2.21.2017

Situational Intelligence: The 2017 smart fortwo cabrio

Front 3/4 view of 2017 smart fortwo cabrio
The 2017 smart fortwo cabrio.
First, before you comment to complain about typographical errors: The car company known as smart chooses to spell its name in all lower-case.  The same is true for its model names. So it is, accurately, the smart fortwo cabrio.

Ten years ago, the smart fortwo was supposed to be the next big thing in very small cars.  In some places, Europe, for example, they are everywhere, and are a valid solution to narrow streets and challenging parking.  In the United States, a handful of eastern cities and San Francisco are probably closest to those conditions.  But probably not close enough.  The smart fortwo has not taken America by storm.

Now, miraculously, some say, a second-generation smart fortwo has come to the USA.



Rear 3/4 view of 2017 smart fortwo cabrio
2017 smart fortwo cabrio.
There are definite improvements to this second generation.  Our Publisher and Executive Editor drove the first generation smart fortwo five or six years ago and told me the automatic transmission was the worst he had ever been exposed to.  I am pleased to report that the 2017 smart fortwo cabrio has an optional all-new dual-clutch automatic that does not feel, as Michael put it back then, "like a bucking bronco".  A six-speed manual is standard.

The new fortwo is 3.9 inches wider than the old one, giving the car a more substantial look---as substantial as a car that is only 8.8 feet long can look.  The soft slopes of the previous fortwo's body have been replaced with blocky styling---the taillamps doing an almost convincing impression of a Jeep Renegade. And there's been change for the better in the engine bay, as the 70-horsepower three-cylinder engine of the original has been replaced by a turbocharged three-cylinder that puts out 89 horsepower.  That engine, mated to the dual-clutch automatic, doesn't make the 2017 smart fortwo especially fast, but it is smooth and drivable.  The EPA estimates city fuel economy at 33 miles per gallon and highway mileage at 38.

The top is a nice design.  Two touches of a button and the open air is yours.

Interior view of 2017 smart fortwo
2017 smart fortwo interior.
The added 3.9 inches of width makes the interior feel like a much bigger car.  A bigger small car, that is.  Still, it is now 1.4 inches wider than a Fiat 500C, so in the realm of small cars, the smart fortwo no longer feels abnormally tiny.  And interior materials have been upgraded.  It is a pleasant place to be.

Except.

This may not be the case everywhere---though even in trendy, tolerant San Francisco, smart owners have found their smart cars tipped over by smart alecks---but here in the Desert Southwest, particularly in Phoenix, there are guys in ball caps driving jacked-up pickup trucks who see a smart car as a target.  Even at and a bit above the speed limit, I endured repeated encounters with drivers who felt that because it was a microcar, it was automatically in their way.  I was a mobile outlet for everyone's aggression.

The 2017 smart fortwo cabrio's base price is $18,900.  Our test vehicle had midnight blue metallic body panels for $350, a smartphone cradle for $100, an armrest for $100, 16-inch 8-Y-spoke alloy wheels for $100, a dashboard-mounted instrument cluster for $120, proximity warning function for $250, the dual-clutch automatic transmission for $990 and the proxy package---the top trim line with white man-made leather seats with contrasting blue fabric inserts---for $2,000.

With $750 destination charge, the as-tested price was $23,660.

So, is the 2017 smart fortwo...smart?  Depends on your situation.  If you live in a place where narrow, congested streets and cramped parking are a daily reality, then maybe.  But check the redneck jacked-up pickup population first.

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