Smart #1 long-term test

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 hello shot

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 4895 Price £38,950 Target price £38,950 Price as tested £38,950 Official range 273 miles Test range 220 miles Private price £29,000 Dealer price £32,600 Running costs (excluding depreciation) £224

3 January 2024  – A mobile work of Smart

The trouble with trying to evaluate my Smart #1 is that it’s too easy to get wrapped up in talking about its cheeky looks. Admittedly looks are a subjective thing, but all who saw my car felt obliged to comment on its design and, of those, nearly all admired its deliberately cheery and cartoon-like lines. 

Smart #1 mark goodbye shot

I approve of its individuality too, but I chose to run one as my company car because I was more interested in finding out if Smart’s much-lauded relaunch and move upmarket had been a successful one. You see, the #1 is a five-star car for us, a huge achievement in a class stuffed full of very competitive electric SUVs. I’m pleased to say that after running one for a few months I concur: it fulfilled all I hoped and asked of it in daily use – albeit with a few important caveats. 

For starters, there's a terrific driving position, with supportive seats and impressive visibility over that low bonnet. Modern touches like the automatic start that means you don’t have to fumble around for a starter button and the gear selector on a neat stalk beside the wheel all added to its ease of use. 

Smart #1 panning shot

The interior’s a treat, too. It’s modern and minimalist, plus it's nicely designed and neatly finished, with some quality materials used up top where you see and feel them and plenty of really useful storage spaces dotted around for phones and bottles and shopping and the like.

There’s also plenty of space for people – up front is capacious, and it’s positively limo-like in the rear, where it feels light and airy thanks to a full-length panoramic roof which was standard on my Premium-trimmed car. 

Also impressive was the range. Officially, the #1 is good for up to 273 miles. According to our real-world testing, it managed 245 miles in good weather on a full charge. Its overall efficiency in my hands, at 3.8 miles per kWh, would indicate between 210 and 245 would be figures to trust.

Smart #1 Mark prodding touchscreen

But I mentioned caveats. The first must be the number of functions that are controlled solely through the infotainment screen. We’ve got used to phone connections and sat-nav being done that way, but the #1 also required you to change the climate control and adjust the door mirrors via the screen. True, the touchscreen was responsive, and you soon learn where everything is, but it can be a faff to go two prods deep into a screen just to find something like the auto-hold facility, for example, which you might want to turn on or off when parking.

Smart #1 suitcase in boot

Then there’s the boot. As has been reported, it’s not the biggest. It worked for me, just, in everyday use, with two (relatively) grown-up children, but it wouldn't have worked for family holidays or even weekend breaks. Families with younger children would certainly need to look elsewhere. 

Lastly, I have to reveal that my #1 developed a fault in the infotainment system and lost all audio, which meant no radio, phone, parking sensors or even the indicator sound. Worse, because this was one of the first #1s in the country at the time, it was off the road for the better part of a month while my dealer investigated a fix. I am assured that the same wouldn’t happen to yours, though, should similar occur. 

Did that experience put me off? Not at all. You see, I liked this Smart. It was individual, spacious and very likeable, one of the few small cars that shows that you don’t have to buy a big car to get a premium interior feel. On top of that, its range never caused me anxiety and its turn-of-speed was positively uplifting (the 0 to 60mph sprint took just 5.7sec in our hands).

Smart by name and smart by nature, then? Definitely. Just don't get carried away with its looks. 

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