My first experience driving a smart fortwo was about five years ago when I drove a 2012 cabriolet 350 miles up Florida’s east coast from Miami to Jacksonville. Needless to say, there was nothing smart about taking on such a road trip in a car designed to squeeze through tight European streets. Fortunately, my harsh introduction to this car was exactly the experience I needed to fully appreciate the all-new fortwo.
Since the fortwo was brought over to the U.S. in 2009, fuel prices have dropped significantly and competitors – like the Fiat 500 and Chevrolet Spark – have increased and improved steadily, so parent company Mercedes-Benz teamed up with Renault to produce a car that had all of the character of the original fortwo with fewer of that car’s quirks. This time around, I stuck mostly to city driving during my week with the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio, but I still learned a lot about this polarizing little car.
2017 smart fortwo cabrio Exterior:
The 2017 smart fortwo cabrio has definitely grown up. Even though the overall proportions are about the same, the third-generation fortwo is taller, longer and wider than its predecessor, and even with its stretched length of 8.8 feet, the new fortwo is still about three feet shorter than a Fiat 500 – yet it is taller and wider than its main rival. The biggest improvement made to this car, though, is the exterior design where the squared-off edges and rectangular headlights and taillights are a refreshing step away from cutesy styling of the previous models. As was the case with the previous body style, the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio offers an impressive amount of customization thanks in large part to 10 available body panel colors, four grille colors, two wheel options and two soft top colors.
2017 smart fortwo cabrio Interior:
Although the exterior dimensions of the 2017 smart fortwo cabriolet are tiny compared to modern vehicles, the passenger compartment is surprisingly spacious with sufficient room for even the tallest of occupants. Not only that, but this entry-level Passion trim level came with lots of cool options including the $120 dashboard-mounted tachometer and clock, $490 JBL audio system, $240 heated seats and $100 smartphone cradle.
The best part of the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio, of course, is its convertible top, which can be opened or closed fairly quickly and can be operated while driving. Adding to the unique open-top feel are the removable side rails that store cleverly in a storage compartment built into the rear tailgate. While passenger space is plentiful, there isn’t much space for luggage to fit on top of the engine compartment as 8.9 cubic feet of cargo volume is available with the top up and that drops to 6.7 cubic feet with the top down.
2017 smart fortwo cabrio Powertrain:
After the Porsche 911, the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio is the only other rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive convertible available in the U.S., but unlike the high-powered 911 sports car, the fortwo is powered by a 0.9-liter three-cylinder, turbocharged engine rated at 89 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque. That might not seem like a lot of power, but keep in mind, this car weighs just 2,150 as tested. Just to access the engine, you have to first remove the JBL subwoofer, fold up the rear carpet, remove six bolts and then finally a metal engine cover; don’t worry if you want to charge your battery or top off your coolant, brake fluid or windshield washer fluid as all of these are found under the front hood, which uses two plastic releases to come off.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard, but the fortwo can be equipped with the twinamic six-speed dual-clutch transmission. This gearbox is nowhere near as clunky as the previous fortwo’s transmission, but it still takes some getting used to. Between the transmission and the turbo, there is considerable lag when taking off from a stop, but merging with highway traffic on a short entrance ramp no longer feels like a suicide mission. That being said, this car takes a staggering 11.6 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph, and its top speed maxes out at 94 mph.
The larger dimensions and bigger tires of the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio allow the car to feel more planted when cornering, and it also doesn’t get blown around the road as much by crosswinds or passing semi trucks. While its highway manners have improved, the smart fortwo excels in city driving where maneuverability is most important, and that is made apparent by the fact that this car can drive circles in a space smaller than two standard road lanes! With almost nonexistent front and rear overhangs, the smart fortwo is still one of the easiest cars to parallel park. With the dual-clutch transmission, this car has EPA fuel economy estimates of 33 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, which are about the same as the Honda Fit.
2017 smart fortwo cabrio Safety:
Along with fuel economy, the most frequent questions I received while driving the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio were regarding its safety. With an overall length that is shorter than the wheelbase of a compact car, the car’s designers had to get innovative to maximize safety. Most notable is the fortwo’s signature tridion safety cell, which is a rigid, high-strength exoskeleton that also acts as a key styling attribute. The 2017 smart fortwo cabrio also comes standard with eight airbags and the Crosswind Assist, while forward collision warning is optional.
2017 smart fortwo cabrio Overall:
Despite being improved in every way possible, the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio is still a car that isn’t meant for everyone, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This car balances unique styling with a surprisingly fun driving experience, and on top of that, it’s extremely affordable. The fortwo coupe starts at just $14,650*, and the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio is priced starting at $18,900*. Tack on the dual-clutch transmission and all of the other options, and this particular car had an as-tested price of $22,670*. At that price, you’re just not going to find another car with as much character as the smart fortwo.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation-affiliated smart dealership and test drive the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.