Smart #1 long-term test: report 1

The #1 is the first offering from the reborn Smart brand. We’ve already given it a five-star rating, but what’s it like to live with day-to-day? We're running one to find out...

Smart #1 front cornering

The car Smart #1 Premium Run by Mark Pearson, used cars editor

Why it’s here To see if the trendy #1 cuts it in everyday use and how it stacks up against its many polished competitors in this growing class

Needs to It’ll need to dispatch commuting, work and family life without any range anxiety issues and cope with a wide variety of duties

Miles covered 1050 Price £38,950 Target price £38,950 Price as tested £38,950 Official range 273 miles Test range 250 miles Options n/a

18 September 2023 – An electric car for the smart set

Genealogists who like to trace the characteristics of an individual through their immediate ancestors would have a field day with my new Smart #1.

Initially, Smart was a joint venture between Mercedes and Swatch and was for many years a purveyor of tiny city and sports cars. Now, Smart has relaunched itself as an all-electric car company and is jointly owned by Mercedes and the Chinese giant Geely, who in turn owns Volvo, Polestar, the taxi firm LEVC and Lotus, among others. 

So if you can imagine an all-electric small SUV that’s a blend of those brands then you can perhaps see why anyone would be intrigued by my #1. However, genetics being what it is, traits are often inherited in distinct units and are not actually a blend. So will my Smart have the versatility of a London taxi, the build quality of a Volvo and the handling of a Lotus, or, perhaps, the other way around?

Smart #1 rear panning

Well, I can tell you that one gene that seems to be dominant rather than recessive is speed. My #1 has a 62kWh battery and a 268bhp electric motor driving its rear wheels, and that means it's quicker than any of its direct rivals – it can officially do 0-62mph in a zippy 6.7sec. In our tests, it actually sprinted from 0-60mph in just 5.8sec – that's more than fast enough for the urban traffic which forms the bulk of my daily driving.

My car is in the higher-spec Premium trim – there’s also an entry-level Pro+ trim – which can officially travel for up to 276 miles on a full charge. It gets a slightly more efficient motor than the Pro+, which has an official range of 260 miles, so hopefully, range won’t be an issue with my car either.

Kit-wise, all #1’s are well-equipped (Smart doesn't go in for an options list). All models get adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, keyless entry and a sunroof. However, my Premium adds a heat pump (for more efficient warming of the interior), a head-up display and matrix LED headlights.

Smart #1 side view

Its looks are, well, smart, I think, although I know these things are subjective. There is a hint of the electric EQ range of electric Mercedes cars about its rear, and the front is certainly in the sharp and modern EV idiom. It’s a larger car than it looks in photographs, perhaps because of its wheel-at-each-corner stance, which puts me in mind of Minis both old and new.

What that stance means is that its wheelbase, the distance between the middle of the front and rear wheels, is very long in relation to the overall length of the car. A corollary of that length is a surprisingly roomy interior for a car that sits in the small SUV class. 

Smart #1 Mark driving

Indeed the star of the whole show so far is in some ways the interior, which is very nicely finished, offers great visibility and looks very modern and minimalist. It starts with a very supportive driver’s seat and a great driving position. In front of the driver is a 9.2in digital instrument panel that is bright, crisp and easy to read. The steering wheel looks neat and feels good in the hands too, and a big 12.8in touchscreen infotainment system dominates proceedings high up in the middle of the dashboard. There is a fox avatar on this, about which I have a feeling I’ll be writing more in future reports. 

The Smart is delightfully easy to drive. It feels light on its toes (although it’s not particularly, at 1888kgs) thanks to its sharp steering, it’s quick off the mark and feels agile in the corners. It rides well, too, and it’s as hushed as you’d expect. On the evidence of this, I don’t think I care what the genetic past of my car may be, I'm very much looking forward to my future with it.  

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