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2011 Smart Fortwo Passion Cabriolet -- Playful Appeal

By Arv Voss, June 11th, 2011

The smart, called the fortwo, is for two people. The diminutive vehicle is made in France and is of microcar proportions. It is only 8.8 feet long, 5.1 feet high, with an equal measurement in width. It tips the scales at just 1,852 pounds.

The smart fortwo is "cute", though I normally avoid describing any vehicle as such. Many refer to it as a "clown car", while suggesting wearing large red bulb noses when onboard. The smart fortwo displays a futuristic Jetson-like styling, and despite its reduced dimensions, is surprisingly big on interior space along with comfort and features. It is definitive proof that good things really do come in small packages.

The 2011 Smart fortwo comes in two levels of trim: Pure and Passion. Both trims are available in two types: Coupe and Cabriolet. The latter features a fully automatic, two-position convertible soft top with heated glass rear window that recedes and closes electrically at travel speeds up to 60 mph.

The innovative two-material construction concept consists of a tridion safety-cell crafted from high-strength steel and colorful, interchangeable body panels made of premium, dent resistant plastic. The front, which appears as if it might house the engine, does not. Nor does it provide trunk space. Storage for one's personal gear is behind the seats.

The rear-wheel drive smart fortwo, except the electric drive version, is powered by a 1.0-liter, transversely rear-mounted motor that connects to a five-speed automated manual transmission ahead of the engine. The motor generates 70 horsepower and 68 lb.-ft. of torque, and is capable of propelling the car to an electronically limited top speed of 90 mph, or from 0-60 mph in 12.8 seconds. It's not a dragster folks. Obviously.

The smart fortwo passion cabriolet rides on 12-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels, staggered in width and tire size. I drove the fortwo passion cabriolet with its base price set at $17,690.

Roger Penske leads the smart USA team, and is chairman of smart USA and the Penske Automotive Group handles the exclusive distribution system. smart is a member of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The smart fortwo has a couple of things going for it -- it's visually appealing to most observers, it's economical, fun to drive, and it fits easily into minimal parking spaces (two will fit into a conventional parking space).

Acceleration is not blistering and the automated manual transmission takes some getting used to, with a bothersome lag between gear changes. I would much prefer a dual clutch type shiftable automatic, but we're not talking about a performance vehicle here, so there's no point. At maximum freeway speed, crosswinds can present cause for concern due to the car's squared profile and short wheelbase.

The interior space and amenities are surprisingly plentiful and user friendly. The ride quality is compliant enough, but potholes should be avoided when possible. The handling characteristics are responsive and positive.

Safety concerns are generally a major consideration given the fortwo's size and construction, but after viewing several crash and roll-over test footage, the smart fortwo came through the displayed tests with flying colors, bolstering enough confidence to entertain purchasing one personally.

We give kudos for the playful, futuristic appearance and appeal, the surprising amount of functional interior space and the easy cabriolet top operation when underway.

Specifications

Base price $17,690 (as tested: $19,620)
Displacement 1.0-liter
Epa mileage rating 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 10 gal.
Horsepower (net) 70 at 5800 rpm
Motor type 12-valve 3-cylinder w/MPFI
Overall length 106.1 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 68 at 4500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Vehicle type 2-passenger RWD microcar
Wheelbase 73.5 in.
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