The smart fortwo predecessor model was seen 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.
Not only EU requirements were considered in the crash tests undertaken, but also the – in some cases different – American laws. But that's not all: the strict standards of the Mercedes Car Group – some of which go far beyond legal requirements – also apply to the smart fortwo.
The tridion safety cell protects its occupants like the hard shell around a nut. The structure is additionally reinforced with high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel at strategically important points (more than 50 percent).
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.
esp is always on board
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. However, only 58 percent of models available in Germany have esp as standard. Many models do not even offer an electronic stability programme for an additional charge.
Not so for the smart fortwo: esp is a standard feature in the smart fortwo – a safety element that other manufacturers in this segment only offer for an additional 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 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 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 engineers have also ensured that the smart meets the legal requirements relating to pedestrian protection. The front-end 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 fortwo is hit from the side, its compact design is of considerable advantage. Thanks to the 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. 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. High-strength sheet metal has been welded in at critical points. Overall the doors are just 2.5 kilograms heavier than those of the previous fortwo.
Every smart comes with a full-size airbag for driver and passenger as standard. The passenger airbag (volume: 130 litres) is housed at the top of the instrument panel.
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 located on the right hand 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 head and the upper body.
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.