the display of Android smartphones and includes rear parking sensors.

Smart ForFour passenger space

All ForFours come with backdoors, so that it is easy to access the rear seats. With two six-foot adults sitting in the front, adults of a similar size will feel pretty tight in the back despite the rear seats offering some limited adjustment. The problem’s not helped by the Smart’s lack of winding rear windows, which are replaced with pop-out items that let a limited amount of air into the interior. There’s much more room in the front, but even then you’ll have to fork out £295 for the Comfort package if you want a height adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel.

Smart ForFour boot space

While the ForFour’s 180-litre boot is smaller than the 251 litres you get in a Volkswagen Up, it does hold some advantages over the VW. One of those is the lack of a load lip, thanks to a high boot floor that hides the car’s engine underneath. With the 50:50 split-folding rear seats dropped, maximum boot capacity sits at 975 litres – 16 litres more than you get in the Up.

Driving in town is where the ForFour really shines thanks to its rear-engine design. It allows the Smart an extremely tight turning circle – only a London Cab can turn tighter – making it perfect for driving through traffic-packed streets. Short overhangs and a high driving position also make it a cinch to park with dimensions that are easy to judge even when squeezing into tight spaces.

Leave the city behind you and the ForFour quickly feels out of its comfort zone. The high driving position that makes the car easy to manoeuvre accentuates body lean in the corners and, although there is plenty of grip, the car’s numb steering doesn’t give you much encouragement to corner quickly.

Motorway driving isn’t the ForFour’s strongest suite either, there the car’s slab-sided design is susceptible to crosswinds and you can feel a little exposed when passing large trucks. Despite the ForFour having more sound deadening than the Renault Twingo that it is based upon, there is still noticeable wind and tyre noise at a cruise.

The Smart is available with a pair of small petrol engines that have low running costs in their favour.

Pick of the range is the 90hp 0.9-litre model, which is boosted by a turbocharger to improve performance, but not at the expense of fuel economy. Fitted with it, the ForFour can bound from 0-62mph in a spritely 11.2 seconds, but a top speed of just 103mph means acceleration isn’t brisk at motorway speeds.

Go for the more basic 70hp 1.0-litre model and performance drops off significantly – it crawls from 0-62mph in a leisurely 16.9 seconds, and is one of the few cars on sale that can’t crack 100mph – being all out of puff at 94mph.

To add salt to the wound, the 1.0-litre model’s drop in performance isn’t rewarded with huge fuel economy gains and it returns average fuel economy of 67.3mpg, compared to the 0.9-litre engine’s 65.7mpg. CO2 emissions of under 100g/km mean both models are free to tax.

Mounting the engine at the rear has allowed Smart engineers to turn the front of the ForFour into one huge crumple zone and the car punches above its weight for safety.

It received four stars for safety when it was crash tested under NCAP’s tough 2014 test conditions. Smart conducted its own tests, too, proving that Smart ForFour passengers would survive a 31mph (50km/h) head-on collision with a much larger Mercedes S-Class travelling at the same speed.

Backing up the Smart’s tough passenger safety cell is a stability control system, with crosswind assist, and five airbags. Spend extra and you can boost the Smart’s safety with options such as lane assist (£295) and a collision warning system (£295), but the Smart isn’t available with the automatic emergency braking system that is offered with the Volkswagen Up.

The Smart ForFour Night Sky is available in Prime and Proxy trim levels.

Smart ForFour Night Sky Proxy

To the basic Smart’s generous equipment – which includes climate control, remote central locking and cruise control – Proxy adds 15-inch alloy wheels, a black grille and contrasting roof colour. Buyers can choose to have orange/black upholstery rather than the more conservative grey/black seats, and all models come with heated front seats that’ll keep passengers toasty even with the roof open.

Smart ForFour Night Sky Prime

Prime models have sportier appeal thanks to their larger 16-inch alloy wheels, polished exhaust pipe and sport suspension that is lowered by 10mm. Much of the sporty theme is carried over on the inside, where you’ll find a leather-trimmed steering wheel and polished aluminium pedals.

Buyers now get the option of special edition white and black models. These are based on the existing prime trim but add desirable extras including heated leather seats and sat nav.

Conclusion

With its funky styling, low running costs and superb manoeuvrability, the ForFour will rightly be a popular choice with young city dwellers and the Night Sky model’s folding fabric roof only enhances the Smart’s appeal. It’s at its best in built up areas, though, and longer journeys will soon have you bemoaning its nervous high-speed stability that makes it feel out its depth on motorways where a Volkswagen Up feels perfectly at home on.

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