Smart brand is a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and Geely, known for producing small beautiful micro EVs. Inspired by Swatch watches, smart subcompacts such as Fortwo and Forfour are priced well above other electric vehicles such as MG5 and even Nissan Leaf in the UK for both cash purchase and on lease.
With the new Smart #1 SUV, the aspiration is to find a niche for a lifestyle SUV that could be seen as an urban companion and not as a transport. But could a car with a new design and attractive technological features become a companion?
The highlight of the interior is the floating centre console with a large 12.8 full HD touch screen. Customisable avatars could provide some fun, while the mini digital instrument cluster offers useful information to reduce distraction.
Physical keys on the steering wheel are a welcome feature but appear complicated with the presence of 2 four-way controls on either side and three other buttons.
The inclusion of the 13-speakers Beats sound system adds punch while listening to streaming music on the go and during charging sessions. The slidable rear bench helps improve cargo space for increased practicality, while the optional electronic button-based door release adds a premium touch.
The designers could have gone for a minimalistic design by replacing the physical vents with hidden digital vents. The vents glow and look colourful with ambient lights, but the interior does look a bit boring by Mercedes standards during the day.
From the exterior view, Smart #1 is comparable in size (length, width, height: 4270/ 1822 / 1636 mm) to a Hyundai Kona and Volkswagen ID.3. The new Niro EV is, in fact, longer than #1 by about 15 cm. Concealed door handles with frameless doors, a floating halo sunroof adds to the looks and excitement of smart #1.
Volkswagen ID.4, with a length of 4584 mm, is over 310 mm longer and more practical than #1.
Matrix LED lights and ambient lights make this car look stunning and show what you could expect from Mercedes.
The rear design looks bland, with the roof segment not joining the lower rocker panel. The design makes the lack of a Tridion steel safety shell evident.
Smart #1 looks better than a Honda E but loses to the new Renault Megane E-tech.
While Volkswagen ID.4 could be configured with wheels from 18 to 21 inches, Smart #1 only comes with a 19-inch wheel from the factory, which might be alright for daily commutes in and around the urban roads.
Technology & Performance
Smart #1 is packed with the latest technology, from the digital keys with share capability to the level 2+ driving assist (Adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, active lane-keeping system, blind spot assist, highway and traffic jam assist, adaptive high beam assist) and parking assist capability. There is even an optional 10-inch Head-Up Display (HUD).
With the inclusion of cloud-synchronised profiles, Smart has even beaten Tesla when it comes to connectivity.
The rear-wheel mounted engine offers maximum performance of 200kW and a torque of 343 Nm. This beats the Volkswagen ID.4 Pro Performance, which only manages 150kW with its 77 kWh battery pack. ID.4 GTX is only slightly higher, offering 220 kW power. The 2020 Kia e-Niro, with a torque of 395 Nm and a towing capacity of 750 kg, continues to be the favourite for a first EV. The max speed of 112mph is plenty for the target customers based in the city and matches the performance of ID.4 GTX.
With a 66 kWh NCM battery and a fast 150 kW DC charging capability, charging from 20-80% should take less than 30 minutes on rapid chargers. One could expect a real-world range of around 180 miles (WLTP 273 miles) with a mostly urban commute. While there is a 22 kW onboard AC charger, city dwellers without a driveway could manage a whole week of school runs and shopping trips with a single rapid charging session.
The 15-litre frunk space could store the type 2 charging cable.
Review on YouTube
This review from a German YouTuber is our personal favourite.
- Smart #1 has a full grille which is completely unnecessary for an EV, and the extra drag would reduce the efficiency of this car.
- Removing the charging port reveals two rubber caps which are a fuss to remove. There is no easy button to open/close the charging port for a car that claims technological superiority.
- The car comes with a low-quality parcel shelf that most would remove within the first week.
With #1, Smart has tried to move away from creating a transport towards a companion car. However, what is offered as #1 is neither a transport (with limited practicality, not a real SUV) nor a companion car (bland design).
As an SUV, Volkswagen ID.4 and Nissan Ariya offer more space and comfort than #1. The new Niro EV makes more sense as an all-rounder and a first EV.
We believe the success of this car would therefore be entirely decided based on price and availability via car-sharing services such as Ubeeqo and Zipcar and Salary Sacrifice schemes such as Octopus EV.
An OTR price of less than £33,000 would be the sweet spot, although we expect the initial price to exceed £35,000 due to the recent increase in raw materials and energy costs.