As before, it’s almost as nippy as a bike, yet as trendy as the priciest convertible. If you’re urban-bound, here’s a car with few really direct rivals and one it’s hard not to like.
Roof open on a sunny day, your designer shopping bags on the seat beside you, it takes a special kind of urban traffic jam to dent your general good humour if you’re a smart cabrio driver. The electric fabric roof operates at a touch of the button provided by the gearstick and because the car itself is so short, it’s quick enough to do at the lights if you’re hit by a sudden cloudburst, the process occupying just 12 seconds. If you want, you can have the top partly open in a ‘sunroof’-style position. Or, if it’s retracted fully back, you can get a full properly blowy open-topped experience if you’re prepared to stop and unclip the two longitudinal roofbars.
The third generation model gets far more sophisticated underpinnings developed with Renault and a much improved suspension set-up that not only makes things more comfortable in town but also makes longer distance trips more pleasant. It’s at its best in the city though, a party piece being the astonishingly tight 6. 95m turning circle. There’s also now a choice of engines, both of them three cylinder petrol powerplants. There’s the 71bhp normally aspirated 1. 0-litre unit, but there’s also a 0. 9-litre turbocharged 90bhp option that offers considerably more pulling power for easier overtaking. Either way, drivers have transmission options for the very first time on this car, there’s a manual gearbox now available if you don’t want the automatic, the ‘twinamic’ self-shifter is much smoother than the jerky sequential auto you had to have with the previous generation model. Whatever your choice of engine or gearbox, running costs won’t be very much affected, most models managing 65. 7mpg on the combined cycle and 99g/km of CO2.
Would you like one? If you’re urban-bound, it’d be hard not to be tempted, providing the metropolis you have in mind isn’t habitually smog-filled. Smart, we’re told, is all about ‘FUN. ctional’ design and with that in mind, it helps that it feels like a proper convertible in a way that comparably-priced rivals simply don’t.
The roof bars that you have to have permanently attached on comparably-priced rival models can, on a fortwo cabrio, be easily unclipped and then stored in the little compartment on the inside of the tailgate.
The twin-section tailgate isn't new, but it's something that owner feedback insisted upon, so the design's been carried over from the previous model, complete with its user-friendly upper opening glass section.
With everything open, you get an amazingly tardis-like cargo bay, boot space to the windowline rated at 260-litres, the same as you’d get in the fixed-top model and 20-litres more than the previous generation model could offer.
At the wheel, the spacial surprises continue and you’ll quickly find yourself wondering how on earth something so diminutively small outside can feel so large and airy within. You now feel that you’re in a proper car, rather than some kind of cramped urban mobility pod.
So, how to sum up? Well, the extra maturity of the third generation version is welcome, with its smoother driving dynamics, stronger safety standards and extra connectivity. Ultimately though, this is still the kind of selection you make with your heart rather than your head. Maybe if smart could sell it in some kind of giant designer shopping bag? Better still, one of those convertible, reversible ones. Fashion: don’t you just love it?.