The cabriolet is the convertible version of the smart fortwo, a two-passenger subcompact car with a surprisingly large interior for its Lilliputian dimensions. Though the cabriolet's middling fuel economy, jerky transmission and poor highway manners will turn off some buyers, those seeking a nimble and easy-to-park city roadster should look no further.
The cabriolet (the automaker eschews capitol letters in its nomenclature) received a modest facelift for the previous model year. While the tall and narrow overall shape didn't change, the model received a new front fascia with a revised lower air intake that gives it a more aggressive look. The grille was also slightly redrawn, and it now incorporates the smart logo. Around back, the bumper was restyled to match the fresh front end.
The cabriolet's diminutive overall length of 8.8 feet (approximately 40 inches shorter than a MINI Cooper) remains the same, with the generously sized interior carrying over as well. Up front, there's plenty of leg and headroom for the driver and passenger, and unique offset seat positioning puts the passenger six inches behind the driver for extra shoulder space. The cabriolet's interior features quality materials, a well laid-out dashboard and intuitive controls.
Given its nanoscale exterior dimensions, the cabriolet's eight cubic feet of trunk space (or twelve if cargo is stacked up to the ceiling) is impressive.
Removing the roof for an open-air driving experience is a two-step process in the cabriolet. First, an electrically operated cloth top with a glass rear window motors back, essentially creating an enormous sunroof. After that, the roof rails and rear portion of the top must be removed manually. Even with all of the roof components removed, the cabriolet isn't quite a true convertible due to its non-retractable b-pillars.
As one would expect given its size, the cabriolet excels in city driving, where it can zip through traffic and fit in the smallest of parking spaces. It's much less at home on the highway, where its small weight and wheelbase make it a bit darty and susceptible to crosswinds.
Three-cylinder motor, "automated manual" transmission
Mounted at the rear of the cabriolet is a 1.0-liter three-cylinder motor that produces 70 horsepower and 68 lb-ft of torque. The tiny engine sends power to the rear wheels via a rough-shifting single-clutch automated manual transmission that tends to lurch like a teenager learning to drive stick for the first time. Acceleration is adequate for city driving, though passing maneuvers are best planned in advance on the highway.
Fuel economy is rated at 34 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, which is somewhat mediocre considering that many larger non-hybrid vehicles can achieve 40 mpg or better on the highway. Premium fuel is required.
Trim Level Breakdown
Unlike the fixed-roof fortwo, which can be had in entry-level (read: stripper) Pure form, the cabriolet is offered only with the up-market Passion trim level.
The cabriolet comes standard with a smart radio with USB and AUX inputs, a three-spoke leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, power locks and windows, A/C with automatic temperature control and 15-inch alloy wheels (the Pure has steel wheels of the same diameter with hubcaps).
Options include a navigation system, heated seats, a surround sound stereo and LED daytime running lights.
With full-size SUVs, enormous pickups and gargantuan 18-wheelers roaming the roads, smart knew that it had take special care in ensuring that the cabriolet would protect its occupants in event of a collision. The car was designed from the outset with safety in mind and features a reinforced high-strength steel tridion safety cell, dual front, side, side-curtain and knee-bolster airbags, traction and stability control systems and ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution.
The smart fortwo cabriolet is the only convertible of its size in the U.S., but those willing to consider a slightly larger drop-top should check out the Fiat 500c. No other drop-top comes close to matching the cabriolet's tiny size and low price.