The ForFour is available with two three-cylinder petrol engines, a 1.0-litre with 70bhp and a turbocharged 0.9-litre with 89bhp. So far, we’ve only tried the more powerful version, and only with the optional six-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox in place of the five-speed manual you get as standard. Unfortunately, it’s not a happy combination. The engine itself is fine, being capable of pretty brisk acceleration and staying reasonably smooth and quiet unless worked to its limits. However, that gearbox ruins things.
Whether you’re pulling away from a standstill or trying to pick up the pace when already on the move, you’ll all too often have to endure a ridiculously lengthy pause between putting your foot down and anything actually happening, because the gearbox dithers about choosing a gear, and also about engaging it. Mash the pedal when trying to exploit a gap in traffic, or when pulling out onto a roundabout, and your opportunity will be long gone before the car wakes up and does what you tell it. And talking of roundabouts, we’d strongly advise against doing that thing where you let your momentum take you into the traffic flow at low speed and then accelerate once you’re in, because you’ll often be left completely without power for a few seconds, and this can be properly scary.
It wouldn’t be so bad if you could account for this in the way you drive by anticipating the pause and hitting the throttle a few seconds earlier than you think you need to. Unfortunately, you can’t, because every so often, the gearbox – more by luck than judgement – will already be in the prime ratio. So, when you hit the throttle, you shoot forwards with serious force, and you feel the car running away from you until you hit the brakes. This unpredictability, combined with the all-or-nothing power delivery, makes it nigh-on impossible to drive the car smoothly, and whatever the driving situation, you’ll find the transmission enormously frustrating. We haven’t tried the car with a manual gearbox yet, but even so, we’d strongly recommend choosing it.