It’s been quite some years since BMW and Mercedes-Benz decided to enter the town-cars market using some sattelite brands: the bavarians aquired Mini and repositioned the british brand, while Mercedes-Benz made an interesting move by offering a very small and funny micro-city-car that was named after a well-known watchmaker, Smart.
At the beginning, the smart ForTwo had nothing in common to the new Mini hatchback, except the public that both cars were targeting: the young and open-minded city-travellers that could afford to buy a premium city-car. But then the ForTwo had a brother, ForFour, that could accomodate four passangers, like the Mini. The history repeats at 2014 Paris Motorshow, but this time we are talking about the second generation of smart ForFour and the third generation of new Mini, offered for the first time in a 5-door hatchback variant. So, if BMW and Mercedes-Benz are competitors, does it also apply for their “children”?
The new smart ForFour is a cute 3.49 metres long little car and is obviously the four-door and four seats version of the lilliputian smart ForTwo. Both cars have the same design of the front-end and back-end, and also the same interior cockpit, but smart ForFour is more spacious and practical. The new Mini 5-doors is also the four-door version of the normal Mini, but it’s almost 4 metres long, which is half a metre more than the ForFour. So the Mini isn’t that mini anymore… In fact, the Mini 5-doors is more a subcompact car than a supermini, which means the clients of smart ForFour are not going to be too impressed, because they are looking a smart package for urban travel, which means small dimensions.
And then is the technical disagrement: the smart ForFour has the engines in the back, while the Mini has the engines under the front hood. ForFour is a rear-wheel drive (like the BMW’s…), while the Mini is a front-wheel drive. The engines of the smart ForFour vary between 61 and 90 HP, while the Mini 5-doors starts from 116 HP. The smart ForFour has no diesel (at least for the moment), while the Mini 5-doors has two diesel units. There is no sport variant of the smart ForTwo, so Mini Cooper S 5-doors doesn’t have a match. The manual in smart ForTwo is a 5 speed, the manual in the Mini 5-doors is a 6-speed. The automatic of the ForTwo is a 6-speed double-clutch Twinamic, while the automatic of Mini is a classical one, also with 6-speed.
Indeed, we find nothing that says the two cars should get into a fight – they are simply too different. Even the differences in prices can be considered huge, with the smart ForFour starting from 11.555 euro in Germany, much less than the base price of 18.350 euros for the Mini One 5-doors (which easily passes the 20.000 barrier because of the long list of optional equipments).
So we can conclude that these new cars have nothing in common, despite their “parents” are strong rivals. Still, we raise a question regarding these two world-premieres of the 2014 Paris Motorshow: who is right, Mercedes-Benz or BMW? In the first case, the smart ForTwo is even smaller than it’s predecessor and is clearly a smart city car, an idea that the brand promoted from the beginning. On the other hand, the 5-doors Mini is very far away from the initial philosophy of the Mini brand and it’s becoming a real contender for it’s cousin, the BMW 1-Series. This point of view taking into account, we think the smart ForTwo is a more appropiate offer for the urban travel, in a premium way.