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First drive: Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

First drive: Smart Fortwo Cabrio
The Smart Cabrio is the smallest, cheapest convertible of all.


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Smart Fortwo Cabrio

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Smart launches the latest version of its popular Cabrio model, based as it is on the diminutive Fortwo city car. Fitting a fabric 'Tritop' hood and some removable roof bars ramps up the kerb appeal of this conscientiously stylish two-seater without seemingly damaging the driving dynamics, although it commands a considerable premium over the 'Coupé' Fortwo as a result.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Smart Fortwo Cabrio Prime Twinamic 90hp
Pricing: Cabrio range starts from £13,265; Prime Twinamic 90hp from £15,550
Engine: 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Body style: two-door, two-seat convertible
CO2 emissions: 97g/km (VED Band A, £0 annually)
Combined economy: 67.3mpg
Top speed: 96mph
0-62mph: 11.7 seconds
Power: 90hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 135Nm at 2,500rpm

What's this?

The open-top version of Smart's latest generation of Fortwo city car, called the Cabrio. And when all you're dealing with is 2.69 metres of machine, there's not a lot of differentiation you can engineer in when it comes to removing a next to infinitesimal bit of metal roof and replacing it with fabric. Thus, in terms of its architecture the all-new Cabrio looks a lot like its Mk2 predecessor.

That's no bad thing, because roughly 10 per cent of all Smarts sold in the UK to date have been the open-tops, so there's clearly a taste for the inevitable 'pram roof' look when driving al fresco. And the more we see of the latest Smart, the more we like the challenging exterior aesthetic. There are some typically funky colour combinations for the Fortwo Cabrio and it looks attractively striking in all of them. Meanwhile, the only difference inside is the addition of a little button down near the gear lever that controls the roof's electric motors. Otherwise, the car's impressive cabin remains appealing despite its limited space.

As standard, the Cabrio's USP - called the 'Tritop' - comes finished in black, but for £115 you can have it in red instead. It can be raised and lowered electrically on the move right up to the Smart's vertiginous top speed of 96mph and it's called the Tritop not simply to tie in neatly with the Fortwo's Tridion safety cell design, but because you can have three different modes of enjoying some extra fresh air: stage one slides the roof back in its horizontal plane only, in a sunroof-like fashion; stage two sees the back of the hood then fold down and sit on top of the boot; and stage three, which unlike the first two requires a fair amount of human intervention to achieve, involves removing the two longitudinal roof bars above the doors and stowing them in a remarkably clever compartment in the Smart's downward-folding rear hatch. Indeed, on the basis of its, um... smart use of minimal space the car as a whole is a packaging marvel.

There are some penalties to having the Cabrio over the tin-topped Fortwo, chief of which is the £2,140 it commands over the already hefty Smart starting price of £11,125, meaning you're looking at £13,265 at least to own one. Still, it remains the cheapest new convertible car you can buy. The trim levels run Passion, Prime and Proxy, with plenty of toys for each grade. All the other drawbacks relate to the fact that, depending on spec, the Cabrio is between 40- and 55kg heavier than the Coupé equivalent. That means very, very slight disadvantages on top speed (for this 90hp model, it's 1mph slower at 96mph flat out), 0-62mph acceleration (0.4 seconds slower at 11.7 seconds), economy (reduced by 1.6mpg to 67.3mpg combined) and CO2 emissions (up 1g/km to 97g/km). However, all variants of the Cabrio are free from road tax so none of these deficits are of massive consequence.

How does it drive?

In almost all respects, it's practically identical to its hard-topped sibling. Smart will be offering the Fortwo with all four combinations of drivetrain - so it can be had with the 1.0-litre, normally aspirated 71hp unit or the 90hp 0.9-litre turbocharged engine (both three-cylinder units), and these can be mated to either a standard-fit five-speed manual gearbox or the six-speed Twinamic dual-clutch auto; this latter transmission is a £995 option, but bizarrely, from launch, only the Twinamic Cabrios will be on sale - the cheaper manual follows in March.

What we've driven here is the optimum 'city spec' car, which is surely the environment where most Fortwo Cabrios will be used, so it's a 90hp Twinamic in middling Prime trim. And it proves to be a fine contrivance, albeit with the same few bugbears of any current Smart. The turbocharged motor still has an odd two-stage feeling to its accelerator pedal, which only exacerbates the engine's lag. The DCT, while from another dimension of refinement when compared to those awful original semi-automatic gearboxes Smart used, remains a rather relaxed twin-clutch unit by the best of today's standards. And the steering is merely so-so.

However, despite these foibles and a considerable increase in wind noise at motorway speeds, the Fortwo's greatest trick is the fact that, for most of the time, it feels like a premium big car in its mannerisms, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that your spine is at the back of the vehicle. The Cabrio is more than happy cruising along a motorway at 75mph, while it is of course perfect for nipping around town given its compact dimensions. It even has a reasonably playful chassis, which will (to a degree) adjust its four-square stance on the throttle. OK, the ride is a bit bouncy but it's not appallingly uncomfortable. The long and short... all right, fine, mainly short of all this is that for driving about town posing, the Fortwo Cabrio is absolutely spot on.

Talking of looking good, there's less buffeting in the cabin with the hood fully open, rather than in its 'sunroof' setting, so if the sun's shining and you're intent on protecting your £400 haircut then drop the top all the way. Whether the roof bars are in situ or not seems to make no difference at all to the in-car turbulence levels.


The Smart has never driven better than in this third-generation guise, and that's especially true of the Twinamic auto as well. OK, the turbocharged motor still has the sticky throttle, while wind noise is markedly noisier in the Cabrio than on the regular Fortwo. But, for target buyers, its premium-feeling character and its supremely easy-to-use Tritop roof make this a fine little convertible. The main issue is going to be whether you think £15,550 for this is either great value for a brand-new open-top car possessing plenty of style, or a massive amount of cash for a two-seat city car with little in the way of practicality.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 26 Jan 2016    - Smart road tests
- Smart news
- Fortwo Cabrio images

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.

2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Image by Smart.


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