Electric Car Awards 2023: Best electric small SUV

With electrified cars now coming in all shapes and sizes – and available to suit every budget – we’ve named the best models in every class. Here we look at the best electric small SUV...

It’s easy to imagine Smart as a frustrated author. For years, its output has gathered a small following, but in much too narrow a niche to trouble the best-sellers list. And with its efforts in recent years receiving generally lukewarm reviews, it was time for a fundamental change in direction.

Consequently, hot off the press is the Smart #1 – pronounced ‘hashtag 1’. It’s a small SUV – a far cry from the tiny Fortwo and Forfour EQ city cars that the brand persevered with previously, and unlike those models, it deserves to be a major hit. When we assessed it against the up-and-coming BYD Atto 3 and established Kia Niro EV, it took the win in fine style, kicking its similar-priced rivals into touch.

Smart #1 rear cornering

Not least among the #1’s virtues is its fantastic interior. It borrows heavily from the style books of Mercedes, one of Smart’s parent companies, with an elegantly sculpted and beautifully made dashboard that has a crisp 12.8in infotainment touchscreen as its centrepiece. It’s spacious, too – more so than its compact length might lead you to believe. Two pairs of 6ft-tall occupants will be comfier in the #1 than in either the Niro EV or Atto 3.

What’s more, that comfort continues on the motorway, where the #1’s firm low-speed ride (you’ll feel potholes around town, but not enough to make you wince) gives way to impressive smoothness at higher speeds. Here, the #1 is noticeably quieter than its rivals, too; its meaty 13-speaker sound system has only a little tyre noise to compete with.

Officially, the #1 can take you 273 miles on a full charge. The Niro EV can go slightly farther (280 miles), but it’ll take you much longer to recharge when you get there. The #1 can accept power at rates of up to 150kW (compared with the Niro EV’s 80kW), so its 62.8kWh (usable) battery can be taken from 10-80% in just 27 minutes using a suitably powerful charger. The Niro EV, meanwhile, takes at least 41 minutes for a similar boost.

Smart #1 dashboard

Are there any holes in the #1’s plot, then? Well, only its small boot; we fitted only three carry-on suitcases in, compared with the Niro EV’s seven. That said, it’ll take routine loads, such as the fruits of a weekly supermarket trip, with no trouble, and there’s underfloor storage for the charging cable.

Overall, it’s clear that Smart put a lot of thought into its latest effort. In releasing the #1, it has really turned a page.

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