Remember the Smart car? Those tiny little city cars that could just about fit two people and not much else. The brand never really died, but it looks like a renaissance may be on the cards. Like so many others the brand has embraced electrification for a brand new battery-powered vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz has joined forces with Chinese manufacturing giant Geely to create this, the Smart #1. It’s a fully electric crossover SUV that retains the essence of Smart’s creative edge and nous for innovation, but plants it on a dedicated Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) platform.
The end result is every bit as quirky as Smart’s previous Fourtwo and Forfour offerings, but annoyingly it's not going to be on sale in the United States.
Mercedes pulled the plug on selling Smart cars in the U.S. back in 2019, but this new model looks like the perfect excuse for putting that plug back in and making it available to U.S. car buyers.
Smart #1: Made for families
Why? Well, it's got everything a typical family could want, especially if they’re looking for their first fully electric car. If ample space is at the top of the wish list, the Smart #1 has you covered.
The car is roomy inside with a sizable 108.2-inches between the axles. Those chunky 19-inch wheels are pushed out to the corners of the car, and that means lots of room for passengers and luggage.
There are four doors, a trunk and a tiny frunk under the hood, with an interior that is tailor-made for keeping occupants, er, occupied. In terms of numbers, it’s 168.1-inches long, which means the #1 is slightly bigger than a Kia Soul, with a high roof that helps boost the feeling of inner space.
In fact, the 67-inches of height and 75.1-inch width means the overall effect is enormous compared to those old Smart cars.
Smart #1: Design and interior
The exterior styling is sleek, smooth and nicely rounded in all the right places. Triangular-style lights, with a central section that joins both sides together dominate the front and the rear end. Smart executives at the unveiling event in Berlin underlined how this design theme may well be an integral part of future EV models. Thanks to the flexibility of the SEA architecture these could end up being bigger, or smaller cars.
While additional design flourishes include recessed door handles and a ‘floating’ roof, the whole thing plays off even better thanks to the dual tone color scheme. Having the main body in one color and that funky roof, with a panoramic glass insert on some models, makes the Smart #1 really stand out from the crowd.
We had a poke around the inside of the Smart #1 too, since that's where the really good stuff lives.
The interior is plush without being ostentatious, and there’s a nod to doing the right thing with vegan interior trim options on the extras menu. It’s a nice place to be. There’s a strong Smart design ethos going on inside too, with complimentary ambient lighting that features a range of 64 colors and 20 different illumination levels
Smart #1: Tech features
The best of the good stuff is up front, with a sweeping dashboard, lots of neat little chrome vent touches and a clever use of complimentary trim colors.
There’s a 9.2-inch screen, which sits in front of the driver, while a 10-inch head-up display supplements that. Meanwhile, a central 12.8-inch touchscreen acts as home to all of the infotainment options and carries the bulk of the in-car controls.
We really liked the look of setup, with its fun and funky approach further complimenting the Smart vibe. Customers will be able to enjoy typically smart tech that comes as part of the collaboration with Geely too, which includes voice controls enhanced by AI and phone-as-a-key convenience. A raft of driver assist options and over-the-air updates helps bolster the appeal.
The central floating-style console is interesting and packs in plenty of quirky little storage bins, which is a must-have inclusion on a family-focused car. Out back, the rear seating offers a plentiful supply of space, with the option to move them backwards and forwards as well.
Seats can be reclined to boost the trunk space, and this combination will also be handy for families who have to squeeze in strollers and kids' bikes on a regular basis.
Smart #1: Range and performance
Admittedly, the Smart #1 probably isn't going to set the world on fire in terms of performance, but it's not really that kind of car. There’s a 66-kilowatt-hour battery pack, single electric motor and rear-wheel drive. A decent enough 269 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque should send it down the road quite nicely, while the top speed is 112 mph.
In terms or range, Smart is putting the #1 at around the 273-mile mark, which is more than enough for most needs. There’s been a concerted effort to make the car quick and easy to charge too, with 10 to 80 percent being achievable in a little under 30 minutes when connected to a DC rapid charging station.
Smart #1 outlook
All in all it seems such a shame that the Smart #1 will not make it to the US, despite those heavyweight connections it has at Mercedes-Benz and Geely. We live in hope though. In the meantime, this vehicle should start appearing in the U.K. and Europe towards the end of 2022.