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The $4000 cult-brand fridge that flunked our testing

All style, no substance: Smeg strikes again.

smeg_fridge_on_blue_thumbs_down (1)
Last updated: 05 March 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

If you're swayed by a cute vintage design or preoccupied with imagining how a trendy fridge will look in your dream kitchen, listen up. Smeg has done it again with another pretty but pricey fridge that bombed in CHOICE testing.

For a lazy $3990, the Smeg FAB32RPB5AU is the latest in a line of exxy but disappointing fridges from the Italian manufacturer.

Smeg has done it again with another pretty but pricey fridge that bombed in CHOICE testing

Smeg fridges are one of the most iconic and recognisable products in the Smeg appliance lineup. They have a curvaceous silhouette, reminiscent of mid-century refrigerators, with vintage chrome detailing that gives them a classic look.

One of the features unique to the brand, and arguably the one that has made them the fridge of choice for many a kitchen reno, is that they're available in a wide range of on-trend colours as well as bold, special-edition designs (hands up if you know a patriotic Brit with the famous Smeg Union Jack fridge?).


Smeg are known for bold, good-looking fridges in a range of colours and designs. Image credit: Smeg

Style over substance

But if you're tempted to splash your cash on one of these retro designer fridge-freezers for your new kitchen, it's worth considering how well it'll function as an actual fridge.

Smeg has a poor track record when it comes to creating fridges that score well in CHOICE testing (remember that time CHOICE experts labelled a Smeg fridge as the worst they'd ever seen?).

Unfortunately the latest model we tested from the high-end Italian appliance brand failed to impress again.

The Smeg bottom-mount refrigerator (model number FAB32RPB5AU) costs an eye-watering $3990, but is ranked as the least impressive performer in our current review of almost 90 fridges of different styles.

What's so bad about the Smeg fridge?

To give the company credit, this fridge is an improvement on previous models, but only just: it scored a lukewarm 43% overall, but a truly chilling 0% for temperature stability, which measures how consistent the temperature is over time.

CHOICE fridge experts have tested hundreds of fridges for decades in our independent labs so they know a thing or two about which fridges are going to operate efficiently and keep your food fresh, and the ones they wouldn't trust with a plate of fresh oysters.

"This Smeg fridge scored just 43% in our testing, which we rate as 'poor' performance," says CHOICE fridge expert Ashley Iredale.

"The most disappointing aspect here was in regards to its temperature stability, which was so bad we gave it a score of 0%."

The temperature fluctuation is bad news for your groceries and will likely contribute to food spoiling faster or even being unsafe to eat

This means that the temperature fluctuates a lot in the fridge and freezer, which is bad news for your groceries and will likely contribute to food spoiling faster or even being unsafe to eat.

But just how bad are we talking here?

"In our test we found the freezer temperature varied by over seven degrees, and staggeringly, the fresh food compartment temperature fluctuated by a massive 8.4 degrees! You better call Kenny Loggins for your leftovers, because that can take your food temperature well into the Danger Zone," quipped Ashley.

Our testers also check for warm spots throughout the fridge and give a score based on how even the temperature is. We found that there was poor temperature evenness throughout the fresh food compartment, with the top shelf being significantly warmer than the bottom area.


CHOICE fridge expert Ashley Iredale is consistently unimpressed by Smeg fridges.

It's big, and not in a good way

Towering almost two metres high, this Smeg fridge is much taller than most other fridges that have a similar capacity (up to 30cm taller than some models). That might be an issue when you're moving your new fridge in if your house has smaller door frames or you have a smaller fridge cavity in your kitchen.

"We've seen plenty of fridges with a larger capacity that take up less space, so it's definitely something to consider if you have a smaller kitchen or doorways, or restricted fridge cabinetry," says Ashley.

How CHOICE experts test fridges

The testing criteria applied by CHOICE is designed to help people understand which fridges are going to perform best in real life, operating efficiently and keeping food as fresh as possible at safe and consistent temperatures.

Good fridges maintain a constant internal temperature, regardless of what's going on outside, meaning you don't have to fiddle with the settings on warmer or cooler days to keep your food at an ideal temperature.

Each fridge is given a score based on: 

  • temperature stability (30%)
  • heat load processing (25%)
  • response to outside temperature change (20%)
  • temperature evenness (20%)
  • default setting (5%).

We also calculate a "keep food fresh longer" score based on temperature stability (40%), temperature evenness (30%), and response to outside temperature (30%).

The CHOICE verdict

With its retro styling, this Smeg fridge will certainly turn heads in your kitchen, but it might also turn stomachs if your food goes off prematurely because the temperature fluctuates so much.

CHOICE testing unfortunately finds that Smeg keeps releasing fridges that are not only bad, but also extremely expensive.

CHOICE experts may give a free pass to a pricey fridge that really performs or a cheaper fridge that does an acceptable job for the price that you're paying, but we won't abide by a high-priced dud.

This Smeg fridge will certainly turn heads in your kitchen, but it might also turn stomachs if your food goes off prematurely

The scores that Smeg fridges have received in CHOICE testing in the past have increased slightly over time, from 22% to 34% and now 43%, so maybe in a decade the retro range will actually work well.

Until then, we don't think their enormous price tags are justified. We'd love for them to prove us wrong!

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.