My tiny, 89-horsepower, $23,135 Smart Fortwo cabriolet tester was a surprise and something of a revelation, though the core issue remains: a car with two bucket seats and only enough cargo room for a handful of grocery bags is practical for only the most niche of niche buyers.
But the Fortwo ragtop might be the ideal second car for city dwellers. It is a dream to slot into tight underground spaces and on the street you can park it nose-first to the curb, if legal.
And don’t think this runabout is under-powered — quick as a sleepy elephant. This grown-up roller skate is very happy sharking through traffic, with tight, direct steering and strong braking.
I mean, this car is just a little bit bigger than a steamer trunk, so 89 horsepower is plenty. The five-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox slots up and down the ratios quite nicely and precisely, though given the nature of this transmission technology, it’s not always completely smooth.
Just the other day, in fact, I needed to do a quick U-turn downtown to claim a rare parking space. Traffic swirled around me. BAM. I was around and in, just like that.
Sure, the 0-100 km/hour time doesn’t look impressive, but 10.7 seconds is just fine. Smart says top speed is 155 km/hour, too. Well, you would never find me terrorizing myself like that in any Fortwo, but this two-seater isn’t aimed at autobahn users.
No, it’s the urban commuter who will like this car. The gold-and-black exterior colours look rich and the boxy styling is dressed up with curves and creases that make it quite pleasing, even sporty-ish. The two-stage top is all-electric, a work of clever engineering that opens fully in 12 seconds at the press of a button – stage one, a big sunroof; stage two, all convertible.
The seats inside are packed with firm foam, making them very comfortable even if you’re a Big and Tall shopper. The instrument/control layout is handsome and, more importantly, user-friendly. A plastic smartphone holder juts out from the centre stack like a Lego project, blocking some controls, but at least you have a place to store your device.
Finally, small as it is, the Fourtwo is safe – earning a good rating for crash protection from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS.
Smart’s parent, Daimler, plans to make its city car brand the spearhead in an all-electric push. Indeed, the gas-powered cabriolet I tested is the last of its kind in Canada and the United States.
Going forward, the launch of the fourth-generation Smart ForTwo electric drive means the Smart lineup will consist exclusively of the zero-emissions Smart electric-drive coupe and cabrio in the U.S. and Canada.
My tester, the collector’s piece! Hmm.
Smart Fortwo Passion cabriolet
Engine: 898 cc three-cylinder (89/100 lb-ft torque.
Transmission: five-speed dual clutch automatic (a five-speed manual is the base gearbox).
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.0 city/6.3 hwy, using premium fuel.
Comparables: Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris, Mini Cooper, Honda Fit, Kia Rio.