For good or for bad, this car stands out unlike any other on the road. It’s the smallest convertible that money can buy, and as a result the Smart ForTwo occupies a very distinct niche of the automotive marketplace. Following a comprehensive redesign last year, which addressed a number of long-standing issues with the basic concept, Smart has now added the Cabrio model to broaden the range.
The Cabrio line-up matches that of the Coupé, with a choice of two three-cylinder engines and manual or dual-clutch automatic gearboxes. Tested here in 90bhp Passion guise with the so-called ‘twinamic’ transmission, it is positively miniscule at 2,700mm in length. That might put some buyers off immediately, but the latest ForTwo has an even wider choice of colour and finish combinations that allow you to make the most of its cute proportions. The Smart’s unusual looks are a big part of its image, and its overall unique design will make it a clear hit or miss with buyers looking for a small convertible.
However, despite the small footprint, getting comfortable behind the wheel is relatively straightforward, as long as you’ve specified the non-standard adjustable steering wheel and driver’s seat. The fabric roof requires just 12 seconds to fully roll back, while the option to remove the side beams creates a greater sense of space. The boot is surprisingly big at 260 litres, bigger than most of its key rivals, of which there are few, but the relatively narrow opening to the space counts against it a little.
That said, being able to reach all four corners of the car from the driver’s seat is a unique experience, and if the road conditions allow you to exploit it, the ForTwo Cabrio will leave anything this side of a motorbike behind in traffic. It also retains the impressive ability to turn 180 degrees in less than double its length and squeeze into parking spaces beyond the reach of anything else with four wheels.
The little 900cc turbocharged engine is willing and sufficiently torquey to keep up with any sane dash away from traffic lights, with the desirable six-speed dual-clutch transmission keeping acceleration smooth in most conditions. That said, a lead-footed approach doesn’t suit this set-up, and demanding too much too soon can leave both engine and gearbox pointing at each other while you sit waiting for something to happen.
It’s much easier to enjoy the ForTwo Cabrio at more leisurely speeds, making the most of the decent torque and the flexibility of the roof. Driven this way the engine remains quiet and the ride is settled enough in most conditions.
The Passion model comes with alloy wheels, climate control, LED daytime running lights and Bluetooth connectivity as standard. Electric door mirrors are not included and come within the optional Comfort package, which also adds the worthwhile height-adjustable steering wheel and driver’s seat. Moving up to the Prime model brings with it heated seats, while the Premium package adds the features of the Comfort pack plus the touchscreen and rear parking assistance.
In a quite specific set of circumstances the Smart ForTwo Cabrio is an excellent car. If you spend the majority of time in and around a city and often snarled up in traffic, its ability to snaffle parking spaces others have to drive by and dodge through traffic jams, could be a source of endless satisfaction. That you can now do it while enjoying fresh air in a matter of 12 seconds is a welcome bonus.
Overall, the ForTwo Cabrio makes more sense as a second car, but there are options that offer more for the money.