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New Smart #1 vs used Tesla Model Y

You might be tempted by a brand new Smart #1, but a year-old Tesla Model Y for sub-£40k is hard to refuse. So, which of these electric SUVs should you choose?...

New Smart #1 vs used Tesla Model Y

The contenders

NEW Smart #1 Premium

List price £38,950
Target Price £38,950

This isn't a Smart car as you know it, but rather an electric SUV and one designed by none other than Mercedes 

USED Tesla Model Y Long Range

Price new £54,990
Price today £39,000*

It may be fairly fresh on the market, but the Model Y's immense popularity means there are already plenty of used examples to choose from

*Price today is based on a 2022 model with average mileage and a full service history and is correct at the time of writing

There have been some strange car names over the years: the Mazda Titan Dump and Mitsubishi Minika Winky to name just two. The Smart #1 isn't quite in the same league, but it's still a bit cringe inducing. The brand insists you pronounce it "Hashtag One", because young people love social media, right?

Smart #1 front cornering

Fortunately, behind the name is a very good electric SUV. It acts as a reboot of the Smart brand and is designed by Mercedes and engineered by a Chinese company called Geely. That's the same Geely that owns Lotus and Volvo.

Would you be better off going for a used Tesla Model Y, though? After all, at a year old one of these will cost you about the same as a new #1. And you'll be getting the high standard of performance, range and tech that Tesla is famous for.


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

The #1 has 268bhp and, during our testing, this helped it sprint from 0-60mph in 5.8sec – roughly on a par with hot hatches like the Renault Megane RS. Mind you, the #1's electric power makes it feel even peppier, because as soon as you plant your right foot, you get maximum thrust.

Tesla Model Y 2023 front cornering

With 351bhp, the Model Y (in Long Range form) is even more powerful and, unsurprisingly, even quicker from 0-60mph – we managed a sports car-like 4.9sec time. The Long Range is four-wheel drive to the #1's rear-wheel drive, although the #1 isn't exactly wanting for traction. 

Due to their height and weight, electric SUVs are often fitted with relatively firm suspension (to help tame their body movements) and the #1 and Model Y are no different. The execution varies, though.

We'd describe the #1's ride as firm but fair because, while things can get a bit choppy at lower speeds, it's never harsh, and settles down significantly at higher speeds.

Smart #1 rear left driving

Sadly, the Model Y doesn't exude such polish. No matter what speed you're doing, if the road isn't absolutely perfect, you'll be jostled around in your seat.

The lumpy ride isn't our only complaint in regards to the Model Y's driving experience. For instance, the incredibly quick steering that works well on the Tesla Model 3 is present here, but, with the higher centre of gravity of an SUV, it makes the Model Y feel quite nervous.

The #1's steering has good weighting and precision, somewhat like the Model Y actually, but it thankfully does away with the hyper-alertness. Couple that with its tight body control and the #1 is significantly more capable and confidence-inspiring on a twisty road. 

Tesla Model Y rear cornering

Unfortunately, there's one last negative when driving the Model Y: it's noisy. The interior is a bit of an echo chamber, because there’s no parcel shelf and the roof is made of glass, which doesn’t absorb sound as well as a regular rooflining. On the other hand, the #1 suffers from some tyre noise, but you don't get this echo effect. 

Like Teslas often do, the Model Y earns some important points back on the range front. During our real-range testing, the Long Range version managed an impressive 304 miles (in summer conditions) before running out of juice. In the same situation, the #1 went 245 miles – a respectable figure in the grand scheme of things, but still a way off what the Model Y can do.