The #1 is the first Smart based on Geely underpinnings
Mercedes-Benz styling meets Geely underpinnings as brand goes bigger for electric era
The reinvention of Smart as an electromobility brand is set to begin in the UK this summer, when the #1 crossover arrives at an entry price of £35,950.
Entirely unrelated to the previous Smart Fortwo and Smart Forfour EVs, it’s the first new model from the brand since Chinese automotive group Geely came on board as a 50% stakeholder – taking half of the company from founder Mercedes-Benz – in 2019. It’s also the first all-new car to wear a Smart badge since 2014 and has been described by the firm’s Europe CEO, Dirk Adelmann, as “the nucleus of all things to come”.
The #1 is positioned as a premium crossover rivalling the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric and Kia Niro EV, with an emphasis on maximising interior space. The result is a cabin comparable in size with that of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class but in a much more affordable package.
The German and Chinese companies sharing management of the Smart brand have already outlined their respective responsibilities: Geely will supply the fundamental architectures and Mercedes will take care of design.
Mercedes design chief Gordon Wagener has called the new design language Sensual Product, adding that it’s “grown-up, cool and embodies beauty with smart solutions”.
Certainly, the #1’s efficiency and range figures stack up agreeably against its competitors. Power is stored in a 62kWh nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) battery that’s good for a maximum range of 273 miles in middle-rung Premium models, while 150kW rapid-charging capacity means a 10-80% top-up can be completed in less than half an hour.
Smart’s focus on maximising that range is evident in a design that clearly majors on aerodynamic efficiency. Indeed, a drag coefficient of 0.29Cd – achieved with the help of concealed door handles, an active grille shutter and a slippery, curved silhouette – puts it almost on a par with the Volkswagen ID 4.
The #1 also bears distinctive design cues expected to become hallmarks of the reinvented Smart range, namely its charismatic wrap-around front light bar, two-tone paint scheme, ‘flying’ roof and squat, compact proportions.
Inside, Smart has prioritised connectivity and ‘user-centricity’ as the defining features. The high-definition 12.8in infotainment screen is fully customisable and provides an interface for an avatar that responds to speech commands – currently a fox, but other characters will come with future updates.
Importantly, this system is unrelated to Mercedes’ own MBUX infotainment platform, nor is it lifted wholesale from any car sold by Geely. It is instead sourced from Geely affiliate Ecarx, whose combination of a Qualcomm chip and bespoke software is claimed to give the #1 one of the most advanced systems on the market.
An associated app gives access to a raft of connectivity functions and live data, while over-the-air compatibility means a claimed 75% of the car’s ECUs can be updated remotely.
Precise details of Smart’s revised retail strategy have yet to be confirmed, but the firm said it will work with “experienced partners” to provide a “real and customer-oriented omni-channel experience along the entire customer journey”, using a mixture of online and offline processes.
UK deliveries of the #1 will begin this summer. The crossover is available in four specifications, Pro+, Premium, Launch Edition and Brabus.
Pro+ represents the entry point to the line-up, priced from £35,950 – less than the Mégane and Niro. It brings a panoramic roof, heated seats and a 360deg camera as standard. It omits the heat pump available on more costly trim levels, so range is limited to 260 miles. Pro+ cars also lack a 22kW AC charger, so are limited to 7.4kW from a home wallbox.
Upgrading to Premium (£38,950) adds a heat pump and silicon-carbide inverter, boosting range to 273 miles. It also features the aforementioned 22kW AC charger, allowing a 10-80% recharge from a home supply in three hours.
The Launch Edition trim (£39,450) is limited to 100 cars in the UK and wears a unique white-and-gold two-tone livery, complemented by white chess-board-printed seats in the front and rear.
Topping the line-up is the performance-oriented Brabus (£43,450), which increases the standard car’s power and torque outputs to 422bhp and 431lb ft. This cuts its 0-62mph sprint time from 6.7sec down to 3.9sec – much faster than the Volkswagen ID 4 GTX’s 6.2sec.
The #1 Brabus also receives more aggressive styling outside and in, bringing a vented bonnet, red accents, 19in alloy wheels, suede seats and an Alcantara steering wheel.
The #1 will be sold through the agency model adopted by Mercedes here at the beginning of 2023. The new sales practice means buyers purchase their car directly from the manufacturer, rather than a dealer, leaving the middleman to take care of the sales experience. Discounts aren’t offered on a dealer-by-dealer basis but by the manufacturer, removing the opportunity to haggle for a lower price.
Additional reporting by Charlie Martin