We’re divided on the admittedly subjective point of the redesigned 2017 Smart Fortwo cabriolet’s looks. An additional 3.9 inches of width means great things for handling and drivability, but the high, stubby hood and the new headlights leave some viewers cold. And it’s now 1.4 inches wider than a Fiat 500C. Isn’t the novelty supposed to be the car’s diminutive size? But before we go comparing the Smart Fortwo with cars that are borderline real size, it’s probably prudent to mention that this new-generation Fortwo is better than its predecessor to the same degree that microwaving a pizza beats foraging for nuts and berries.
From Three to Three
We previously drove the new cabrio in Europe, but this was our first crack at the U.S. version on U.S. roads. The Smart’s naturally aspirated, Mitsubishi-sourced 70-hp three-cylinder is gone, replaced by an 89-hp turbocharged engine with the same cylinder count. As was the case in its predecessor, the new model’s idle is rough enough to have us wishing for auto stop/start. Maybe that’s to be expected from a three-cylinder engine, particularly when it’s mounted behind your butt and under the trunk. There’s a bit of lag getting into this engine’s powerband, but once it’s over 3000 rpm or so, you can feel the turbocharger helping things along. The new Smart is much faster than the previous car, too, upgrading from excruciatingly slow to not fast. The model with the dual-clutch automatic gets to 60 mph in an estimated 10.6 seconds—while the newly available manual should take 10.4. Contrary to what the tiny engine might suggest, the Fortwo manages just 33 mpg in the city (31 with the manual) and 38 mpg on the highway.
U Will Love U-Turns
The steering feel is adequate, and the 22.8-foot turning circle is every bit as hilariously awesome as Smart would like you to believe it is. We found ourselves doing U-turns just for the heck of it—the car turns so tightly that you’ll swear the rear wheels are steering, too.
To drop a disclaimer, it’s really hard to accurately gauge the effectiveness of a car’s damping based on a drive in Brooklyn, whether on city streets or the bump-blasted Belt Parkway—a Mercedes S-class could feel rough here. So take it with a grain of salt when we say we felt as though our Sport-package-equipped cabrio crashed over the borough’s many bumps, potholes, and cobblestone streets. What it definitely still does is pogo up and down on the freeway. Blame the ultrashort wheelbase and a rear axle that carries more than half the car’s weight.
Smart’s Way to Cabriolet
The top is slick and easy to operate. Push and hold the button once to open it partway, targa-style, then push again to drop the remaining rear portion. But then things get quirkier: For the full topless experience, you have to manually unlatch the remaining fore-and-aft bars above the doors, which is a simple double unclicking affair done by touch. Next you carry them to the trunk, where they must be stowed in the proper order in the tailgate, and then bungee-cord down the assembly before closing the trunk and heading off. We figure most drivers won’t bother removing the bars 90 percent of the time when they desire the top-down mode.