Here we have two sightings of one of the less common, and probably most futile, cars you are likely to see. The story behind the (ab)normal smart car is fairly well-known, with its origins with the Swatch watch company in the 1990s, but the effort to expand the brand in the 2000s has to be one of the more easily predicted failures in the motoring industry.
Mind you, parent company Mercedes-Benz did everything they could to amortise the risk in producing a larger companion for the 2.5 m/98.4 inch long fortwo, as it was retrospectively titled. The forfour was a joint venture with Mitsubishi and its Dutch Nedcar factory, and was a whopping 1.2m/4’ longer than the fortwo.
Under the smart styling cues the car sat on the same platform as the 2003 Colt, with a 1.3L or 1.5L engine and 70-80 kW (94-107 hp). At a tick under $24,000 it was $5,000 more than its factory-mate Colt (with a 1.5L CVT; an auto was $1k more on the smart) and while it had side airbags and stability control to compensate, you lost items such as rear power windows, rear speakers and even electric mirror adjustment. Not to mention the same price would buy a larger, more powerful Golf, Corolla or similar.
Only 900 or so forfours found owners in Australia that wanted to stand out from the crowd and appreciated the ‘smartness’ from 2004 to 2006, and while it may have outsold the fortwo while it was on sale it was hardly a success by any means. A three-year production run for a car is highly unusual, while its companion Colt ran until 2012.
The smart brand as a whole was dropped from Australia last year, although the forfour has been reintroduced in Europe, and is now (as with the fortwo) based on the Renault Twingo.