He says, she says.
His and hers.
She is an artist and weekend driver. He, a businessman, is always on the road. We asked Luisa Corcione and Francesco Conforti to choose between a smart fortwo and a smart forfour – before putting their selection to the test in Rome.
At seven o’clock on a Sunday morning, the streets of Rome are so empty you can have the city virtually to yourself. A road-sweeping vehicle buzzes around the Piazza Santa Maria, normally so full of life, removing all trace of the previous night’s excesses. But even at this time of day, the thermometer has risen to 24 degrees Celsius (75°F). We invited artist Luisa Corcione from Naples and textiles trader Francesco Conforti from Florence to test one of two smart cars each. That involved the couple making a spontaneous choice between two model variants, so when a smart fortwo and a smart forfour appeared on the piazza, each had no hesitation. Luisa opted for the larger model, whereas for Francesco it simply had to be the classic two-seater. “We’re in Trastevere, a wonderful part of the city – but there are lots of really narrow streets here,” says Francesco, already settling into his vehicle of choice. “Even if there isn’t a huge difference between the two smarts, I think every inch will count.”
Fuel consumption combined: 4.1 l/100 km;
combined CO₂ emissions: 93 g/km.*
Fuel consumption combined: 4.2 l/100 km;
combined CO₂ emissions: 97 g/km.*
The smart fortwo is the ideal car for Rome – in fact, it is the right car for any Italian city! I enjoy the freedom of being able to climb in, run about town and park this tiny car anywhere. I normally never have such flexibility. When I’m out and about on the roads of Florence and its surroundings for our family textile business “Fratelli Conforti”, I drive my young classic, a Mercedes stationwagon, because I have to carry around 60 kilograms (130 lbs) of samples. For longer journeys I fly and take a taxi or get picked up at the airport. We are a traditional family company and like to show our customers our products in person. Even though my materials would not fit in the smart, I was surprised at how spacious the interior of the smart fortwo is: you turn around and expect to see another four meters (13 ft) sticking out behind you! The equipment and instrument panel in the smart enhance the impression of it being a bigger car: hands-free system, cruise control, USB connection, cup holder – all that is the same as in any sedan.
I also like the new look of the fortwo, with its distinctive headlamps and powerful lines. And the air conditioning system is a real blessing. That afternoon in Rome it was almost 40 degrees Celsius (100°F), and for the photo shoot I had decided to wear a tailored seersucker suit, the sort worn by American attorneys in the southern states before air conditioning was invented. Good style has always been my philosophy in life. I prefer classic cuts, suspenders, flying jackets. I would never leave home wearing a T-shirt. In my line of work, I deal more with traditional fabrics such as silk, cashmere and cotton. Perhaps that’s why I found the silvery surface of the car roof so interesting: it reminded me of the material used for spacesuits. Very futuristic – but I liked that side of it too.
As an artist, I enjoy working with other people. Whether I’m producing a play or out with friends visiting an exhibition of our pictures and installations, I find it normal to be part of a group rather than working in isolation. That’s why I knew at once that I wanted to drive the smart forfour. It reflects my philosophy that public spirit is one of our great strengths. On the outside, I liked its aesthetic proportions and the combination of black and white. And on the inside, I loved the contrast between the glossy and matte surfaces. While driving around, I was impressed by the smooth transmission: I prefer manual gear shifting. Perhaps that has something to do with my work, which often involves the theme of the role of women in society. Automatic transmission reminds me of that ridiculous prejudice that women are too stupid to change gear manually. The smart forfour is a great size for getting around town because it holds its own in urban traffic, yet it is small enough to negotiate narrow backstreets. It even has room for my canvases and picture tubes.
It also struck me that the theme of community crops up in several of the smart’s design elements: both the inside of the door and the front and rear lights incorporate shapes that are reminiscent of a honeycomb – I cannot think of a better symbol for the safety and power of the community.