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Click to view road test review picture gallery“A smarter future.
  That’s what smart has
  in mind for us all.
  In fact, if smart hadn’t
  already been invented,
  somebody would have
  to invent it today...

REFINANCED AND REORGAN-ISED BY ITS DaimlerChrysler parent company, smart has been refocused on its model line-up. Gone are the familiar forfour and roadster models. Now smart is using the thoughtful 'green' bandwagon as the platform to launch its all-new fortwo models in the UK this September.

Last Friday (6 July), smart outlined its plans for Technology in the Future at the media presentation of the 2007 DaimlerChrysler Sustainability Report. Interestingly, the launch of the report was held this year in the UK because of the high profile given to 'green' and 'carbon footprint' issues in this country.

Smart were also an official global partner for the recent Live Earth concerts and currently are paving the way for the new fortwo city cars with a high-profile 'hearts and minds' advertising campaign using the strapline: 'is greatness a matter of size?'

Pollution caused by transport is nothing new, it appears. Dr. Frank Ruff, leader of the Society and Technical Research Group within DaimlerChrysler, opened proceeding by saying that pollution and congestion within our cities is nothing new. "Over 130 years ago in London there was a pollution problem. It was actually forecast in 1873 that if the volume of horse-drawn traffic continued to rise England would be covered by a yard of horse manure by 1961."

Happily, like many doom-and-gloom forecasts that didn't happen due to the invention of powered transport and, of course, Gottlieb Daimler was involved in creating the first motor carriage — which evolved into the car.

Dr Ruff went on to say that: "We are thinking from the outside in, we are questioning the future of the car, not the car itself, but the future of the driving and parking space in the city." In short, his department came up with the view that as we have increasing shortages of space on our roads (and room to park vehicles), we must limit transport usage cost using intelligent resource-efficient solutions. But we also need to meet individual lifestyle and workplace requirements…

Step forward smart. Dr Ruff continued: "Mercedes-Benz had developed their first two-seat city car in the 1980s but it was 1994 before they decided to establish the smart brand having also taken over the Swatch micro-car project. The smart fortwo became the core product and the vehicle went on sale in 1998."

Ruff added that at that time ecology was a low priority issue in the minds of their customers. People bought the fortwo because of its style rather than its environmental credentials. "We see the present day going down in history as a 'tipping point'; as a 'green tipping point'; a point in time where there has been a significant rise in customers who want to lead energy-conscious lifestyles without sacrificing individuality, mobility, comfort and safety. Driving with fun and painlessly green is the central theme here."

Dr Ruff's final words were: "If we hadn't already invented smart, we would have had to invent it today."

After its launch in 1998, the fortwo was subsequently joined by the forfour and the roadster sports car as the smart brand grew but failed to make a profit or find enough customers willing to buy smart as a lifestyle vehicle. Eventually, the forfour and roadster ranges were deleted from the line-up and now the smart brand is about to be re-launched with a new fortwo range. The first fortwo models will still be petrol-engined two-seaters but with more occupant room, more luggage space, more power and improved driveability. Other fuel-efficient models will be added later, but all using the fortwo bodyshell format.

Marc Palmer, product manager for smart in the UK said: "The world has changed now and small cars are the smart option. On 15 September we will be introducing right-hand drive versions of the fortwo with Coupé and Cabrio bodystyles at prices starting from £6,900 and rising to £10,970. Like-for-like, the new models are cheaper than the ones they replace; although they offer more in every area. The three-cylinder 660cc petrol engine has been enlarged to 999cc and it will be available with 61, 71 and 84bhp power outputs.

"Of the 800,000 smart fortwo models sold worldwide since its launch, 50,000 have been sold in the UK. Sales began with left-hand drive only versions in 2000. The best year for sales in the UK was 2003 — when 8,500 were sold — and this year around 2,000 of the current model will have been sold prior to the new and slightly larger second-generation versions going on sale."

The unloved and jerky automated manual transmission has been redesigned, and now has five gears making it smoother in operation thanks in part to having a more powerful and flexible engine. The new car is also more comfortable, safer and more ecological than its predecessor. The overall length has been increased by seven inches, providing more interior space as well as improved front- and rear-end crash protection. An Electronic Stability Programme is standard across the range. Fuel economy is said to average 60.1mpg.

After a brief drive I can confirm that the new fortwo is a great improvement. It looks better, the engine has more power and torque, the transmission is also much improved, the quality of the interior looks better able to compete against 'cult' cars such as the MINI and there is more luggage room. However, the comfort of ride and handling is still poor relative to a conventional small city car.

Additional smart fortwo models to come
At last Friday's European media event, smart took the opportunity to showcase future additional fortwo variants: fortwo diesel cdi and fortwo mhd.

fortwo diesel cdi
To go on sale in mainland Europe, and under serious consideration for the UK, is the 'CO2 champion' as smart refers to it. This model could be available in left-hand drive form — initially to gauge UK public reaction — in the first half of next year. The 799cc three-cylinder power unit is the world's smallest direct injection diesel engine producing 45bhp but with 81lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm. This model is claimed to return 85mpg with CO2 emissions of 88g/km — the lowest on the market. Top speed is 84.3mph with 0-62mph covered in 19.8 seconds.

fortwo mhd (micro hybrid drive)
This model is likely to be introduced to the UK market in the second part of next year, again available initially in left-hand drive.

The fortwo mhd uses the new 999cc, three-cylinder petrol engine with 71bhp and 68lb ft of torque at 4,500rpm. Where it differs is in its use of a 'stop-start' or 'switch-off' function in idling mode. A similar system is already used by PSA and BMW for some of their models. Mercedes will roll this system out to models in their range as well.

The mhd or 'micro hybrid' drive refers to the use of a belt-driven starter/generator that supplies the vehicle's electrical system but has a secondary function as a starter motor.

Unlike the current use of the word 'hybrid' to describe vehicles using petrol or diesel engines in conjunction with an electric motor, smart's use of hybrid refers to this stop-start system and it could mean they are exempt from congestion charging.

When driving in traffic, applying the footbrake and bringing the smart mhd to a halt will turn off the engine. Take your foot off the brake and the engine instantly restarts. Using the new fortwo 999cc engine with the stop-start function can lead to fuel savings of eight per cent on average and 13 per cent in city traffic with a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions from 112g/km to 103g/km. Maximum speed of the fortwo mhd is 90.6mph with 0-62mph covered in 13.3 seconds.

In practise, this system really does work very well and it is easy to suggest that all petrol-engined smarts should adopt this technology as standard, especially as they are taking such a high profile stance on being 'green'. What we do not know is how much it would add to the price of the vehicle, although on environmental grounds it makes very good sense.

Smart fortwo ed (electric drive) Surprise of the day was the announcement that smart is to provide 100 of these vehicles exclusively for use in London. The prototype cars are based on the current fortwo (not the new bodyshell), and they will all be right-hand drive vehicles that will be leased to fleet operators for use by the business community. The vehicles will also be on trial with four London Boroughs

London is considered to be the most appropriate theatre because the driving conditions are ideal, the vehicles are exempt from congestion charges and the heavy stop-start traffic makes this a 'living experiment'.

The experiment will last for four years with each car covering between 40,000 and 50,000 miles. The performance and durability of each car will be monitored by DaimlerChrysler in the UK and ten years is considered to be the life of the battery. Following the trials — if successful — production versions using the new fortwo with a new generation of sodium-nickel-chloride batteries, said to be currently two years away from availability, will go on public sale.

According to smart, it takes eight hours for the prototype fortwo ed model's batteries to be fully charged, but for vehicles having an on-board regenerative charging facility this drops to around 3.5 hours. The batteries can, incidentally, be charged from a normal household 13-amp electric socket. Although electricity is, in the main, produced from fossil fuels, smart say the CO2 rating of their fortwo ed equates to 60g/km, albeit the actual vehicle emissions are zero. The distance between battery charges is a little over 70 miles. The fortwo ed has a top speed of 70mph but the acceleration is swift: 37.5mph is reached in 5.7 seconds.

The smart fortwo ed has no combustion engine: the 41bhp magnetic electric motor is fitted in the rear of the car and driven by a high-performance, high-temperature battery fitted between the sandwich floor layers in the centre of the vehicle. And the fortwo ed manages with just two gears: a single forward gear and a reverse gear. Switch on, push the accelerator and the car moves swiftly and seamlessly away from standstill with no more than a jet-like whistle. There is no gear changing; just push and go, and brake to stop. Easy driving = and the acceleration allows the driver to keep up with the speed of traffic on less busy town or city commuter roads. One day, I suspect, all cars will be as smart. — David Miles

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