The Smart Fortwo has gained worldwide recognition being one of the most practical city cars you could buy over the past ten years. Its driving characteristics have never really been mind blowing, but for running errands and short commutes that don’t exceed the average suburban to city centre trip, the car did just fine. It’s the car’s size and therefore ability to park it almost anywhere that made the car so popular among big city residents. The latest version of the popular city coupè powered by Mercedes-Benz, dates back from 2014.
We travelled out to sunny Spain to test drive its roofless relative. The 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio was unveiled at the 2015 IAA in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Co-developed with French manufacturer Renault, the 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio has the codename W454. For now, the 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio offers customers three model lines and two different engine types to choose from. The three-cylinder engines output 52 kW / 71 hp and 66 kW / 90 hp respectively.
The different model lines comprise of the passion, prime and proxy editions. The passion line is described as stylish and modern with black/orange, black/white or black/grey interior colour combinations. The prime line takes it up a step, classified as a more elegant and classic look. Heated seats and more leather translate to the slightly steeper price of the prime line Smart Fortwo Cabrio. The proxy line shows some exterior modifications, including the sports package with 16-inch alloy wheels.
For some customers the options list and ability to customize is never sufficient. The already hip and trendy looking 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio may therefore be subject to a more extensive customization program, for those who are willing to turn their piggy bank upside down. Mercedes-Benz house tuner Brabus has got you covered with their “Smart BRABUS tailor made individualization program”, providing creative customers with several styling upgrades, about 30 different leather colors for the interior and over a thousand exterior paint jobs to choose from.
Having seen an example on display in Valencia, the exterior enjoys more aggressive styling on the front, a matte light baby-blue paint job and a centered twin-exhaust at the back. With exact figures remaining unclear, the Brabus version of the 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio is likely to get a power upgrade as well, spicing it up to an alleged 200 hp.
For now, the regular turbocharged three-cylinder that powers the rear wheels of the two-seater, is fitted with a six-speed automatic dual clutch transmission. Additionally, the optional sports package gives you the ability to shift gears using the paddles behind the steering wheel. Smart have indicated that a 5-speed manual transmission is still in the pipeline.
Minor modifications give the new Smart Cabrio a slightly broader presence, sitting on wider tires that allow for better traction and driving characteristics. Despite those modifications, the Fortwo Cabrio is still capable of making a 6.95-meter turning circle. With a curb weight of 995 kg and a fuel tank capacity of 28 liters plus reserve, the stated 4.2 liter / 100 km should land you somewhere around 650 kilometers on a full tank of fuel. The modest top speed of 155 km/h and 0-100 acceleration time of 11.7 seconds are the last to have a significant impact on the car’s fuel economy. Then again, it’s an urban cruiser that is meant to barely see speed limits surpassing 70 km/h.
The electronically controlled soft-top let’s drivers open or close the car’s roof in just 12 seconds, at any given speed. A push on the button can make the top fold away at the rear, while the B-pillars need to be manually disassembled and stowed away in a smartly designed compartment in the boot. With that being said, customers enjoy the convertible in three different ways: fully open, partly open and fully closed.
Interesting fact is that Smart parent company Daimler AG exposes the tiny convertible to the same testing procedures as for instance the Mercedes-Benz S Class Cabriolet. Ensuring the soft-top can handle the most gruesome weather imaginable, or just your local car wash if you will, the prototype endured no less than 500 car wash cycles. To even further safeguard Daimler’s top of the range quality, the car underwent 20.000 openings and closings of the soft-top at temperatures varying from -15 to +80 degrees centigrade.
With the launch of the 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio set in Spanish coastal city Valencia, open-top driving was guaranteed. We first arrived at the Marina Beach Club in Valencia, where Smart set up their temporary base. The first Smart Fortwo Cabrio we see is a funky yellow and black colored version sitting handsomely on display in a water puddle, for reflection’s sake of course. Surrounded by the beach, palm trees and free spirited decorations, the setting of this launch couldn’t match the acquired cult status of the car any better.
Having been around for over 15 years, the Smart cars have been true trendsetters and aspire to take it up a notch every single time a new model comes out. According to head of Smart worldwide Dr. Annette Winkler: “the Smart Fortwo Cabrio is the hippest variant of our new generation – the icon of the icon, as it were”. Seeing the tiny convertible in person, we have no doubt about the latter being true.
After a quick introduction, we were handed the keys to a Fortwo Cabrio sharing the same configuration as the one on display. The Smart team had prepared a scavenger hunt for us, a nice alternative to the usual set out driving routes we usually experience. For that scavenger hunt, a separate app was created. As part of a fierce competition among car journalists, we entered the Smart’s urban habitat to check-in and take photos at several of Valencia’s highlights.
The first thing on our to-do list is taking a photo of the car with the iconic “ciudad de las artes y las ciencias”, designed by Spanish “starchitect” Santiago Calatrava, lurking in the background. We subsequently take the opportunity to tryout taking the top completely down, and stowing away the pillars. It’s fairly easy to do and the boot of the car features a nifty compartment in which the pillars are smartly tucked away. It doesn’t leave you with an abundance of luggage space, but two backpack-sized bags and two jackets just about fit.
During our sightseeing cruise with the 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio, there were a few things that grabbed our attention. First, the car comes with a start/stop system as standard, to maximize fuel economy. This works far from smooth, accompanied by an occasional shiver that makes you question the virtue of the system. Luckily the start/stop function is easily switched off using the center console, something that definitely has our preference.
In the city the car drives with ease and for such a small car the lack of engine noise was surprising though comforting. The transmission flows between gears smoothly, while the renewed power steering allows for direct maneuvers. Parking also shouldn’t be a problem, knowing the car is able to fit in the smallest parking spots available. Now optionally available with a rear view camera, parking was never easier.
The camera and car’s infotainment system are monitored on a high-resolution 7-inch multi-touch display mounted on the center dashboard of the car. The system knows a clever interface and the touch screen is very responsive. Smart gives you a taste of what’s possible with the Smart Media-System package, optional with mirrorlink. Fitted with the latest navigation from Dutch company TomTom, the compact cabrio has plenty of options in store for its customers.
About the navigation, it was the only thing we found to be less responsive than the rest of the car’s functions. Distances and arrows appeared further ahead on the screen than they actually were, something that could be quite annoying when experiencing intense city traffic. As a consequence, we missed our turn regularly, of which part we will ascribe to Valencia’s messy street grid.
We rounded up our urban adventure with an assignment demonstrating the small turning circle of the 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. With 6.95 meters, it’s very impressive and makes it the most maneuverable car in its class. Heading back to the Marina Beach Club, we take advantage of the car’s size and take historical inner-city routes with ease that are almost unfit for regular sized cars.
As opposed to our city adventure the first day, we take the little convertible into Valencia’s backcountry on the second day. Part of our route consists of some minor mountain roads, while the main part comprises highway driving. On the highway, the Smart has no issue pushing to the 120 km/h speed limit. The turbocharged three-cylinder works its magic like a coffee grinder, while the lack of noise gives you the impression it has much more to give.
Hitting some of the rural routes, we engaged sport mode and put the twinamic dual clutch into manual. Yes, it has a sports mode indeed. The gearbox was responsive enough and the car showed its teeth by pushing quite seamlessly to a 6,000 RPM, which feels reasonably fast in a car this size. The small alternations in the car’s width seemed to have work its magic, cornering felt stable, also at higher speeds. The latter being something we weren’t 100% comfortable doing at first, knowing the car’s dimensions. Then again, the car isn’t exactly built to be pushed hard on mountain roads. Nevertheless it’s comforting to know that it will get you to your destination just fine, no matter the landscape.
The 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio is a very capable city cruiser appealing to those that favor open-top driving without having space or financial funds for a larger scale convertible. At a base price of €15.655 in Germany for the least potent 52 kW version, it is still cheaper than for example its Italian roofless counterpart, the Fiat 500 convertible. Being the most compact convertible money can buy, doesn’t mean that it sacrifices on luxury or driving characteristics in particular.
The large list of options and the fact that it enjoys the virtue and safety rep of parental company Daimler, may just very well be enough reason to win over buyers and justify the car’s base price. If that doesn’t do the trick, Smart have an extensive individualization program that offers buyers to tailor their new convertible to their wildest dreams, albeit it at a hefty price. The 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio arrives at your local dealer starting in March 2016.