Welcome to shed, Brabus – we've been waiting for you
By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, 17 November 2023 / Loading comments
Normally, tapping ‘Brabus’ into the search box for a car coming into Shed’s £2,000 max price bracket is a waste of a good keystroke, but not today. Today, Shed brings you a Brabus. Yes, really. And it’s a good condition one too, with a moderate mileage and a bargin price.
Okay, so it’s not a Brabus 750 Bodo Buschmann Edition, it’s a Smart ForFour Brabus – but you can still truthfully answer ‘Brabus mate’ when somebody asks you what car you got mate. Plus, alongside the B word, it has the T word, for Turbo. Stick with Shed for a while as he attempts to validate this quirksome choice.
Gen-one Smart ForFours were built in Holland as part of a joint venture with Mitsubishi. Basically reskinned versions of the Mitsubishi Colt, the first ForFours came out in 2004 and went back in again in 2006. For the ForFour Brabus, which had an even more mayfly-ish one-year lifespan starting in 2005, the core 1.5-litre four-pot was Mitsubishi’s 4G15, a lump that had been around in various formats since, well, the ’80s at least. This gives it the distinction of being one of the longest-living Japanese auto engines ever, and allows the next owner of this car to claim a kind of classic status for their underbonnet area. Chinese manufacturers are reportedly still using this engine, so it’s durable if nothing else.
For the ForFour Brabus, Smart owners Daimler AG agreed to grant the Mitsu lump a Benz engine code (M122) to give it some of that sweet badge-engineered credibility that used to be all the rage until people started to see through it. The turbo bolted onto the side of the motor gave it a more credible sort of credibility, hoisting power from a straining 100hp or so to a much more interesting 174hp at 6,000rpm. Smart ripped the Mitsubishi badge off the cam cover, stuck a Brabus one on in its place and a £17,195 price tag on the window and bang! The dirt was gone!
Eh, how much what now? Yep, 17 big ‘uns. In mitigation, Smart claimed to have put £10k’s worth of Brabus goodies on it. Shed isn’t sure how 17-inch wheels, shortened springs, a roof spoiler, twin tailpipe exhaust, leather on the seats and dash and a sprinkling of Brabus badges add up to £10k but he has much less difficulty justifying today’s price of £1,500 for this decent looking example with 100,000 miles on the clock and one MOT advisory for a worn front tyre.
Of course, the turbo counted for some of the extra price. Now things start to make sense. If you think that anything with Smart on it is only worth considering if it’s written on a tube of Smarties, check out the numbers on this one: 174hp, 170lb ft at 3,500rpm, 137mph, 0-60mph in 6.7sec (faster than a Cooper S, Smart said at the time), 41mpg, and 1,090kg, which is what happens when you use plastic instead of metal for the body panels. Of which there were many. One of the downsides of plastic bodywork with more than the usual number of panel gaps is that quite a bit of road noise can get into the cabin, and the ForFour Brabus did indeed suffer from dintrusion, which is a word Shed has just made up.
You will also have your own view on the styling. At the time it seemed to confuse rather than amuse, but in Shed’s opinion, the passage of time has helped it to look more fresh and contemporary now than it did in 2005. Road tests of regular ForFours tended to end up with a grudging three stars but you wondered whether the tester was putting that score on it because they didn’t really know how to grade a car like that.
Brabus tests were very much thinner on the ground, but reading between the lines of the reviews that are out there you come away with the impression that it might have been a bit of a hidden gem. The four-seat interior, while noisy, was also quite roomy and actually quite classy. The materials were good quality and well screwed together.
The Mitsubishi mechanical provenance should mean that a) you’ll have no bother eBaying parts for it, and b) you won’t have to put up with sniffy Smart dealerships telling you that they only do electric cars nowadays sir or madam. The other advantage of this engine is that it came with a conventional gearbox rather than the troubley automated manual many other Smarts had.
The folk who fill their days counting the number of different cars on the road reckon there are just over 160 of these Brabus ForFours licensed for use in the UK. That seems like a surprisingly high number for Shed, who has never seen one in all his puff as they used to say up north before it became illegal to say that. You can’t imagine many more than that being brought into the UK nearly 20 years ago, which if true bodes well for their durability.
Again with his usual total failure to guarantee any sort of accuracy, Shed thinks the vehicle tax is £240. Not too big. Nor was the boot, mind. You might just about be able to force a golf bag in there. Manage that, then go to a Spanish course and shout ‘fore’ from your ForFour, por favor.
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