Smart #1: find out why it's a What Car? five-star car
Performance meets practicality in smart's award-winning #1 electric SUV
When it comes to spotting, picking and naming the best cars available today, the road test teams at Autocar and our sister title What Car? are pretty discerning.
Every model that passes through their doors has to meet rigorous criteria and undergo a comprehensive array of tests and checks to ensure it’s more than a match for its rivals, and truly best-in-class. So, the fact that What Car? has given the new smart #1 a glowing five-star review is a glowing endorsement indeed.
Taking 25 years of smart’s premium pioneering design heritage from Mercedes-Benz and adding the advanced electric engineering of fast-growing Chinese brand Geely, the stylish new smart #1 isn’t just all-new. It’s bigger and better in every way.
As What Car? said: “The smart #1 is a brilliant electric car that’s nippy, smart inside, surprisingly practical and can charge more quickly than many of its rivals. It’s well- equipped and competitively priced. It’s a lot more spacious than its compact length might lead you to believe, plus its elegantly styled interior is beautifully made. Long- distance comfort is enhanced by an impressively smooth high-speed ride and class- leading refinement. And the Smart #1 is quick to accelerate and quick to charge.”
Thanks to the simplicity of the smart #1 range – with an easy choice of feature- packed Pro+, Premium, Launch Edition and high-performance BRABUS trims – you can order your car easily online, with fair, transparent, haggle-free pricing that ensures you always get great value. Alternatively, you can visit one of the retailers in smart’s UK-wide network to find out more and check out the smart #1 yourself.
But, before you do, let’s take a more in-depth look at the five big reasons why the smart #1 is a five-star car.
*Take a test drive in the smart #1*
*#1 Standout style & quality*
Smart has always had a reputation for its iconic design. But the smart #1 takes that to a whole new level. So much in fact, that the smart #1 has already picked up a Red Dot Award and iF Design Award. High praise, indeed.
The smart #1 is built on an all-new all-electric SUV platform that combines a compact urban-friendly footprint with impressive interior space.
On the outside, its streamlined curves – with concealed door handles and frameless doors for an added premium touch – feel classic and modern in the same breath. Powerful CyberSparks LED headlights with auto high-beam cut through the gloom, while smart #1 Premium and BRABUS editions add CyberSparks LED+ Matrix headlights with adaptive high beam for even smarter after-dark driving.
Opt for the high-performance smart #1 BRABUS, and – in addition to an enhanced all-wheel drive all-electric powertrain that offers even more spark (more on that in a moment) – there’s an added dose of design flair. That includes a body kit with spoilers and side sills, dedicated 19” Dynamo alloy wheels, BRABUS red accents on the exterior and interior, a grippy Alcantara steering wheel and microfibre suede seats.
The floating halo roof design means you get a panoramic sunroof on all models, flooding the cabin with extra light. Equally, you can pick from a wide choice of vibrant paint colours and two-tone roof combinations to style your smart #1 your way.
Talking of the cabin, both the What Car? and Autocar road test teams were hugely taken with the smart #1’s style and practicality. “The smart #1’s interior impresses,” What Car? said. “There are plenty of soft-touch materials and, despite the minimalist look, there are plenty of storage compartments.”
Belying its compact city-friendly design, the smart #1 also has plenty of room for friends and family, including 421 litres of versatile luggage space for weekends away. “In the back, there’s a decent amount of headroom (enough for six-footers),” What Car? pointed out. “Leg room is good, too. It edges the Kia Niro EV, the BYD Atto 3 and the Hyundai Kona Electric in that respect.
“The rear seatback splits and folds down in a 60:40 split, and there’s a ski hatch in the middle so you can poke long items through between two passengers. Unusually at this price point, the smart #1 has sliding and reclining rear seats, so you can juggle between more boot space and more comfort.”
*#2 Sprightly driving character*
Don't think an all-electric SUV can’t be fun to drive? Think again. Both the What Car? and Autocar road test teams had high praise for how the smart #1 feels on the road, with particular praise for its agile and balanced handling.
It starts with the smart #1 Pro+ and Premium models, which boast 268hp and 343Nm of always-available instant all-electric torque from the rear-wheel drive motor, delivering impressive acceleration from 0-62mph in as little as 6.7s.
As What Car? explained: “Visibility is good, thanks to upright slender windscreen pillars and a low dashboard. On faster A-roads and motorways, the smart #1 rides more smoothly than most rivals. It feels more alert and sportier than those cars at low speeds. The steering is well judged, with a reassuring amount of weighting.”
If you want even more pep, the smart #1 BRABUS adds an electric motor on the front wheels, delivering all-electric all-wheel drive for added traction and confidence in all conditions. Power is increased to 422hp, while torque is increased to 543Nm. That means you can dash from 0-62mph in as little as 3.9 seconds.
“It’s as fast as an Audi RS3,” What Car? said. “It feels brutally quick and builds speed so effortlessly it’s hilarious. For a similar pace among electric SUVs, you’ll need to look at the Kia EV6 GT or the Tesla Model Y Performance – and both of those options are way more expensive.”
One final benefit of that potent electric power. A towing capability of up to 1,600kg. As What Car? pointed out: “That’s the same as our electric Tow Car Of The Year, the Kia EV6.”
*#3 Impressive range & fast charging*
Think all that amped-up performance will compromise the smart #1’s range? Not a chance. The smart #1 Pro+ delivers up to 260 miles from its advanced 66kWh battery, while the smart #1 Premium delivers up to 273 miles. Even the high- performance smart #1 BRABUS boasts up to 248 miles of range, ensuring you’ve got more miles to enjoy those bigger smiles.
That’s easily enough for a week or more of short daily commutes, school runs and shopping trips without needing to plug in. It’s also good for a long weekend away, letting you do the three-hour drive from Bristol to Manchester on one charge.
Equally, the smart #1 makes charging easy. Obviously, long slow overnight charges at home are the most practical cost-effective charging option. But, if you do need to top-up on-the-go, the smart #1’s 150kW charging capability means you can access the many ultra-rapid chargers in the UK’s network, boosting your range from 10% to 80% in as little as 30 minutes. As What Car? said: “You’d wait about 45 minutes for the same charge in the BYD Atto 3, the Honda e:NY1 or the Kia Niro EV.”
The smart #1 Premium gives you even more options for faster charging by adding a state-of-the-art silicon carbide invertor and heat pump, as well as 22kW charging capability that can charge your smart #1 from 10% to 80% in as little as three hours at a fast public or office charger. That’s perfect for fitting around work, a day out shopping, grabbing lunch, visiting a museum or a gallery, or catching a film.
*#4 Packed with clever tech*
Inside, the smart #1 is as high-tech as it is stylish and practical. At the heart of it all lies a high-definition 9.2in digital instrument cluster and 12.8in central touchscreen that have been developed with industry experts ECARX.
Using the very latest hardware (including a high-speed Qualcomm 8155 8-core chipset and 128GB storage for the tech geeks among you) to ensure ultra-fast response, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity come as standard, while the smart #1’s in-car 4G wi-fi hotspot capability means it’s always connected and always online. So, using over-the-air software updates, you always have access to the latest maps, features, and functionality.
Crucially, whether you use the responsive touchscreen or the intuitive multi-language voice control, it has all designed to be incredibly easy and intuitive to use, removing the frustration of scouring multiple menus to find the features that matter most to you.
There’s a step-by-step user guide, and an AI virtual assistant – brought to life with a friendly fox avatar – to help you find what you’re looking for. Key controls (such as air-conditioning) are always on-screen, with shortcut icons and one-click drop-down menus for the other popular functions and features. Split-screen functionality means you can still see your navigation while you’re using the smart #1’s parking cameras.
On smart #1 Premium and BRABUS models you also get a 13-speaker 640W Beats Soundsystem and wireless charging for your mobile phone, as well as a 10in head- up display for good measure, helping you focus even more keenly on the road.
Ambient lighting with 64 colours and pre-configured themes transform the interior of your smart #1 to match your mood, while a wealth of apps – including Spotify as standard, music and podcast apps – keep you entertained on the move. There are even some in-car games to while away the moments while you’re parked up.
Finally, the smart #1’s smartphone app lets you connect with your car remotely, helping you check its location, charging status and security.
Suffice to say, our road test teams were mightily impressed by this wealth of tech, as well as how easy and enjoyable it is to use. “The 9.2in digital instrument panel is bright, crisp and easy to read, with all the information you need, while the big 12.8in touchscreen is very responsive,” What Car? said. “You can play games on it, and a fox avatar can follow you round from menu to menu. There’s even a pet mode, so you can leave an animal in the car without it getting dangerously hot...”
As Autocar added: “Within a few minutes of familiarisation it all works intuitively. Oft- used functions are rarely more than two taps away, the icons are decently large and respond instantly and the climate controls are always on-screen.”
As if that wasn’t enough, the smart #1 also boasts plenty of user-friendly practicality tech features as standard – things like power-adjustable heated front seats and powered heated door mirrors (both using a memory feature for different drivers), as well as a powered tailgate for easier loading of luggage or shopping.
*#5 Impressive safety equipment*
Last – but certainly not least – both What Car? and Autocar had high praise for the smart #1’s wealth of safety tech, which helps you navigate the hazards of the urban jungle or busy motorways with ease. Equally, In Euro NCAP’s comprehensive safety tests, the smart #1 scored the maximum full five stars, with a 96% for Adult Occupant protection and 89% for Child Occupant protection.
So, it’s little wonder that the smart #1 finished first-in-class and second overall in the 2023 What Car? Safety Awards. “The smart #1 demonstrates it’s possible to make an affordable small electric car that is safer than many larger models,” What Car? said. “This is a significant achievement. Small cars have to work harder than large ones to get top safety scores, because they’re lighter and there’s less metal to absorb an impact.
“The smart #1 also does well in Euro NCAP’s Safety Assist tests with an 88% score. What’s impressive on the smart #1 is that you get lots of safety equipment as standard – including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist and front- and rear cross-traffic alert.
“Some brands save their best safety equipment for the range-topping trim level. Impressively, all smart #1 models also come with front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree bird’s-eye view camera. It reduces the chances of you being in an accident in the first place.”
So, those are all the reasons why What Car? and Autocar love the smart #1. Maybe it’s time to find what you love, too.
*Take a test drive in the smart #1*