The smart brand gets serious with this small electrically-powered SUV, the smart #1. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

The smart #1 reinvents the smart brand for a new era, a compact full-electric SUV for style-conscious folk who'll enjoy a rather unique Sino-Teutonic blend of EV engineering. The car 'retains the smart spirit' but offers it in a car family fashionistas could realistically justify, with space for five and a range of up to 273 miles.


Think of smart and you picture a tiny city car. But things are changing. The company is reinventing its profile as a style-led electric mobility brand and that will start with this car, the smart #1.

It is, according to its maker, 'the nucleus of all things to come'. Which means several things. First, that we'll see bigger smart models than we've we used to in the future - this #1 is a small SUV about the size of a Kia Niro or a MINI Countryman. And second that while the design of future smart models will still be over-seen by parent company Mercedes (hence, for instance, the #1's EQ-style rear light cluster), platforms for the company's cars will in future be provided by the Chinese automotive group Geely, who now hold 50% shareholding in smart. In this case, that means Geely's 'SEA' 'Sustainable Experience Architecture' platform, a chassis also earmarked for a forthcoming compact crossover from Volvo. Big departures then. The smart brand's first SUV, its first five-seater, it's first larger car. What's in store?

Driving Experience

The electric powertrain here sees a 66kWh nickel-manganese-cobalt battery power a rear-mounted motor putting out 268bhp and 343Nm of pulling power, which should be enough for agile performance, despite the hefty 1,820kg kerb weight; expect rest to 62mph to take less than seven seconds and smart has limited top speed to 112mph. Driving range is rated at between 260-273 miles. Larger battery sizes are being considered - and smaller ones too - in a bid to make future entry-level variants more affordable.

Also for the future, a more powerful 4WD version is being considered, but for the time being, the smart #1 is conventionally front-driven and, as usual with an EV, whisper-quiet. The advanced 'SEA' Geely-sourced platform should provide for taut handling and a supple ride. And smart is providing a range of autonomous driving tools, including Adaptive Cruise Control with stop and go, Lane keep assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Highway and Traffic Jam Assist.

Design and Build

The look of this smart #1 gives us a clue to what future smart models will look like. This one's a small SUV and Mercedes-Benz Chief Designer Gorden Wagener, who oversaw the styling describes it as 'cool, fresh and enchanting'; you decide. The shape is characterised by smooth surfaces, a so-called 'flying' roof, a two-tone paint scheme and a sleek design that flows down over the C-pillars.

You enter via concealed door handles. In the minimalist cabin, the fascia's dominated by a 12.8-inch touchscreen which uses an AI-based infotainment system with a 3D interface and over-the-air updates. This is further supported by a 9.2-inch HD digital instrument screen and the option of a 10-inch Head-up display. You can have a novel 'halo' roof, which lightens up the interior. And a 13-speaker Dr Dre Beats audio upgrade will be offered. Out back, thanks to the lengthy 4,027mm wheelbase, there's apparently more room than you'd get in a Mercedes E-Class executive saloon. And you get a decently-sized 273-litre boot.

Market and Model

This will be easily the most expensive smart model ever made. The brand says that it wants to pitch this model against cars like Volkswagen's ID 3, which means that you can expect a starting price of around £30,000. Other target models include fashion-led small SUVs like the Kia Niro and the DS 3 Crossback. Smart doesn't have any solus UK dealerships. There are currently around 35 Mercedes-Benz franchises in the UK that also sell smart models, where the brand occupies its own separate space in the showroom with a dedicated smart sales person on hand.

As standard, there's lots of media connectivity, courtesy of a central 12.8-inch touchscreen which is fully customisable and provides an interface for an avatar that responds to speech commands - from launch a fox, but other characters will be added. There's also a 9.2-inch full HD digital instrument binnacle. Top models get a Head-up display; and an innovative 'Halo roof' which makes the interior feel airy and spacious. Safety provision include seven airbags. And you can also specify an 'Advanced Driver Assistance' system package, which gives Adaptive Cruise Control with stop and go, Lane keep assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Highway and Traffic Jam Assist, Adaptive High Beam headlights and automatic parking.

Cost of Ownership

The smart brand will start to sell this car with a 66kWh battery offering a range of up to 273 miles. Other battery options are expected to be added to the range in due course. Thanks to the car's 150kW rapid charge capability, the 66kWh battery can be topped up from 10 to 80% in under 30 minutes. Connect up to a 22kW AC charger and a 10-80% charge takes around three hours.

Range is maximised by the car's slippery shape - there's a sleek drag co-efficient of 0.29Cd, achieved thanks also to features like an active grille shutter and concealed door handles. The other things you need to know are exactly the same as is the case with any other smart model. There's a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, plus you get 'smart move assist', an included twelve-month international roadside assistance package that can be renewed annually following a smart dealer service.


Finally what we've got with the #1, the first new model from the brand since 2014. It enters an increasingly crowded segment, but it's certainly different - and potentially very individual. In that sense, the #1 very much retains a smart spirit, as does the funky cabin.

What isn't very smart is the asking price, way above anything brand loyalists have had to find in the past. But this is a very different kind of car, catering for the completely different kind of audience this re-invented brand is now seeking. The smart brand has grown up. #about time.


CAR: smart #1

PRICES: £30,000-£35,000 [est] – on the road



PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 6.0s / Max speed 112mph


BOOT CAPACITY: 273 [litres]

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height 4270/1822/1636 mm