Test Drive: Smart ForTwo Cabrio MHD image

With the new generation of the Smart ForTwo Cabrio being currently tested and set for debut by the end of the year, we’ve went for a spin in the second-gen version, the drop-top MHD (Micro Hybrid Drive).

Engine and Transmission

The most popular Smart ForTwo vehicles are coming with a petrol engine, even if there is a diesel available too, so we tested the 1.0-liter gasoline version, which has a 999cc displacement. The unit is fitted into the rear and it’s producing a total output of 71 HP (52 kW) at 5,800 rpm, with a peak torque of 92 Nm available from 2,800 rpm. These figures may not seem that impressive but considering the fact that this is a city car, they are more than enough to get you from A to B without asking too many questions. The Micro Hybrid Drive (MHD) is a technology which is adding the stop/start system and the braking energy recovery.

Smart always preferred semi-automatic or fully automatic transmissions, with a sequential mode available from the gearshift lever or from steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and the model we tested had such a transmission, but without the annoying paddle shifters. In the automatic mode, there is still a lag in between changing gears and even if this has improved since the first generation, it’s still annoying and it may eat your brains out when trying to overpass someone or when you simply want to get somewhere fast. The sensation which best describes the lag is engine brake, you feel like the you’ve downshifted every time the gearbox is changing gears.

Fuel Consumption

Most people think that if you’re driving a very small car the fuel consumption should be insignificant and you are probably visiting petrol stations on occasion, when you feel bored. False! The Smart ForTwo is consuming enough fuel to make you jealous on old diesel cars which are less expensive. In fact we were shocked on the amount of fuel consumed. The model we tested didn’t have a trip computer but after 300 km there was only a quarter of petrol tank left. By using basic mathematics it’s easy to see that the range stands at approximately 400 km, but don’t get mad because the tank only has a 33-liter capacity. Which means that the average fuel consumption stood at approximately 8L / 100km. Out of these 300 km, half were made in the city and the other half on the highway so the fuel consumption is anything but brilliant. You know it’s there and you know you’re driving a petrol engine, so if this is a drawback, perhaps you should choose the diesel engine. We have to mention that Smart is providing us with a single fuel consumption figure: 4.4L / 100km and 100 g/km of CO2 emissions.

The Ride

Being inside the Smart ForTwo was fun for a day, I played with the fabric roof, listened to music and tested the steering. All of them are doing their jobs just like they should. The annoying part is the suspension because if you’re not used to being stabbed regularly, this may be a drawback. You won’t notice it at first but then it will become very annoying. The fact that your bottom is sitting basically on the rear axle, and the distance between the front and rear axles is tiny, combined with stiff springs and shock absorbers, is translated into a bumpy ride. A very bumpy ride. When driving on the highway it will feel like going over speed bumps constantly and when you eventually meet some speed bumps it feels like you’re taking a 4×4 vehicle off-roading. This is how bad the suspension is. But if you didn’t get to drive a lot of cars and you simply want something small, relatively cheap, with a roof which can come down, medium fuel consumption to use as an everyday car, you won’t notice this.

Interior Design

The Smart ForTwo has, obviously, only two seats, but the solid roof version can sometimes host a third person in the rear, between the seats, so if your child misbehaves, than you can take your wife along for the ride and make him sit in the rear. This will assure a healthy growth and unconditional love. Don’t blame the car if he turns out to be a serial killer, blame yourself for being to cheap to buy a hatchback.

The cabin is offering what every car in the 1990s has: a speedometer, center locking, air conditioning, electric windows and that’s about all. On top of that, we can mention the multimedia touch screen, with integrated satellite navigation system, which does its job pretty good and even if it may show you in the middle of the field sometimes, don’t worry, because it will eventually find the road again.

And speaking of the multi-function display, you should know that this is also hosting the Bluetooth function, it has a mode in which you can watch photos or play videos but make sure to use these while stationary. In fact, they don’t even work when you’re driving, so they are obviously there to help you show off.

The best part about the Smart ForTwo Cabrio is definitely its roof. It can go down at the touch of a button but before it will be transformed into a fully convertible vehicle you have to leave the car, open the boot, press to levers on the roof to make the rear window go up, get back into the car, push the button again and the roof is down. Then you may want to leave the car again and remove the panels on top of the doors. This is easy, you have two buttons for that, one on each side and in the end you can store them in a special place inside the tailgate. And if it suddenly starts to rain, it won’t take you more than 20 or 30 seconds to reverse the operation.

Likes / Dislikes

A big “like” definitely goes to its small size and exterior design. It’s both practical and good looking. You have enough space in the cabin, a good engine, a fabric roof for when it’s sunny, comfortable seats, a good driving position and a multi function touch screen display. You also get USB and AUX but that’s about all.

Sadly the “dislike” part is a bit longer because I’ll start with the air conditioning. It’s doing its job pretty well but at a cost: your quietness. In fact the noise is so annoying that you won’t even hear if someone is screaming at you from outside. Another drawback are the seatbelts. I’m quite tall but the seatbelt tried to cut my throat everytime I was in the car. I moved it around the seat, pulled it away from the seat and back on but nothing did the job. So make sure you wear a collar shirt when driving the Smart. This is the best way to ignore this problem. The “big award” goes to the suspension. This is simply annoying and it will make you go old in a few hours, especially in the city. The rear visibility isn’t good, the gearbox is simply awful and if something goes wrong with the engine you have to find a good mechanic, because you don’t have access to anything. It would be a nightmare to change a light bulb too.

Safety

Despite its small size, the Smart ForTwo is one of the safest cars on the road. Back in 2007, the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) rated it “Good” in both the front and the side crash tests. The vehicle scored 8 points out of 11 in the injury categories. When it was tested by the Euro NCAP in the same year, the Smart ForTwo received a 4-star safety rating.

Price

Cheapest version – 11,702 EUR
The model we tested – 20,875 EUR (VAT included); out of these optionals we have to mention the textile material on the dashboard and doors, 1,849 EUR, the multimedia screen, 836 EUR, and the white color, 210 EUR.