2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet: First Drive

January 28, 2016

Great genre-bending cars are often the result of a leader with passion, to see it through—from conception to reality.

Smart Automobile CEO Dr. Annette Winkler is the quintessence of that; the first ground-up redesign of the distinctive Fortwo lineup—including the new 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet—happened under her watch. And perhaps more importantly, she lives and breathes the brand.

Winkler drives a Smart ForJeremy—the special-edition version of the Electric Drive Fortwo concocted by fashion designer Jeremy Scott.

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Smart 'Forjeremy' Electric Drive art car

Smart 'Forjeremy' Electric Drive art car

Enlarge Photo

The top executive seems genuinely happy that the car turns heads and elicits some polarized responses. Winkler says that she gets plenty of thumbs-up for the car—which has rearward-facing ‘wings’—but also some puzzled looks...and she’s quick to admit that it’s not for everyone.

That’s absolutely the right attitude to have about the Fortwo Cabriolet—especially in the U.S., where the car stands out like no other (especially one with a circa-$20k price tag), although it might not make a whole lot of sense from a purely rational standpoint.

On its own, at face value, the Fortwo Cabrio is a very good car—a great car in and of itself.

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The trouble—or conflicted feelings, we should say—comes if you can’t quite filter out how this model fits into the American landscape—as it inevitably ends up feeling like an odd juxtaposition next to almost any other vehicle in the U.S. market.

A convertible...in a very different form factor

It’s not just the shortest convertible, but the shortest vehicle on the market—by far—at just 106.1 inches long. That’s nearly three feet shorter in overall length than the Fiat 500C, which is the Fortwo Cabriolet’s closest competitor.

Where we first drove the 2017 Fortwo Cabriolet—within the tightly laid-out city of Valencia, Spain, in a route that mainly spanned beaches, congested avenues, and some very tight one-lane alleyways, it’s a lot easier to see the strengths of this little drop-top.

Zipping around urban Valencia, on a freestyle scavenger-hunt route, we found the Cabrio very enjoyable. At city speeds, the 0.9-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, making 89 horsepower and 100 pound-feet and mounted under the rear cargo area, feels positively peppy.

Altogether, there’s phenomenal maneuverability, precise steering and good low-speed handling, and a feeling that while you’re sitting tall, the center of mass is low.

Smart didn’t have curb weights for the Cabriolet yet, but it weighs several hundred pounds more than the base Coupe’s sub-2,000-pound base curb weight—enough to raise the 0-60 mph time from the Coupe’s 10.4 seconds up to an estimated 11.6 sec.

With the ragtop above, stockier construction below

That extra weight comes because the Fortwo Cabrio has been “reinforced in decisive places,” as the automaker puts it, to include stronger steel crossbeams underneath the car, torsional bulkheads at the front and rear, and additional high-strength steel tubing within the front pillars. Smart actually says that they’ve “drop-tested” the Fortwo onto the roof from nearly two feet.

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