2015 Smart ForFour / Renault Twingo prototype caught winter testing

The alliance between Smart parent Daimler and Renault-Nissan is getting stronger with word that the companies' ForFour and Twingo urban minicars will share a rear-wheel drive platform.

A three-year-old collaboration agreement has Renault-Nissan producing gasoline and electric versions of the ForFour alongside the similarly sized Twingo at the factory in Novo Mesto, Slovenia.

The agreement is designed to cut production costs. The bad news is that the new models won't launch until 2014, instead of in 2013 as both companies previously announced. The delay could be due to switching the Twingo from front- to rear-wheel drive, but neither manufacturer is confirming or denying this development. The two companies also are collaborating on a common electric powertrain and battery for EV versions of both models.

European sales of the Twingo fell 31 percent last year to less than 100,000 units, dropping the car to fourth in the segment behind the No. 1 Fiat Panda, Fiat 500 and Volkswagen Up!, according to data from market researcher JATO Dynamics. At the same time, Smart's global sales rose 2 percent to just over 100,000 vehicles, says Green Car Congress. Renault hopes that by moving the Twingo to rear-wheel drive, it will give them a unique talking point in sales. Us? We hope it will lead to higher-performance hot hatch, of which Renault has a strong history.