Last year took plenty of cars out of production, some good, some forgettable. One more didn’t make it to 2022 and it’s gone without anyone noticing. The Smart Forfour is dead as the automaker gears up to make an SUV.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Smart. About 14 years ago, 15-year-old me fell in love with the brand and its quirky cars. I couldn’t get enough of the plastic panels, transparent roofs and contrasting colours. My love for Smart is admittedly one I share with few other Americans. Most people felt that the brand’s sole vehicle, the Fortwo, was too small, too expensive and didn’t get good enough fuel economy. The faster Brabus models never made it here, neither did the efficient diesels. Europe always got the forbidden fruit.
Smart also built a four seat hatch riding on the platform of the Renault Twingo. We didn’t get that car either, and now it’s dead.
In my decade of Smart ownership I’ve heard all sorts of explanations why people didn’t pick a second-generation model up. Some didn’t like the pricing, some questioned the safety and some just didn’t want to deal with the Mercedes-Benz dealership network. Most people said that the car was too slow with a transmission too clunky and a suspension too hard.
And it was hard to ignore the requirement for premium fuel in a vehicle that got about the same fuel economy as a Honda Fit.
In 2014 (2015 in America) Smart released the antidote to most of those complaints. The third-generation model was significantly faster, softer on your fillings and had a quick-shifting transmission. It was wider to better fit American bodies. The engine didn’t get more efficient, but at least it didn’t get worse. And if you didn’t like computers swapping cogs for you, it could be optioned with a manual transmission.
This new car shared a platform and most of its components with the third-generation of the Renault Twingo. But the new cars weren’t just Fortwos as Smart introduced the four-seater Forfour. Yep, a four seat rear engine turbocharged hatchback with the option for a manual. We found the new Fortwo to be pretty good, and the Forfour was really just more of it.
Myself, along with other American Smart owners, thought this could improve Smart’s American sales. Sadly, when I asked SmartUSA back then why the Forfour never made it to our shores, it told me that it felt the Fortwo would sell better. The Fortwo’s sales were never good.
Smart ultimately stopped selling gasoline-powered vehicles in America after 2017, before cutting the cord entirely in 2019. Smarts soldiered on elsewhere, but it didn’t last long with less than stellar sales. In 2019, Mercedes-Benz began a 50 per cent partnership with Geely. The deal was that Geely would begin building Smarts in China in 2022 while Mercedes-Benz offered a helping hand. But those vehicles? Electric SUVs.
That time is coming quick and Smart is ceasing production of the current generation of cars to prepare.
The Forfour wasn’t built in Smart’s Hambach, France facility, but one in Slovenia. Production concluded in December 2021. It ended so quietly that not even I noticed. We don’t know a whole lot about the SUV slated to lead the new generation of Smarts.
When it is released this year it will be about the same size as a Mini Countryman and riding on Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture electric platform. And of course, it’s not coming to America.
The Fortwo is also on the chopping block, and whenever it ceases, Smart’s factory in France will go to Ineos for its Grenadier 4x4s. It’s not known when that will happen, but when it does it’ll be the end of an era. Smart is an SUV brand now.