GRR

Smart teases first electric SUV: #1

01st April 2022
Bob Murray

A reborn Smart company unveils its first car next Thursday (7 April). In 1997 the arrival of the first Smart car was big news, but the brand has rather fallen off the radar recently so will this new model be the exciting kick-start the brand desperately needs?

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The jury’s out on that one until we know more. Today’s teaser pics and tidbits of info add nothing we didn’t already know from the virtually showroom-ready concept we saw last September.

Smart’s UK chief executive David Browne is confident, however, that this is a “truly exciting time” for the brand. “The upcoming reveal of the smart #1 is a key milestone in the evolution of our brand,” he tells us.

So, what can we expect? A compact battery-electric five-door based on a dedicated electric-car platform with a hint of SUV-ness in its ride height and a mild dash of quirky Smart styling in its body design. It’s likely the most recognisable thing about the look will be its curvy floating roof, sitting atop the cabin like a helmet. The car is about the same length as the Mini Countryman, so larger than a potential electric rival such as the Honda e.

The biggest takeaway from these latest pictures is that very little has changed in the looks department compared to the concept we saw six months ago. With its soft and squidgy-looking surfaces, two-tone roof, unadorned panels and wheel-at-each-corner stance, that concept did look pretty good – “cool but grown up” Mercedes chief designer Gorden Wagener said at the time.  

Among the more intriguing details of the initial concept were the rear-hinged back doors and pillarless cabin access, but it appears the car has grown B-pillars now it’s out on the road, so we may have to be content with conventional side doors. We can’t help but think that would be a shame because rear “coach” doors would be a typically Smart-style USP, and in a crowded market this car will need a USP.

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It has been designed inside and out in Europe by the Mercedes half of the new Smart company, but has been engineered and will be built in China by the other half, Geely of Volvo and Lotus fame. It must have been interesting deciding where to have the unveiling. The answer? A disused train station in Berlin…

With Mercedes designers wielding the pencils and Smart with a lot of funky design cred to live up to, the Smart #1 (if they call it that) will be out to hit the bullseye as an uber-chic urban electric runabout brim-full of distinct design cues and user-friendly, cloud-based connectivity. The hint is it will also be spacious inside for its size.

Quality? This is definitely aiming for the premium end, with all the pricing repercussions that brings. We can expect technical finishes, concealed door handles, a panoramic glass roof, extensive LED lighting and a big central touchscreen in the cabin with all manner of artificial intelligence on board.

Smart #1 is the inaugural product of the rekindled Smart company and in due course we can expect #2 and #3. All will be out to stay at least a little true to the brand as compact but well-packaged machines designed primarily for urban mobility. Inevitably, the proportions are likely to loosely follow the SUV pattern – but it’s tempting to think there might be room in the range for a little electric sportscar at some point…

  • Smart

  • #1

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