Nov 9, 2006
The smart fortwo has always been a car whose design people immediately associated with a high level of safety. It is a real trendsetter in terms of safety developments in small cars. And that applies to the new version too. The smart fortwo has been subjected to extensive tests to ensure that it complies with the tough standards of the Mercedes Car Group.
These include not only the requirements of EuroNCAP, but also the (in some cases different) standards applicable in America. The little two-seater had to withstand, for example, front and side impacts as well as a rollover test and rear crash (80 km/h).
The tridion safety cell protects its occupants like the hard shell around a nut. In addition, the metal housing is additionally reinforced at strategically important points with high-strength steel. This makes up more than 50 percent of the shell.
The tridion safety cell's longitudinal and transverse members activate the crumple zone of the other vehicle involved in the accident and distribute the impact energy evenly over the car's body. And in case of a collision, the wheels also take on the function of crumple zones. When this happens, the front wheels are supported by the side members.
After the seatbelt, esp – and not, as many people believe, the airbag – is lifesaver no. 2. Studies by German insurers have revealed that a quarter of all car accidents involving personal injuries and 40 percent of all fatal motor accidents could have been less severe with esp.
In other words: every year, 37,000 accidents in which people are injured and 1,100 accidents involving fatalities in Germany could be prevented, or at least their severity reduced. But only 58 percent of models available in Germany today come with esp as standard. And for one in every five, an electronic stability programme is not even available for an additional charge.
Not so for the smart fortwo: the new model, too, offers esp as standard, whereas other manufacturers in this segment only offer it at an extra charge – if at all.
If the car should ever start to lose control, esp will kick in within a matter of milliseconds. The electronics brake the individual wheels as necessary, and throttle the engine power. esp also includes an integrated hill start assist function. This prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards as it moves off on an uphill slope.
The integrated hydraulic brake assist function also comes as standard. It automatically triggers controlled emergency braking as soon as the electronics register that the driver has pressed the brake pedal quickly, but not firmly enough. This can considerably reduce the car's braking distance.
The anti-lock braking system prevents the wheels from blocking during emergency braking. This reduces the braking distance, and allows the smart to remain steerable even in this emergency situation. Because it is a component of the esp, abs comes as standard in every version of the smart fortwo, and also features electronic brake-force distribution.
The engineers also put plenty of thought into pedestrian protection. The front-end section is now 72 millimetres longer. The impact zone at the front is a little steeper and a few centimetres higher than that of the previous model.
The axes of the windscreen wipers, which have a clap-hands design and come with soft aero wiper blades (unique in the small car segment), are in a concealed position. The service panel (front lid) is made from elastic plastic. The front spoiler is backed with foam five centimetres thick at impact height.
The headlamp housing is a particularly important safety feature. Because its upper part is located in the potential head impact zone, but there is not enough room in the front section of the car for the module to be moved to another position, the developers have applied break points to allow the component to collapse in case of an impact in that area.
Sitting approximately 200 millimetres higher than in a comparable small car usually means better protection in tricky situations. Thanks to the sandwich-type construction of the tridion safety cell, the passengers are usually somewhat above the direct danger zone in the event of a side impact.
The smart's wheels perform a safety function here as well. If the smart fortwo is hit from the side, its compact design is of considerable advantage. Thanks to the smart's relatively short wheelbase of 1867 millimetres, the other car will almost always hit an axle, which can then absorb the impact energy.
All interior trims have been optimised to prevent injuries to occupants – even those who may not be wearing a seatbelt. The side roof bars, for example, have been made even slimmer to provide more headroom. And the soft foam-backed lower instrument panel (kneepad) offers a great deal more protection for the passengers' knees and lower legs.
To comply with yet more stringent crash requirements and additional US standards, the door structure of the new smart fortwo is now made of steel, instead of the aluminium used previously. The doors for the coupé and cabrio are identical. High-strength sheet metal has been welded in at critical points. Overall the doors are 2.5 kilos heavier than those of the previous fortwo.
The new smart fortwo has been designed to achieve four EuroNCAP stars - and this has been demonstrated in internal crash tests. The vehicle also fulfils all of the applicable American crash legislation.
Every smart comes with a full-size airbag for driver and passenger as standard. The passenger airbag (volume: 130 litres) is now located at the top of the instrument panel, to enable it to intercept passengers who are not perfectly in position in the car, or may even not be wearing a seatbelt.
If a child seat has been fitted using an Isofix fastener (optional), the passenger airbag can be deactivated with the ignition key. The keyhole is situated on the right side of the instrument panel. A red light will appear on the roof frame next to the interior light as a warning that the airbag is deactivated.
Also available as an option are new head/thorax side airbags, which are housed in the sides of the seat backrests. These protect both the upper body and the head.
Belt tensioners and belt-force limiters are standard features in the smart. In case of a frontal impact greater than a defined level of severity, the belt tensioners will reduce any slack in a matter of milliseconds. The belt force-limiter carefully releases more belt before too much pressure is exerted on the chest, allowing the occupants to participate in the deceleration.