City driving can be a challenge, with congested streets and narrow roads. Although Brooklyn boasts a ton of bicyclists, small cars are also popular, and the Smart ForTwo Cabrio, designed for urban driving, is a perfect fit.
A car made for Brooklyn
It’s not often that other motorists and pedestrians give Brooklyn drivers a thumbs up. In fact, a Bronx cheer or the middle finger is the more usual greeting. But I drove around my borough in a 2017 Smart ForTwo Cabrio, a cute little convertible, and we got nothing but smiles.
I would like to think that my bouncy curls were the reason for this, but I know it was the two tone, too cute for words ForTwo that made everyone grin. This compact car, part of the Mercedes-Benz family, is so adorable you just want to pinch its little cheeks, or smile at its happy grille.
The cabrio, which has three settings: a giant sunroof opening, a full top down and then an open air experience, where you store the roof rails in the trunk and commune with nature – or, in this case, Brooklyn – really lets you feel like part of the environment. And this tiny car (which, though it has a small footprint, is surprisingly spacious inside, even for larger drivers) is ideal for tooling around a city.
In fact, Smart cars comprise the fleet of car2go, an urban car sharing program that operates in Brooklyn, as well as Austin, Seattle, Washington, DC and more than two dozen cities around the world.
Remember having to make a three point turn to pass your driver’s test? Imagine doing that while traffic snarls in both directions, tempers fume and voices rise. But with the Smart ForTwo, you can pull a U-turn willy-nilly.
Smart ForTwo, a smarter car
Well, don’t forget that Brooklyn streets are often one way. No making a U-turn there. But in the narrow, cobblestoned streets of DUMBO, I was able to turn around even though a car was double parked right where I was going. The turn radius on this snub-nosed little convertible is minuscule – just 22 feet (or about the length of Lincoln Continental).
We started our Brooklyn adventure at the newly opened William Vale hotel in Williamburg. It was fitting to drive the newly released cars at a brand new hotel; everything was in perfect working order at the hotel, which had served its first guests just six days earlier.
The William Vale, which also lets you enjoy the outdoors, has balconies in every room and floor to ceiling glass walls for all. The Manhattan skyline is so close you can touch it. The hotel boasts a 60 foot outdoor swimming pool; that’s about seven Cabrios, lined up grille to grille. The hotel also has a rooftop bar and restaurant, fitness center, and an outdoor plaza where you can hang out.
In DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) we fueled up at Brooklyn Roasting Company, a local purveyor of highly caffeinated drinks. Of course, the cold brew is served in a compostable cup, and the pastries are from two Brooklyn institutions (meaning, they have cult millennial followings: doughnuts by Dough and croissants by Bien Cuit).
And speaking of fuel – the economical ForTwo gets 35 miles per gallon, so you don’t have to feel guilty about excessive fossil fuel consumption.
Easy to park, no matter what city
We slid into a spot in DUMBO that could have fit a motorcycle and walked to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which has a glass enclosed carousel – Brooklynites love their sun – and acres of grass, playgrounds and rocky beaches.
Enjoying the sun
I kept the soft top in the fully open position, since it was a warm gorgeous day; if you have the top closed, you can open to either the sunroof or panoramic sunroof while you are driving. To fully open the top, you have to pull over, and pop the roof rails out; if you do this in Brooklyn, you might make a local friend.
For a less rocky beach, we headed down to Coney Island, where the foolhardy can brave the Cyclone. My mother didn’t let me ride it as a kid because HER mother said it was unsafe; then again, the 1927 wooden roller coaster keeps clacking along and I have let my kids ride it. In fact, I’ve insisted.
No, no, no, I would never force a child to ride a roller coaster. But my husband loves to ride it and so do my daughters. And they still have all their fingers and toes.
Coney Island has other, more earth (and water) bound appeals: the soft white sand is actually quite clean, the New York Aquarium has adorable sea otters, penguins and a sea lion show, and the Cyclones play minor league baseball all summer, with frequent fireworks shows.
Don’t like the noise? Embrace the quiet
For a car priced under $20,000, I expected some engine noise and rattling, but the ForTwo is surprisingly quiet, with a smooth ride. I mean, we were driving over potholes the size of grand pianos and cobblestones, but still we could hear the radio and navigation. The nav system doesn’t come with the car, but there is a free app, SmartConnect, that gives directions through your smartphone (without eating up your data plan) and a $100 mount for the phone lets you see the screen.
The Smart engineers kept things basic – there is no blind spot monitor, but neither is there a blind spot. You’re driving a open air car, or a soft top with good sight lines, so you really don’t need a blind spot monitor.
You just need a good hair gel.
Note: I was a guest of Mercedes-Benz, which covered my night at the William Vale; like any good Brooklyn-ite, biked over to the hotel. Opinions expressed are my own.