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In-depth reviews

Smart ForTwo Cabrio review

The latest Smart ForTwo Cabrio brings roof-down fun to Smart's unique city car

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Price
£22,980 to £24,715
  • Makes city driving easy, no less practical than coupe, low running costs
  • Expensive to buy, not great at motorways, only two seats

The Smart ForTwo Cabrio is a two-seater city car with an electric folding roof that can be operated at any speed, taking 12 seconds to go fully down or back up again. The new model is slightly wider than before, but it remains the same length at just 2.69m, crucial for city driving and parking.

There are two engines available, a 1.0-litre petrol with 70bhp or a turbocharged 900cc petrol with 89bhp. Both can be paired to a manual or automatic gearbox - and this time, the auto is a dual-clutch unit which eliminates the clunky shifts of the previous auto model.

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The 1.0-litre model emits 99g/km and returns 65.7mpg, while the more powerful 900cc engine emits 97g/km and returns 67.3mpg. Both are impressive, and the low emissions figures mean all models are free to tax.

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There are three main trim levels: Passion, Prime and Proxy. Passion is the entry-level model, with Prime and Proxy being branches from that - Prime offers sporty styling and extra kit, while Proxy is more focused on adding luxury options like leather seats.

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It's one of the only small convertibles on the market, but you might consider the Fiat 500C and Peugeot 108 as alternatives. We'd still go for a Skoda Citigo or Hyundai i10 for city driving, but those cars aren't available with soft-tops.

The Smart ForTwo Cabrio has its own niche in a crowded small car market - it's the smallest convertible car you can buy. Like its ForTwo coupe sibling, the Cabrio is great for city driving thanks to its tiny dimensions and tight turning circle, but it sacrifices practicality as a result.

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Despite the folding roof it's no less practical than the hardtop, as the canvas doesn't take up any boot space. It's just as economical too, but you'll be paying more at the dealership for the luxury of top-down motoring. With only two seats, a small boot and a noisy motorway experience, however, it's only really suitable for certain customers.

Engines, performance and drive

The ForTwo Cabrio feels at home in the city but out of its depth elsewhere

A strong chassis and updated suspension mean the Smart ForTwo Cabrio is better to drive than ever. The ride has been improved as well, although the short wheelbase means it's not as comfortable as its five-seater rivals on bumpy roads.

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The tiny size of the car, coupled with an incredible turning circle, means nipping about in the city is easy. It's fun to squeeze into small gaps and side streets without a problem. Parking is no issue either as the little Smart will fit into almost any parking space.

The steering is well-judged for traffic but being fairly light, it doesn’t give confidence on faster roads. With smooth inputs you won't have a problem but quick inputs make the car feel unsettled at speed. It's a similar story with the brakes. They feel a bit soft at speed but the set-up starts to make sense in slow-moving traffic. The spongy pedal is more comfortable under your foot and makes it easier to avoid lurching if you need to slow down quickly in stop-start traffic.

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The new automatic gearbox works well in town as well, and if you're using the Smart as intended it's well worth going for that transmission since it makes traffic so much easier to navigate.

Engines

There are two engines available for the ForTwo Cabriolet, a 70bhp 1.0-litre petrol or a 89bhp 900cc turbo petrol. Both are free to tax and offer strong economy figures, so the decision to go for the more expensive turbo engine is mainly to do with the extra available power.

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The entry-level 1.0-litre engine has just 70bhp, which means it gets from 0-62mph in 15.5 seconds. That sounds rather slow and to be honest, it really feels it. In town there's enough grunt to get you moving but head out of the city and you can quickly tell there isn't much power available to you. Overtaking manoeuvres must be well planned and building up any sort of momentum isn't a quick process. 

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We'd recommend the 900cc unit, as it offers the extra punch you need at low speed for a quick overtake or pulling away at a roundabout. It will go from 0-62mph in 11.7 seconds, which is decent, but the 135Nm of torque is what really makes the difference here.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

All ForTwo Cabrio models emit less than 100g/km of CO2 and return more than 65mpg

Although the Cabrio costs more to buy than the standard ForTwo, it's no more expensive to run. The automatic versions return 65.7mpg (1.0-litre) and 67.3mpg (900cc), and all models emit less than 100g/km of CO2, so they are free to tax. Stop-start tech and a low curb weight help keep those emissions down.

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The fuel tank is small, at 25 litres, so the car's range isn't the best. It's another reminder that this car is only really for use in the city, as on longer trips you'll need to fill up quite often, even if you get good fuel economy.

Interior, design and technology

The funky looks won't be to everyone's taste, but the Smart has character

Like the new Smart ForTwo, the Cabrio has a more rounded design than the model that came before it. It's a divisive look but get the colour combinations right and it does stand out - in the right way. The Cabrio model has a folding fabric roof in either black or red, which goes up or down in 12 seconds at any speed.

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The car is based on the same parts as the larger Smart ForFour and Renault Twingo, and all cars have a rear-mounted engine. That, combined with the short overhangs is why the ForTwo has such a good turning circle that makes navigating traffic much easier.

The ForTwo has a similarly funky dashboard design, and there are some neat touches inside like the protruding display screen and strong heated seats. However there are still a lot of scratchy, hard plastics in the cabin and the glossy screen surround is a fingerprint magnet. The optional rev counter that sits on top of the dash looks a bit flimsy, too.

There are three specifications: Passion, Prime and Proxy. Standard equipment is decent, though in the UK going for a model with heated seats will mean you can comfortably get the roof off more often.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Sat-nav is available as an option on the Smart ForTwo Cabrio, and it's displayed on the large central screen on the dash. Instructions are clear and it's easy to use. The audio can be turned up nice and loud, which is useful since the car is pretty noisy with the roof down on the motorway.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

Practicality isn't bad considering the size, but the ForTwo still falls behind rivals

Anyone interested in buying a Smart ForTwo will already know that it's never going to be a hugely practical car. The boot is 260 litres, which is the same as the coupe version and the roof doesn't reduce the space in the back at all, although taller items could get in the way if you want to put the roof down.

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There are only two seats, but the space in the cabin is good, with cupholders and storage nets for keeping odds and ends secure. Plus, the doors are nice and wide, which makes getting in and out easier.

Size

The Smart ForTwo Cabrio is the same size as the standard car at 2.7m long, 1.6m wide and 1.5m high. Because there are only two seats, those dimensions mean it's a good mix between being very compact on the outside and decently spacious inside.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Rivals like the Skoda Citigo offer loads of interior space for the money, although that car doesn't have a soft top. Other rivals like the Fiat 500C have a soft top and room for four inside, but don't have the value for money or city mobility to match the ForTwo. If you're just after a car for commuting on city roads then the Smart could work - it's fairly spacious in the driver or passenger seat, and headroom is good with the roof up.

Boot

The boot is 260 litres, which is a good size with all things considered. There's no loading lip and the opening is low enough to make sliding bags in and out easy. The roof has some removable bars that can be stowed in the boot if you want the full open-top experience, but they do eat up space - and if you remove them you can't close the roof quickly if it starts to rain.

Reliability and Safety

Strong chassis and safety kit bode well for the little Smart's safety score

Euro NCAP hasn't tested the Smart ForTwo Cabrio for safety, but it has tested the coupe, which received four stars out of five. It scored well for occupant protection, but lost out on the pedestrian and safety equipment categories. Extensive testing against larger models like the Mercedes C-Class means that despite its size, the little Smart car is still a very safe car overall.

The Smart ForTwo didn't appear in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but parent brand Mercedes did place a respectable 11th in the manufacturer charts. Previous Smart cars were well built, with only one recall on record - and that only involved a handful of cars.

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