Mercedes NAFA concept
Congested streets, parking at a premium and traffic jams – city traffic poses a very particular challenge for carmakers, and Mercedes-Benz has been thinking about it since 1981, with the 'Nahverkehrsfahrzeug' concept, or NAFA for short.
With an overall length of 2.50 metres and an overall height and width of 1.50 metres, respectively, the innovative two-seater was a very different Mercedes than had been seen before.
With to four-wheel steering the car could even be parked forwards into tight spaces. Its turning circle was all of 5.7 metres. Even where the gap to other vehicles on each side was small, two sliding doors permitted convenient entry and exit. They opened forwards, and the side mirror folded in automatically.
The comparatively high seating position, the low waistline and large glazed surfaces made for an optimal all-round view.
Smart Eco Speedster concept
The Eco Speedster concept car from 1993 prefigured the concept and general look for the upcoming Smart – it was designed in conjunction with a team from funky watchmaker Swatch, which had originally come up with the idea of a radical two-seater. In fact, Smart stands for Swatch Mercedes ART and it was originally the name of the model, and the two companies set up Micro Compact Car AG (MCC), which eventually became the wholly owned subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz that we know and love today.
Smart City Coupe
The Smart ForTwo – as we know it now – was originally called the Smart City Coupe. It won attention for its cheeky adverts and bright marketing. A tiny two-seater city car wasn't quite for everyone, but it turned out to be an excellent runabout for the big city.
The Smart car featured an innovative interior with lots of space. The tiny footprint and impressive packaging won lots of fans – the engine was underneath the boot and the car had been designed with that engineering dream of a wheel right at each corner, maximising space inbetween.
Famously you could park the Smart ForTwo nose in to the kerb and it was as long as normal cars are wide. Exciting times.
The sandwich floor idea from the first-generation A-Class was carried through to the Smart – engineers tried to shove as much as possible underneath the floor, freeing up space front and back to maximise the interior. Everything was thought through with a view to creating extra space inside.
Mercedes put a lot of effort into testing its new – its aim for the car was that it would be able to stand up to an S-Class in a head-on collision.
Tridion safety cell
The new Smart cars used what Mercedes called a tridion safety cell – a high-strength core protected driver and passenger. Smart describes the setup as being like a nut – 'the interior is protected from harm by a rigid shell'. The car is designed to dissipate energy around the occupants in the least harmful way.
With the initial success of the Smart, the company got a little over-excited and started to expand the range, renaming its core model the ForTwo, with Roadster and Coupe sports cars and the ForFour family model. For a long time there was even a rumoured SUV version, that would've been called the ForMore, but that project was eventually canned.
Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humour? Over the last 20 years there have been lots of special editions and crazy concepts from the maker of the world's most diminutive car range – not least this monster truck concept car the company called the ForFun.
The Smart Crossblade was a crazy concept that slipped through the net and actually got built.
With no doors, no windows and no roof it's only for the particularly dedicated driver. In fact, head over to Monaco and you might actually see a few driving round – they don’t really work anywhere else.
The second generation
The second version of the ForTwo went on sale between 2007 and 2014 – it was 200mm longer and introduced a slightly snoutier look for the car, but the setup remained very familiar. At 750kg, the second-generation ForTwo was the lightest production car on sale in Europe.
The third generation
The third-generation of the ForTwo was launched back in 2014, with a more mature take on the traditional Smart design theme. It was jointly developed with Renault, the Twingo and ForFour sharing the same underpinnings.
The first all-electric mainstream manufacturer
Smart has made the bold move of committing itself to an all-electric lineup by 2020, becoming the first electric mainstream manufacturer.
15 / 15