Smart #1: baby electric SUV is the start of a new era

Published: 11 April 2022

► Smart returns with new #1 SUV
► Electric crossover claims up to 273 miles
► Joint venture between Mercedes and Geely

Smart is back, but not as we knew it. The original urban mobility brand has returned as joint venture of Geely and Mercedes, and it’s kicked this all-new chapter off with… an electric SUV/crossover. Who’d have thought? Called the Smart #1, the new EV ‘retains the Smart spirit’ but fuses it to future-proof powertrain. Keep reading for more.

It looks a bit like a Mercedes…

Although Mercedes has handed over part of the Smart project to Geely (the parent company of Lotus, Polestar and Volvo among others) the three-pointed star’s DNA is still obvious to see. Its 4270mm length, 2750mm wheelbase and 19-inch rims give it a unique stance, but #1’s headlights and rear lights clearly resemble other EQ models such as the EQE and EQS.

smart #1 rear

Other design ‘highlights’ include concealed handles – which hopefully won’t freeze in winter – and a novel halo roof, which gives the impression of decent interior space. Either way, the #1 carries on the Smart ethos of a picking and choosing bits of Mercedes and making them a little more ‘youthful’.

Inside, you’ll find a mixture of Mercedes tech and funky, Smart styling; A 12.8-inch touchscreen dominates the cabin and holds an AI-based infotainment system with a 3D interface – and it also uses a robust Smart ID. Behind the wheel you’ll find a 10-inch HUD projecting just above a 9.2-inch full HD instrument cluster.

smart #1 interior

As for the AI? Think of all the things you can do with Hey Mercedes in something such as an A-Class, and you’re pretty much there: air-con, ambient lighting and more. A 13-speaker and sub system, courtesy of Dr Dre’s Beats brand is also included, while a peer-to-peer system means owners can also verify other friends and relatives to use their Smart.

It’s bound to get more intelligent, too; Smart says 75% of the car’s systems can also be upgraded via OTA updates.

What about specs?

The Smart #1 rides on Geely’s new SEA platform, short for Sustainable Experience Architecture. It’s destined to underpin future vehicles from Volvo and Geely’s Lynk & Co brand among others .

In launch spec, the #1 gets 200kW charging, good for 10-80% in 3 hours when using AC, and just under 30 minutes when using DC. Its 66kWh battery should give a range of 260-273 miles (WLTP) but it means the #1 weighs a rather heavy – but very EV-like – 1820kgs.

Don’t expect too much when it comes to performance; the Smart #1 deploys a single motor on the rear axle good for 268bhp and 253lb ft of torque. Max speed is sufficient 112mph, and 0-62mph isn’t available yet.

Is this still a Smart? 

Unlike the lightweight ForTwo and the ForFour that proceeded it, the #1 is an all-electric SUV, and in many ways steps away from the traditional Smart template. It’s much larger than city cars that brand is traditionally known for, and although we’ve no price yet, the powertrain alone is sure to make the #1 the most expensive Smart ever. However, at the worldwide launch in Berlin, Smart’s suits were keen to point out the spirit of Smart remains intact.  

For the design team, it’s not about the appearance of Smart, and more about ‘keeping in mind the philosophy.’ With that in mind the Smart #1 uses a 4027mm wheelbase to house an interior of a Mercedes E-class, just like the smaller ForTwo 2069mm wheelbase gave way more cabin space than expected.

Price is still going to be a factor, but now the emphasis is on premium value rather than all out affordability: ‘what people should know is this car has so much standard features in the standard line which is unbelievable,’ Smart designer Michael Gebhardt tells CAR at the 1#’s worldwide launch.

‘We have standard line LED lights, that is not normal. We have complete, fully-electric flush door handles. From the beginning we have ambient lights inside, and a 12.8-inch screen,’ he adds. ‘Everything is standard, and that’s fantastic.’

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast