TG Garage

Road Test: Brabus modifies the Smart

Brabus is a powerful name – the largest tuner of Mercedes-Benz vehicles after Mercedes-AMG themselves I’ve wanted to experience the astounding power figures that Brabus seems able to coax out of already manic AMG-tuned engines and for this reason alone, I was intrigued when news first broke of the Brabus name being linked to Smart. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I thought. “What sense would that make?” That would be like transplanting the gizzards of a GT-R into a puny Nissan Juke…hang on, Nissan’s done that with the Juke R.

This was sure to be another one of those wacky mash-ups of humorous proportions. I couldn’t wait.

But no, my week-long escapade in the Smart ForFour Brabus was entirely sensible. And that made no sense. Brabus badges are splashed in no small part across the B-pillars, the front and rear bumpers and the bespoke alloy wheels. It’s the same as when you step inside and fire it up. It all seems quite convincing and they’ve done something to the sputter-sputter 3-pot to make it sound thirstier. It’s the spriteliest Smart car money can buy. With its double-clutch gearbox, sports suspension and exhaust system plus an increased boost pressure, it didn’t take long for me to label it as a fun-mobile with oodles of character and differentiation.

But everything is about numbers here: 80kW. 170Nm. 0-100km/h in 9.5 seconds. Top Speed of 180km/h if you’re related to Andy Green. These numbers are barely impressive to say the least and this is where I was stumped for a while. I wanted Race Start to unlock a manic and boisterous side to this little car. I wanted to walk away wondering how they managed to stir terror from that little 3-cylinder motor? None of that happened. I was on the verge of unticking the tick on the Brabus bucket list.

Until I heard one 6-year old at my daughter’s school exclaim – “Kayla’s dad’s got a cool car.” I was cool. Again. Never in my wildest expectations would I have thought a Smart Brabus would get me close to that vanity. Add to that the number of beady-eyed spotters in parking lots or traffic lights raising their smartphones to snap a picture.

I had initially placed too much on just one name in this brand binary. Brabus. I forgot all about the other name – Smart. Smart as a brand is about ingenuity, individuality and urban fun. It’s about doing things differently.

Bring the two together and the result is an undoubtedly entertaining, funky and cool car. Smart ForFour Brabus won’t scare any hot hatches but nevertheless belongs to an intimidating creed you don’t want to pick a fight with.


  • R313 600
  • 898cc 3-cyl, turbo petrol, RWD, 80kW, 170Nm
  • 4.6l/100km, 104g/km
  • 0-100km/h 10.5secs, 180km/h
  • 1025kg
  • Tester’s notes:
  • Cleans up Brabus’s fuel-depleting image.
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