It came as a shock to many to find a smart that was not only affordable but also a resolutely practical proposition. Until the launch of the forfour, smart had been a rather boutique brand, offering desirable and stylish but rather expensive little cars. The forfour was the company's first toe in mainstream waters and proved instantly popular. Many customers, bored with the likes of the Vauxhall Corsa, the Ford Fiesta or the Peugeot 206, instead went for something with a little more personality and plumped for a forfour instead. Used examples are now emerging and clever buyers can snap up the odd bargain.
It's odd how a product borne from financial expediency can prove so warmly received. While other examples - say Porsche with the Cayenne - get accused of prostituting brand values in the chase for greenbacks, smart's dabble with the mass market, the forfour, has been an instant hit. What's more, it appears to have had no negative effects whatsoever on the company's brand equity. As a brand, smart have sailed through stormy waters and a financial restructuring statement issued in 2004 saw the company cancel plans for a four-wheel drive model and also axe the pricy roadster and roadster-coupe models. Instead an increased focus is being placed on the cash cows, the dinky fortwo and the forfour we look at here.
The reason why MCC needed the Forfour so badly is revealed in their profit and loss accounts. The existing models weren't selling anything like enough and with the sunk costs that had been ploughed into the Smartville plant, it was soon apparent that whichever way you juggled the numbers, the company needed a volume-selling car in order to remain a viable concern. MCC's owners, DaimlerChrysler, were running out of patience and cast about for a partner who could make this happen at minimal cost and came up with Mitsubishi. Sharing 60 per cent of its structure with the Japanese company's Colt supermini, the forfour is cost effective and appealing. Initial production issues were soon ironed out and the forfour range, launched in September 2004, was initially available with 1.1, 1.3 and 1.5-litre petrol engines. Two versions of the 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine were subsequently launched, powered by 68 and 95bhp versions of this fuel efficient unit. A turbocharged BRABUS version of the 1.5-litre emerged as the forfour range topper in May 2005 and coolstyle and purestyle value models appeared in July of that year. The last forfour models were sold by the middle of 2007 as struggling Smart reverted to what it did best with a one citycar line-up.