We get up to speed with the first of a new generation of Smart cars – the awkwardly-titled #1…
The Smart #1 compact SUV is the first fruit of a new joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and Chinese giant Geely, which also owns Volvo, Polestar and Lotus.
Sharing a platform with the upcoming Volvo EX30, the #1 (pronounced ‘hashtag one’) is a class act and about the same size as a MINI Countryman, Volkswagen ID.3 or Peugeot 2008.
Clearly a departure from the iconic city car, the Fortwo, the #1 is likely to transform Smart into a serious player in the EV sector.
Of course, it’s no stranger to electric vehicles. An EV version of the Fortwo was first introduced way back in 2008 and the Smart range has been 100% electric since 2019.
Already crowned Best Small SUV at 2023 What Car? EV Awards, the boldly styled #1 is distinctive, though its rear has a hint of a scaled down Mercedes-Benz EQB.
There’s also plenty of scope for personalisation with a wide range of colour and ‘floating’ roof colour combinations.
The clever design continues inside the surprisingly spacious cabin where there’s a quality, slightly quirky feel, and it’s loaded with tech.
As is the trend (unfortunately), the Smart #1 is minimalist up front with just about everything controlled via the 12.8-inch central infotainment screen (Apple CarPlay is integrated, but Android Auto is yet to come).
Additionally, all Smart #1s also get a slim 9.2-inch driver’s digital instrument cluster for info such as speed, plus a head-up display is also available on more expensive models.
Thankfully, there are useful shortcuts along the bottom of the main touchscreen, for essentials such as climate control, but you can’t even adjust the wing mirrors without having to access the touchscreen.
On the plus side, the menu structure is intuitive and the screen is responsive. What’s more, the system will save your profile, so it will remember your individual settings every time you drive the car.
Personalising settings takes a while, but once you switched off irritating things like Driver Exhaustion Alert, Steering Wheel Re-Centring and Lane Assist, you’re well on your way.
Oh, and there’s also an animated fox lurking on the infotainment screen. It’s a fun face for the voice assistant, and you’ll either find it cute or annoying.
Awarded a maximum five stars in crash testing by Euro NCAP, the #1 is packed with the latest safety and driver assistance systems.
Smart says the #1 has the same interior space as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and I don’t doubt it for a moment. There’s plenty of head and leg room throughout and the 60:40 split rear seats recline and slide backwards and forwards.
Boot capacity is not best-in-class, ranging between 273 – 411 litres (up to 986 litres with the rear seats flipped), though there is a tiny 15-litre ‘frunk’ under the bonnet.
Competitively priced from £35,950, there are two Smart #1 specs (Pro+ and Premium) and both get a 66kWh battery pack and a 268bhp motor that drives the rear wheels with 253lb-ft of torque.
Pro+ models get a reasonable 260-mile range, while Premium is capable of up to 273 miles thanks to the addition of a heat pump and other tech tweaks.
Both accelerate from 0-62mph in just 6.7 seconds, while 150kW charging speed means a 10-80% top-up takes as little as 30 minutes.
The Smart #1 is rapid enough as it is, but if you want serious performance, then opt for the range-topping Brabus #1.
Starting at £43,450, this hot all-wheel drive version gets an extra electric motor, develops a huge 422bhp and is capable of 0-62mph in a savagely fast 3.9 seconds. The downside is that the range in the heavier Brabus #1 drops to 248 miles.
We tested the Smart #1 Premium and it’s swift, smooth and refined with some of the best road manners in its class. The ride is on the firm side, but it still manages to iron out all but the poorest of surfaces, while wind and road noise are well contained.
Staying surprisingly flat in faster corners, it hides its 1,800kg weight well. Grip levels are impressive too, though it could get a little playful if you floor it in the wet.
It feels especially agile in town, and thanks to a tight turning circle of 11 metres and good visibility, it’s easy to manoeuvre.
The Smart #1 is fun on faster, twisty roads, but at its best cruising smoothly.
You can choose between three driving modes – Eco, Comfort and Sport. As ever, Comfort is best for everyday driving. In fact, only throttle response, steering weight and the regenerative brake level are altered anyway.
Like many EVs, the brakes aren’t the most progressive, and the brake regen was a tad fierce for my liking.
Talking of gripes, the driving position is on the high side, but then that’s generally the case with SUVs – particularly electric ones with a battery pack underneath.
It’s hard to assess the Smart #1’s real-world range based on a day of driving, but it held its charge well and at least 200 miles would be a reasonable expectation – maybe closer to 240-250 miles in the city.
So, while it may not have a 300-mile range, it’s quick to charge, which means that longer journeys are still a realistic proposition. That said, I suspect the majority of #1s will spend most of their time in urban environments anyway.
Finally, the Smart #1 comes with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, plus an Integrated Service Package which includes maintenance and MOT, and vehicle wear and tear items for three years/30,000 miles.
Verdict: The Smart #1 small SUV is one of our favourite EVs in the £35-£40,000 price bracket. Swift, spacious and safe, it has a classy, funky feel and delivers an engaging drive.