Smart ForTwo cabrio

Brilliant city car not so good elswhere

5.1
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 5 reviews
  • Cheap to run
  • Easy to park
  • Highly customisable
  • A two-seater
  • Uncomfortable ride
  • Poor on the motorway
 

£13,265 - £21,630 Price range

 

2 Seats

 

61 - 67 MPG

Review

With a roof that drops in just 12 seconds, the Smart ForTwo carbio is designed for city dwellers looking for some wind-in-the-hair action that the standard car can’t provide. Much like the Mini Convertible, Fiat 500C and Citroen C1 Airscape do.

Its dinky dimensions (thanks to a two-seater layout) clarify this is a car that’s designed to excel in an urban environment – the raised driving position makes for a decent view outside and the ForTwo is unique in its ability to park perpendicular to the kerb without obstructing traffic.

Travel further afield and the news isn’t so brilliant, however. Passengers can feel a little exposed when you’re surrounded by trucks on the motorway, there’s not much in the way of grunt from the small engine and the car feels unsteady at speed.

Running costs are cheap though – all models can return more than 60mpg and road tax is free. You can choose from 70 or 90hp engines and between a five-speed manual and six-speed auto gearbox.

While there’s only space for two, they’ll not feel crushed and the Smart’s boot is surprisingly big. The company offers a huge range of customisable options – including up to 100 paint combinations and various interior trims – so owners can specify a car that will be close to (if not completely) unique.

The Smart’s high price is at least offset by a decent list of standard equipment that includes climate control, a Bluetooth phone connection, 3.5-inch colour display and alloy wheels. Sat-nav can be had by specifying the £795 Premium Equipment pack.

If this sounds like the perfect car for you, check out all the available paint options using our complete Smart ForTwo cabrio colours guide.

The Smart brand is owned by Mercedes and that shows in the fit, finish and high-quality dense-foam plastics used in the interior.

It also sports a very un-Mercedes-like fun side. Its dashboard presents a mish-mash of circles, rounded squares and ovals, in contrast to the uniform designs of a posh Mercedes saloon. It works though and gives the Smart the street-cred it needs to fend off its equally hip rivals. And, if you so desire, your cabrio can be kitted out from a wide selection of bright interior fabrics and trims.

An extra £795 buys you a seven-inch infotainment screen hooked up to sat-nav, but it is based on a Renault system that’s slow to respond and not hugely intuitive – reviewers say it makes more sense to use your smartphone in the supplied cradle.

Smart ForTwo passenger space

While it’s only a two-seater a pair of six-foot adults will fit in the Smart with no complaints and the cabrio’s dropping roof means an airy ambience is but a button press away.

Smart ForTwo boot space

Making room for the fabric roof means that boot space has dropped from 350 to 340 litres compared to the normal ForTwo, but it’s even smaller with the roof down, thanks to two roof bars that need to be stored away in the luggage area.

The Smart makes perfect sense for nipping around city streets. It can weave through congestion, turn on a sixpence and park in spaces out of bounds to most other cars. The only real complaint is the bumpy ride that’s caused by the car’s short wheelbase. The problem is more pronounced in Proxy models, which have larger alloy wheels and low-profile tyres.

There’s more to grumble about out on the open road where the car’s light and quick steering can make it feel nervous in faster corners and the raised driving position, which gives an excellent view out but lends the car an ungainly feel. On the motorway there’s a good deal of noise in the cabin and it is hard not to feel a little vulnerable sharing the road with lorries, coaches and big SUVs.

Cheap runnings costs are a given if you buy a ForTwo and whether you choose the basic 1.0-litre model or turbocharged 0.9-litre car (both of which are petrol powered), road tax is free and more than 60mpg fuel economy is possible.

The real decision comes down to whether you’re likely to use the car out of town. If you are, then the 0.9-litre model’s the one to invest in. The extra go offered by the turbo drops the 0-62mph time down from a leisurely 14.9 to a bordering-on-spritely 10.8 seconds and means you have a little extra power to call on if you need it.

The worst combination comes when you fit the automatic gearbox to the entry-level engine. Running costs are pretty much unchanged, but acceleration is dented and the car loses its ability to squirt in and out of breaks in city traffic. The auto works much better with the 0.9-litre model and is worth considering if you regularly face stop-go traffic that demands lots of clutch work.

For a car so small the ForTwo is not cheap, but there’s a decent amount of equipment on the basic Passion model including smart-looking alloy wheels, climate control and a 12v power socket. Electrically operated door mirrors – handy if you want to get a better view of the kerb when parking – are on the options list, though – a little mean given the ForTwo’s primary function as a tight-space-conquering city car.

Smart ForTwo cabrio Prime

Prime models gets their own design of 15-inch alloy wheels with black-painted contrasts, and a black-painted grille. The black interior trim means this could be the ForTwo for more conservative tastes and the instrument binnacle feels a little less spartan thanks to the addition of a rev counter and clock. While the standard car’s character warms the cockles of your heart, Prime models get heated seats that’ll keep the rest of your body toasty as you wait for the heater to get up to temperature.

Smart ForTwo cabrio Proxy

While Prime models get black contrasts, Proxy models have white highlights for the grille and a white/blue interior finish – something, lets face it, which might not appeal to everyone. With suspension that’s lowered by 10mm and larger 15-inch alloy wheels, the Proxy fills (at a stretch) the role of a sporty model – but both make the already hard ride even stiffer.

Conclusion

Smart has listened to complaints aimed at the old ForTwo when building the new one – upping interior quality and doing away with its horrible automated manual gearbox. The result is a car that makes the sometimes very stressful process of driving through a busy city that much easier to deal with – and the drop-down roof adds a playful side that suits the styling. With two seats and a dislike of motorways, the Smart won’t be for everyone, but as a town car it’s hard to touch.

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