New Smart #1 and BYD Atto 3 vs Kia Niro EV: interiors

The #1 is a new type of Smart: an electric SUV. But it faces competition from another fresh face and an established favourite...

Smart #1 dashboard

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

If you think modern cars all look the same inside, two of our contenders will make you reconsider. The Smart #1 is remarkably endearing, with a whiff of Mercedes about the interior design but a much brighter ambience. The gloss white finish on our test car’s dashboard and centre console is married to soft-touch plastic and real leather seat upholstery, while build quality throughout is exceptional, given the price. 

Meanwhile, the BYD Atto 3’s interior has apparently been inspired by a gym; we’re guessing the air vents are designed to look like dumbbells. It’s definitely quirky, but the materials feel a bit cheap next to the #1’s, the faux leather seats aren’t very convincing and there was a strong odour of new plastic in our test car.

BYD Atto 3 dashboard

The Kia Niro EV is rather more conventional inside. That’s no bad thing if you like your interiors sensible and easy to use (and mostly grey); just don’t expect anything out of the ordinary. As for interior build quality and general plushness of the materials, we’d put it slap bang in the middle. It’s the only one with fabric-covered seats, although the bolsters are made from faux leather.

While none of our contenders gives you a particularly lofty driving position by SUV standards, you feel as though you’re sitting a bit farther from the road in the Atto 3 than in the others. However, it has the least comfortable driving position – mainly because the front seats are short on lower back support, and there’s no adjustment to remedy this. 

The Atto 3’s seats are electrically adjustable, but then so are the #1’s, and they’re fundamentally more comfortable, more supportive and do have adjustable lumbar support. The only mild annoyance is that you have to use a combination of the infotainment touchscreen and some steering wheel knobs to adjust the door mirrors – a questionable idea borrowed from Tesla.

Kia Niro EV dashboard

Although the Niro offers electric lumbar adjustment, you have to make all other seat adjustments using muscle power – but at least it’s more comfortable than the Atto 3’s, and the Niro has the most user-friendly air-con controls of the bunch. This is largely because there are dials for tweaking the temperature; the other two rely on fiddly icons on their infotainment touchscreens.

Slender, relatively upright windscreen pillars help to give the #1 the best visibility at junctions, with the steeply sloping equivalents in the Atto 3 getting in the way the most. All three cars come with front and rear parking sensors, but while the Niro makes do with a regular rear-view camera, the other two have full surround-view monitors.

Infotainment systems

Smart #1

Smart #1 touchscreen

Call us grumpy, but we’re not convinced that the avatar of a pet fox, which follows you between menus, adds much to the experience. But it doesn’t need to, because the #1’s 12.8in touchscreen is crisp, quick to respond and easy to use. Our pre-production test car wasn’t equipped with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but this will be standard on all versions (or added over the air shortly after delivery). The #1’s 13-speaker sound system trumps its rivals’ offerings, too.

BYD Atto 3

BYD Atto 3 touchscreen

The Atto 3’s party piece is an enormous, 15.6in touchscreen that can be rotated from portrait to landscape orientation at the touch of a button (well, icon), depending on your preference. The fact that it’s so sizeable means the icons are, for the most part, correspondingly large and easy to hit. The resolution of the screen impresses, too, as does its response times. Android
and Apple phone mirroring comes as standard, plus there’s a wireless charging pad.

Kia Niro EV

Kia Niro EV touchscreen

All versions of the Niro EV now come with a 10.3in touchscreen (rather than the 8.0in one pictured). That might seem a bit on the small side next to the displays in its rivals, but bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to safety; a 50in TV plonked on the dashboard would be more than a little distracting. Besides, the Niro’s system is user-friendly and the screen responds quickly to presses. There are shortcut icons on a separate touch panel below the screen.

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