2017 Smart ForTwo Cabrio new car reviews

We don't often venture into the realm of micro cars, but out test car this week was a 2017 Smart ForTwo Cabrio. It's made for urban living, but you see them all the time in not-so-urban habitats. It looks like it should have some moxie with a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine and twin-clutch transmission.

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J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

If you were to judge the overall goodness or badness of the Smart Car by our media loaner, you probably wouldn’t be very impressed. Our test car was the most heavily optioned version of the most expensive model, and as such the price had bloated to nearly $24,000. The real beauty of the Smart is that it’s the antithesis of bloat.

Also, we understand that this is not a car for everyone. It’s a specific answer to a specific question, but if you’re asking that question, boy is it an effective answer. The Smart’s real strength is its size—or, technically, lack of it. With a turning circle under 23 feet in diameter, the thing can practically spin on its own axis. And with a length of only around nine feet, suddenly parking options that were heretofore unimaginable are now attainable. For the urban commuter in a dense environment, the Smart may be the ultimate weapon.

The passenger compartment is for all intents and purposes “normal sized.” The cargo area behind the seats is surprisingly roomy and square, although with our convertible model access was tighter than with the hard top coupe. The passenger seat also folds flat, extending your cargo area for long items to nearly five feet. Smart does not list clown capacity on their media website, but we’re sure you could squeeze several in there.

So while our test model may not have been the best execution of the idea, the idea is still solid. You can get leftover 2016 Smart coupes for under $15,000 at the moment, and suddenly that doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea.

Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Digital Experience Director

I enjoyed this thing, but every time I tried to figure out why, I just got more confused.

Was it the thrilling driving experience? Well, no. The transmission, though better than earlier Smarts, still shifts with the nuance of a 16-year-old at their first autocross. The steering is so numb it feels like a product of the E-Z-GO golf cart company, and the three-cylinder engine idles so rough I would have believed I was sitting in a two-cylinder diesel yacht tender.

Was it the ravishingly good looks? You be the judge… but I’m just going to assume those weren’t what drew me in.

The interior? Well, it was nice–by 2005 standards. Despite a fairly recent update, the Smart ForTwo still has the interior of a 10-year-old Hyundai Accent. Also, I’m not sure what Smart killed and draped over the dash, but it wasn’t doing anything for me. Short-haired dog, maybe? At least it had a racy tachometer to let me know that no, really, the transmission actually was downshifting that aggressively as I rolled up to each red light.

The convertible top? Let’s not even go there. It was like a big sunroof that diminished the practicality that the hatchback would normally have (and made the trunk harder to open).

That brings me back to why I liked this tiny, weird, awkward car–I guess I bought into the Smart lifestyle. You know how golf carts are tons of fun even though they are slow and drive poorly? That same freedom is what makes Smart cars enjoyable. After just 20 minutes in the car, I was doing U-turns on two-lane back roads just because I could, and parking sideways in every parking spot purely because it fit between the lines. People don’t buy the Smart because it’s a good car, they buy it because it fits in small places. Drive it with that attitude, and you’ll have fun. Don’t, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t just buy a Honda Civic.

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Comments

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ultraclyde
ultraclyde UberDork
2/10/17 2:34 p.m.

wait, they're still in business?

NickD
NickD SuperDork
2/10/17 2:37 p.m.
ultraclyde wrote: wait, they're still in business?

My exact thought too. I read it and was like "Wait, they still make those?"

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
2/10/17 2:57 p.m.

I thought I read somewhere that 2017 Smarts were finally going to be available with a real manual transmission. Didn't they widen the front track as well, to match the rear track?

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UltimaDork
2/10/17 3:06 p.m.

When are they coming out with a 7-passenger SUV?

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
2/10/17 3:15 p.m.
1988RedT2 wrote: When are they coming out with a 7-passenger SUV?

AWD with a V8. Bonus points for supercharger.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin PowerDork
2/10/17 3:38 p.m.

Can you see anything in that rear view mirror besides the folded up top?

vwcorvette
vwcorvette SuperDork
2/10/17 3:44 p.m.

Renault Twingo platform right?

JohnRW1621
JohnRW1621 MegaDork
2/10/17 3:49 p.m.

To me, it has all been a fail since they were never successful with the Smart Roadster and its optional hatch ala Pulsar.

84FSP
84FSP Dork
2/10/17 6:06 p.m.

They are a Daimler brand and are very much alive and well.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
2/10/17 10:57 p.m.
JohnRW1621 wrote: To me, it has all been a fail since they were never successful with the Smart Roadster and its optional hatch ala Pulsar.

it always seemed to me that killing the roadster JUST before coming to the US was a bad idea

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
2/10/17 11:07 p.m.
mad_machine wrote:
JohnRW1621 wrote: To me, it has all been a fail since they were never successful with the Smart Roadster and its optional hatch ala Pulsar.

it always seemed to me that killing the roadster JUST before coming to the US was a bad idea

Yep, the Smart doesn't really work that well here due to our larger roads and parking lots. Not too mention the diesel motor isn't legal here and the electric just doesn't have the range.

The roadster could have given the Miata and others a run for their money.

nutherjrfan
nutherjrfan Dork
2/11/17 2:51 a.m.

i've been tempted to sign up for car2go and use them as mobile parking spots in the city.

Wall-e
Wall-e MegaDork
2/11/17 9:12 a.m.

The NYPD has a bunch of Smarts to replace those goofy 3 wheeled scooters. They're not much bigger but hold two officers and are a little harder for school kids to tip over.

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
2/11/17 10:04 a.m.
JohnRW1621 wrote:

The Roadster/Coupes are now cheap as chips in Europe. They have a rear mounted bike engine--I wonder if anyone has given one a sportbike engine heart transplant? That seems like an easy button for massive entertainment.

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed SuperDork
2/11/17 4:07 p.m.

I think it could work very nicely in the right application such as in the RV lifestyle. Towing that behind your RV would work. Or a retirement community scenario..........sort of a upscale alternative to a golf cart. Or a pure urban environment where parking and grid lock are an issue. My two biggest complaints about the Smart at that size are it should either be exceptionally fuel efficient like 50 mpg-60 mpg or exceptionally inexpensive like $12-$15 or preferably both. Neither of which it is. Also I don't think I have ever read a really positive test review of it. I still sort of like it though. I am conflicted.

vwcorvette
vwcorvette SuperDork
2/11/17 8:57 p.m.

I don't get the hate. I like my wife's and it's fun to chuck around on Vermont's mountain roads. I've discovered the key to smooth shifting it. Only complaint are the anti spin and stability control nannies are a little too aggressive.

Small, light car. Momentum is your friend.

The first gear is pretty short. It pulls the first 20 feet at stop lights. Plus, nobody expects a smart to try and pull a hole shot on you.

Let's see...1800 lbs, 70 hp. Hmmm, VW Rabbit anyone?

Did I mention the Dedion rear suspension?

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