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Car of the Year Awards 2024: Best small electric SUV of the Year
Small electric SUVs should provide everyday usability and the capability to travel far on a single charge. But the best need to up the game with a great interior and user friendly tech, too...
Smart #1 Premium
Some reviewers have criticised the #1 for being the antithesis of everything the Smart brand had come to represent. However, while we agree with that assessment, we see it as great news.
You see, until recently, Smart specialised in tiny cars that were unlike anything else on the road. The trouble was that they were impractical and uncomfortable. By contrast, as a small electric SUV, the Smart #1 sits in one of the most competitive sectors of the new car market, and yet it still manages to better all of its rivals.
Inside, it gives four occupants loads of room in which to stretch out – more than they get in the closely related Volvo EX30. And while this has been achieved by making the boot small, Smart provides a sliding rear bench that allows you to trade some of that passenger space for a larger luggage capacity when needed.
The interior is very classy, too, mixing soft-touch materials with the sort of good-quality harder plastics you might find on a product from Apple. In this category, only the range-topping version of the EX30 feels plusher, while most other rivals are far more utilitarian.
True, the dashboard would be more user-friendly if Smart hadn’t tried to incorporate quite so much into the 12.8in central touchscreen. However, you do get an effective voice control system. In addition, all #1s feature a secondary display in front of the driver that shows your speed and remaining range, whereas the EX30 forces you to look across to its central infotainment screen.
Furthermore, our recommended version of the #1 has a head-up display – something that isn’t available on the EX30. In fact, the #1 is generously equipped full stop, getting dual-zone climate control, heated seats, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and a heat pump for efficient warming of the interior.
In our Real Range test, the car managed a competitive 245 miles from a full charge. What’s more, its battery can be topped up from 10-80% in as little as 27 minutes – and that’s not the only way in which the car is quick. At our test track, we discovered that the #1 Premium accelerates even faster than the official figures suggest, with it zipping from 0-60mph in 5.8sec (versus the 6.7sec 0-62mph time claimed by Smart).
When it comes to comfort, the #1 rides more smoothly than most of its rivals – particularly at higher speeds. Plus, refinement is good, and you have to push hard through bends to make the car lose any composure. So, yes, this is a very different sort of Smart, but in the same sort of way that an iPhone is very different from a Nokia 3310. Would you really want to go back?
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