New Smart #1 electric SUV: specs, range, on-sale date and prototype ride
New Kia Niro EV rival will kickstart a new line-up of Smart electric cars; order books open in December, but we’ve ridden shotgun in a prototype
Nearly 25 years after it launched the ultra-compact ForTwo, the Smart brand is on the verge of a revival. This is the first in its all-new line-up of electric cars: the Smart #1. The compact electric SUV will rival the likes of the Vauxhall Mokka-e, Hyundai Kona Electric and new Kia Niro EV when it goes on sale in December.
Under the metal, the first Smart SUV sits on an electric-vehicle platform developed by the brand’s co-owner Geely, which in time will underpin a wide range of models from various brands in its empire, including the Lynk & Co Zero saloon and some future electric Volvos.
The Smart #1 gets a single electric motor powering the rear wheels, which produces 268bhp and 343Nm of torque. We expect the #1 will be capable of 0-62mph in around seven seconds as a result, while top speed stands at 112mph. That said, a more potent, dual-motor Brabus version is expected to arrive somewhere down the line.
That electric motor is fed by a 66kWh battery, which is enough for a range of up to 273 miles, according to Smart. Plug the Smart #1 into a suitably fast rapid charger and the car can top up at 150kW, meaning filling up from 10-80% will take less than 30 minutes. Alternatively, if you use a wallbox or public charging point capable of 22kW AC charging, the same will take less than three hours. Fully replenishing the battery from a regular 7.4kW home wallbox is likely to take closer to 10 hours.
The styling of the Smart #1 is largely unchanged from the Smart Concept #1, unveiled in 2021, including the smooth, minimalistic design, a full-width rear light bar and a roof that ‘floats’ above the cabin, plus short overhangs to maximise interior space. The streamlined body, concealed doorhandles and active grille shutter also help with aerodynamics.
The cabin design is nearly identical to the concept’s as well, particularly the floating centre console, rounded-off air vents, large 12.8-inch central infotainment touchscreen and ambient lighting that wraps around the dashboard. However, the Smart #1 also gets a 9.2-inch digital driver’s display behind the wheel, a 10-inch head-up display, and a traditional five-seater configuration, rather than the Concept #1’s four-seat layout.
Other technology offered in the Smart #1 includes a suite of driver-assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function, active lane-keeping, blind-spot assistance, highway and traffic-jam assistance, automatic parking assistance and adaptive high beams. It’s also compatible with over-the-air (OTA) software updates and owners will be able to check on the status of their car on a dedicated app.
In terms of size, the Smart #1 is smaller overall than the latest Kia Niro EV and Peugeot e-2008, but its 2,750mm wheelbase should help improve interior space compared to key rivals the Vauxhall Mokka-e and Hyundai Kona Electric.
Ordinarily, there’s 273 litres of boot space available in the Smart #1, but you can push the rear seats forward by 13cm and expand that capacity up to 411 litres. There’s 15 litres’ extra space under the bonnet, ideal for storing your charging cables, plus the rear bench can be folded down in a 60:40 split if you need any more room.
The Smart #1 will be offered in three trim levels initially: a ‘Launch Edition’, limited to 1,000 examples, followed by ‘Premium’ and ‘Pro+’ specifications. Just 100 Launch Edition models will come to the UK, all of which will get the same gold roof and white body paint scheme as the original Concept #1.
The Launch Edition will also come equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, a 13-speaker Beats sound system, matrix LED headlights and wireless phone charging, plus adaptive cruise control and a self-parking system. Exact pricing information for the Smart #1 range and equipment lists for the Premium and Pro+ trims have yet to be announced.
That said, we expect prices for the #1 to start from around £32,000; the Smart will need to be cheaper than Volvo’s upcoming small electric SUV destined to use the same platform. Order books for the Smart #1 Launch Edition will open in December, before first deliveries commence in mid-2023.
Smart has previously said that the ‘#’ symbol will be the naming convention for its next generation of electric cars – much like Volkswagen’s ‘ID’ or Mercedes’ ‘EQ’ families. But not only will the #1 spearhead a new line-up of electric cars from Smart, it’ll also kickstart the brand's revival under the co-ownership of Mercedes parent Daimler and Chinese automotive group Geely.
Smart #1 passenger ride
Smart’s Kia Niro EV-fighter won’t go on sale until December, but that didn’t stop us hitching a ride in a prototype #1 to get our first taste of the brand’s all-electric future.
The #1 is a bigger car than pictures might suggest; it has a similar footprint on the road to a MINI Countryman, while its two-tone body and rounded surfacing certainly grab your attention. Climb inside and you’ll find the tall centre console cocoons the front occupants, but the cabin overall is spacious and accommodating, with plenty of rear legroom and a 411-litre boot.
Some of the trim materials are still being finalised, but we expect interior quality on production models to be good. The leather covered panels are nicely padded and the swooping dashboard is certainly a step up from Smart cars of old.
That said, the 12.8-inch infotainment display doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the cabin. We couldn’t really test out the infotainment system itself in this prototype, but we are told that the touchscreen-based climate controls will be a permanent fixture at the bottom of the display, which is good to hear. There’s also a 9.2-inch screen behind the steering wheel for vital driving information.
It’s worth mentioning that the road was wet during our passenger ride, and our pre-production test car had a windscreen seal issue, so we’ll reserve judgement on refinement until we get behind the wheel of a production #1 in the near future. Even so, the car felt solid and relatively well isolated at low speeds, with smooth, silent power delivery courtesy of the car’s 268bhp electric motor.
With 342Nm of torque on tap, acceleration is punchy, which helps to mask the car’s 1,820kg kerb weight. There’s plenty of performance for real-world driving, but as with other EVs, power begins to tail off when battery charge has depleted – below 30%, in the #1’s case – while the electric SUV’s top speed is capped at 112mph. There is a choice of Eco, Comfort and Sport driving modes, which alter the throttle response, steering and regenerative braking, with one-pedal driving on offer as well.
With the battery pack located under the floor, the #1 doesn’t roll like you might expect through quick corners, and it feels largely secure and stable from the passenger seat. But while there is still work being done to the car’s suspension tuning, as it stands the #1 struggles to contain its nearly two-tonne mass over uneven roads. A quick sequence of bumps can send the car jockeying around as the dampers struggle to control vertical movement. We hope the finalised version will feel more settled. Sharper imperfections are absorbed fairly well, though, and the #1 rounds off the worst jolts.
Overall then, with its quirky looks, roomy cabin and tech suite, not to mention the performance on tap, the #1 has potential to stand out from the rest of the compact, family-friendly electric SUV crowd. That said, fewer kilos would not only improve dynamics, but also extend the car’s range. It’s a shame the pure-electric Smart isn’t lighter given its new, bespoke, EV platform.
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