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Smart ForFour

Down tools, the Smart is back on the road! Our ForFour has endured a turbulent couple of months... and only now is it up to full strength

  • Economy, twin sunroofs, looks, Mercedes switchgear
  • Unacceptable mechanical fault, dealer service, semi-auto in town, doors need slamming to close properly
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Down tools, the Smart is back on the road! Our ForFour has endured a turbulent couple of months... and only now is it up to full strength again. As we first reported in May, the ForFour had an undiagnosed fault. At 30mph and above, a low-pitched humming sound was audible over the usual engine, tyre and wind noise.

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We took the hatch into Smart's aftersales centre in Brentford, west London, where technicians spent the day trying - and failing - to find the problem. Even though they claimed the car had a clean bill of health, the noise was still heard by several different drivers and passengers. The only answer was to get a second opinion from another workshop.

So a few weeks later, when visiting family in the Midlands, I called into the firm's Wolverhampton site, which shares facilities with a Mercedes dealer. Initial impressions were good, and a polite technician drove our Smart, with me as a passenger.

Within minutes, he heard the mystery sound, and said he recognised it. The diagnosis was confirmed on a ramp in the workshop, when he delivered the alarming verdict that KP54 VEB needed a new gearbox! The good news was that a fresh transmission was fitted within three days - just in time for me to return the following weekend to pick up the car.

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But even with a replacement box, the ForFour was as noisy as ever. Only after further investigation did the mechanics discover the fault was a rear wheel bearing - which was what we'd suggested two months earlier! One needless new gearbox and several man hours later, we had a quiet Smart once again, thankfully paid for under warranty. The garage even stumped up for my train fare from London to collect the five-door.

So has the car made its last trip to the garage for now? Unfortunately not. During its time in Wolverhampton, the on-board computer decided a service was due earlier than expected.But why didn't the dealer take the initiative and do the check-up then? We now have to wait for a free slot at Brentford.

All this has taken the shine off Smart ownership. The ForFour is still a stylish and economical supermini, yet niggles include the lack of a parcel shelf and a gearbox which is a pain in traffic. Once it's serviced, maybe we'll learn to love the car again - but for now it's definitely in the doghouse.

Second Opinion

While I couldn't help being drawn to the ForFour's cute looks, the gearbox soon became frustrating. Its laboured, jerky changes made it hard work in town, which is unacceptable in a small hatchback. The interior will appeal to the style conscious, but I think the dash materials already look a little dated. It's really frugal, though.
Marc Mustard, staff writer

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