When Smart just isn’t.
– Brooklyn, New York
An all-new droptop variant joins the Smart lineup with the 2017 ForTwo Cabrio and its starting price of $18,900 makes it the most affordable convertible on the market. Neat. But I still don’t understand its existence. Sure, it’s cute and color-customizable in more than 100 ways, but beyond that, meh. Are there cars that offer more fun, practicality, affordability, and value? Yes – pretty much all of them. Yet will someone still buy a Smart ForTwo? Of course. A whopping 220,000 Cabrio models have been sold globally since Smart hit the scene, meaning the car that seemingly makes a small amount of sense continues to have big appeal, both in America and abroad.
- It’s a real-life Micro Machine. Gimmick or not, at just 106.1 inches long (roughly 8 feet, 10 inches), the Smart ForTwo Cabrio is about half the size of a standard pickup truck and can squeeze into the teeniest of spaces. Small is a big asset in any metropolis as street parking can be hard to come by. And should you get boxed in by a couple of jokesters, just grab a few friends and lift the car out – it only weighs 2,094 pounds (or 2,150 with the dual-clutch transmission).
- At 19.4 square feet, the roof's flexibility lets you pick exactly the configuration you want for each trip or weather condition. Occupants can enjoy either a vehicle-length sunroof or a true cabriolet experience by folding the canvas top further down and removing the roof bars. Letting the sun shine in during these dwindling days of summer can be had within 12 seconds and at any vehicle speed. As for the removable rooftop side panels, they are lightweight, easy to detach/install, and storable within the tailgate.
- With an ultra-tight turning circle of 22.8 feet, giggling and exclaiming, “Awesome!” comes standard during nimble U-turns. Driving in circles and going nowhere was, ironically, the most fun I had behind the wheel. That is until I nearly made my driving partner vomit. Oops. (Tee hee.)
- I’m the very definition of petite at a slender five-foot, two-inches, so the Smart’s cabin should fit me perfectly, right? Okay, I can reach the pedals, but nothing else feels comfortable. With the driver’s seat adjusted, utilizing the power window buttons requires me to contort my arm T-Rex claw style. Also, the steering wheel is non-adjustable, which makes it a task to find an adequate resting position for my hands – plus, because it’s set high and somewhat in my face, if the airbag went off, I would probably have no face. And the seemingly disproportionately large cruise control buttons mounted on the wheel just feel like clutter.
- Surprisingly, this microcar has massive blind spots. For example, had I not driven past two bicyclists before approaching a stop, I absolutely would have made a right turn in front of them. On the left, sight lines are equally abhorrent. Looking over my shoulder when changing lanes, what do I see? The dark abyss that is the rooftop and pillar. Granted, with the top down and roof panels removed, it’s a whole new world – a dazzling place of surrounding traffic I never knew.
- The powertrain makes me manic. The 89 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque of the turbocharged 0.9-liter three-cylinder engine would suffice had everything not operated on a broadcast TV tape delay. When idling, the engine hums at a decibel somewhere between annoying and agitating. Its rumble also creates a noticeable vibration throughout the vehicle. Once the car gets going, the six-speed Twinamic dual-clutch transmission is fine, but forgets to downshift during braking until just before a complete stop, thus creating a clunky “drop” instead of a smooth slow-down. Enduring this during a couple of hours of stop-and-go traffic is frustrating.
Photos: Michael Shaffer / Mercedes-Benz