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2016 Smart Fortwo Cabrio 71 Twinamic review

Smart brings its all-new Fortwo Cabrio to the UK. Can its new folding roof make the quirky Fortwo Cabrio this summer’s must-have open-top?

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Until now, Smart’s third-generation Fortwo has been available in only one coupΓ© body style. The Fortwo Cabrio gets a slightly stiffer body and a fabric roof, in lieu of the metal one, but manages to maintain the tiny footprint of its coupΓ© sibling.

Cleverly, the fabric roof has three opening settings, depending on whether you want a bit of fresh air or the full open-top experience. Firstly, there’s a sunroof mode, where the top slides to the rear of the car but the rear glass screen stays in place. The next stage involves the top sliding right over the back. A bit of manual labour is then required to get the full open-air experience; there are roof bars above the windows which need to be individually removed and then stored in the Cabrio's boot lid.

The Cabrio's engines are carried over from the fixed-roof Fortwo; there's a 70bhp naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit or an 89bhp turbocharged 0.9-litre triple. Both come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, while you can opt for the optional six-speed dual clutch automatic for Β£995. There’s a choice of three trims levels; Passion, Prime and Proxy. Here, we are testing the 1.0-litre 71hp in Prime trim.

What’s the Smart Fortwo Cabrio like to drive?

Performance in a city car like the Smart is never going to be a determining factor, which for this Smart is a good thing. Its power delivery is relatively linear, but 70bhp, even in a car this diminutive, feels pretty slow. There’s certainly enough power for zipping around town, but on motorways and A-roads it takes a concerted effort to keep up with the traffic and the engine needs to be revved hard.

The engine's low-speed refinement is also poor. At idle, too much vibration is felt in the cabin, while the Smart's lethargic start-stop system sends the engine juddering back to life too slowly to be helpful in town.

It's made worse by the automatic 'box. Its reactions are dim-witted when moving off. Gearchanges on the move are snappier, but getaways are sluggish and spurts of acceleration require advanced planning, while crawling along in traffic can be jerky. Sport mode improves matters a little, but not enough.

The little Smart handles well enough around town. Its steering is light and the Cabrio is keen to change direction, although its tiny wheelbase means it is often too keen, and you have to reduce your steering angle mid-corner. The Fortwo's party piece, though, is a turning circle of just 6.95m, which means you can perform single action u-turns on any decently wide road, where permitted.

The Cabrio is manoeuvrable, yes, but the ride isn't quite comfortable enough. The low-speed ride is extremely busy, and because large obstructions such as speed bumps are hit by both axles without much pause, a pronounced vertical bounce is sent through the cabin.

With the roof in place, the cabin remains relatively quiet with little wind or road noise. There is more noise than in the hard-top version, but after all this car does have a fabric roof. With the roof fully down there’s less buffeting at higher speeds than just in β€˜sunroof’ mode. Around town, you’re well protected and have plenty of options to keep your hair unruffled.

What’s the Smart Fortwo Cabrio like inside?

Quirky and entertaining. The fascia is dominated by a 7.0in touchscreen surrounded with black gloss. The circle air vents look good, as does the instrument binnacle while the fabric topped dash is a nice touch. Our car featured an individually mounted circular pod, which houses the rev counter and a clock, but while the Cabrio's plastics are textured, they are still hard and feel cheap.

Visibility to the front and side is excellent, however, the view over the shoulder is significantly restricted by the Cabrio's thick rear pillars. Furthermore, the view through the low-set and narrow rear window is fairly limited, and even with the top fully down the folded roof blocks some of the view.

The dash has been significantly recessed in front of the passenger, which provides decent leg room and adds to the feeling of the generally spacious cabin. There are also a few storage nets behind the seats for added storage. A boot capacity of 340 litres with the roof up is pretty good for a car this size. However, this is significantly reduced to 260 litres with the top down and roof bars stored.

Passion is the entry level trim and comes with 15in alloy wheels, automatic air-con and Bluetooth connectivity. Prime and Proxy are both Β£695 more than Passion, with our Prime model focusing on a luxury feel and Proxy as the sporty alternative. There are two additional upgrade packages; Premium and the Premium Plus add rear parking sensors, navigation, LED headlights and light/rain sensors, depending on which one you opt for.

Should I buy one?

For town living and open-air thrills, it’s certainly an entertaining and compelling car. However, a Fiat 500C is a better all-round option, as it offers you two extra seats and a better driving experience.

If it has to be the Smart, we’d go for this 70bhp version with a manual gearbox in Passion trim. It has just enough performance for most buyers and isn't hampered by the Twinamic automatic gearbox.

Matthew Griffiths

What Car? says...

Rivals

Fiat 500C

Peugeot 108 Top

Smart Fortwo 71 Twinamic Engine size 1.0-litre petrol Price Β£13,265 Power 70bhp Torque 67lb ft 0-62mph 15.5sec Top speed 94mph Fuel economy 65.7mpg CO2 99g/km

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