2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet U.S. Spec


We’re divided on the admittedly subjective point of the redesigned 2017 Smart Fortwo cabriolet’s looks. An additional 3.9 inches of width means great things for handling and drivability, but the high, stubby hood and the new headlights leave some viewers cold. And it’s now 1.4 inches wider than a Fiat 500C. Isn’t the novelty supposed to be the car’s diminutive size? But before we go comparing the Smart Fortwo with cars that are borderline real size, it’s probably prudent to mention that this new-generation Fortwo is better than its predecessor to the same degree that microwaving a pizza beats foraging for nuts and berries.

 

From Three to Three

We previously drove the new cabrio in Europe, but this was our first crack at the U.S. version on U.S. roads. The Smart’s naturally aspirated, Mitsubishi-sourced 70-hp three-cylinder is gone, replaced by an 89-hp turbocharged engine with the same cylinder count. As was the case in its predecessor, the new model’s idle is rough enough to have us wishing for auto stop/start. Maybe that’s to be expected from a three-cylinder engine, particularly when it’s mounted behind your butt and under the trunk. There’s a bit of lag getting into this engine’s powerband, but once it’s over 3000 rpm or so, you can feel the turbocharger helping things along. The new Smart is much faster than the previous car, too, upgrading from excruciatingly slow to not fast. The model with the dual-clutch automatic gets to 60 mph in an estimated 10.6 seconds—while the newly available manual should take 10.4. Contrary to what the tiny engine might suggest, the Fortwo manages just 33 mpg in the city (31 with the manual) and 38 mpg on the highway.


The bigger story might be the aforementioned dual-clutch automatic (a $990 option), which is decades ahead of the single-clutch automated-manual transmission in the previous car. The new gearbox is only slightly less refined than others of its ilk as opposed to being completely primitive. While much improved, it’s still a little rough around the edges. Shifts often take frustratingly long to happen—and we were driving the car in New York City, where things need to happen now. Even in Sport mode, the car needs a few beats to have a last sip of coffee and put down the bagel before responding to a mashed gas pedal. In traffic, despite the car’s diminutive dimensions, the dual-clutch Fortwo is just not the vehicle you want to point and squirt through city congestion—which is a shame given its city-friendly packaging and tidy size. (A five-speed manual transmission is now available, but there were no examples of such cars at our drive event. Read more...

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01 Jan 2017


By JAMES TATE