The smart fortwo is a completely new, intelligent concept for automotive individuality and this is reflected in a fresh, young and modern yet sophisticated design language. And although there were no role models that the designers could have referred to, the two-seater has become a trendsetter in the small car class in terms of its appearance. The automotive icon combines seemingly contradictory demands on function, aesthetics and safety technology to create something completely new.
Right from the beginning the designers had the task of exploring new approaches and integrating a social function as a target: the oil crises in the early 1970s and 1980s that were the first hints to the world that natural resources are finite, the success of the car and the growth of private transport in general, increased pollution and a shortage of parking space in cities.
The new vehicle would need to awaken positive curiosity, but not completely disregard existing ways of looking at objects. The concept alone of this ultra-short, two-seater vehicle should touch people in a positive way through its form, but at the same time they should be able to take it seriously.
The stylists were inspired by everyday objects: by fashion, modern architecture and furniture and the use of materials and their different combinations.
Safety cell and bodypanels are bold highlights
The result is a polarising design that confidently makes structural elements such as the tridion safety cell a significant part of the car's design. This clearly communicates the safety function it has been designed to perform. There could hardly be a more eloquent expression of that most basic principle of design, that form must follow function.
A further feature is the mix of materials consistently realised in a production vehicle for the first time with a hard core (tridion) and a flexible and functional shell consisting of thermoplastic bodypanels. This makes the smart unique.
An intelligent car with a soul and a likeable character
Clarity and modernity characterise the shape. The smart fortwo has a strong, athletic appearance. This impression is emphasized by the wide track and the wide standard tyres, for example. The horizontal lines make the rear end appear wider and give the smart fortwo a beefier appearance.
The horizontal door handle cleverly takes up the shoulder line just below the window edge. It runs into the front wing and the projection headlights that are unique in this vehicle class. These lend the smart fortwo a high-tech and grown-up face. In addition, the indicators are integrated in the headlights.
The rear window is slightly slanted, making the smart fortwo sporty and elegant. The rear view of the smart fortwo is adorned by four rear lights. The rear window reaches across almost the whole width of the vehicle and is framed by two black high-gloss panels.
Unique in the small car segment is the ultra-light yet high-strength polycarbonate panoramic roof (not for the pure line). Another unique feature worldwide is the electric soft top of the cabrio version: it is fully automatic and can be infinitely adjusted to any position. The smart fortwo does not have to be stationary for the soft top to be opened or closed – this can be done at any speed. The rear part of the soft top can also be opened to the final position and closed again at the touch of a button. This is a prime example of the outstanding comfort offered by this small, open two-seater vehicle. All that remains for the full cabrio experience is to remove the side roof bars. These can be taken out in next to no time and stowed in a special compartment in the tailgate.
Interior conveys lightness
The interior features new lines and demonstrates unusual approaches. The instrument panel runs straight and is framed by two bows on the left- and right-hand sides that represent a visual continuation of the structure of the tridion safety cell and support the upper and lower wings of the instrument panel. The lower wing has a soft foam backing and also serves as a knee pad in the event of a crash. The suspended arrangement of the instrument panel conveys lightness and makes the interior of the new smart fortwo wholly unique. Elements such as the externally mounted air vents and the rev counter and clock on the dashboard already helped to give the original smart fortwo a distinctive touch.
The driver can see the centrally positioned speedometer and a large display through the two-spoke or sporty three-spoke steering wheel. The control unit for heating, air conditioning and ventilation has a central, ergonomic position on the centre console and is framed by two further air vents.
The large audio unit is located below the heating and air conditioning controls. Customers can choose between a standard CD radio or one with a CD changer for six CDs - both are MP3-compatible. Large buttons and a clear layout make operation child’s play. In addition, a sound system with a subwoofer and MP3 connection are available and customers can also opt for a portable navigation system with an integrated hands-free system and vehicle mount as an accessory.
The safety seats with integral seat belts are well contoured and offer pleasant lateral support. The upholstery is of a high quality and leather is optionally available. Even longer objects can be easily transported: a lever on the inside of the passenger seat both reclines the backrest and enables it to be folded forward to a horizontal position.
Exhibited in the museum of Modern Art in New York
It is undisputed that the smart fortwo's unique character already makes it an automotive classic, despite its young years. In 2002 the smart fortwo was the only vehicle to be included in the permanent collection of the world-famous Museum of Modern Art in New York whilst still in series production as a "contemporary design classic of the last decade of the last century".