Despite being the sort of vehicle that the US market loves, the Smart brand has already pulled out of the US.
Mercedes killed off its Smart brand in the US in 2019 after 11 years of selling the Fortwo microcar, but the brand has lived on in Europe and other markets and went electric-only. Now Smart is finally expanding its product lineup with the brand's first SUV, which was previewed by a concept at last year's Munich Auto Show. Called the #1, which is literally pronounced "hashtag one," the compact SUV is super cute and compelling, even if doesn't have an immediately recognizable Smart identity.
The #1 is really close in design to last year's concept, but the production-spec detail make it look even better to my eyes. At 168.1 inches long, the #1 is a couple inches longer than a Kia Soul , and it's about an inch and a half taller. It has triangular LED headlights with a central light bar connecting them, smooth body surfacing with flush door handles, a contrasting floating roof and taillights that echo the headlight design. The large trapezoidal grille make the #1 look like a cartoonish catfish, and its super short overhangs, lower body cladding and large wheels give it a nice stance.
Smart will build 1,000 Launch Edition models that get gold accents on the exterior trim and dashboard, and a rad checkerboard motif on the three-spoke wheels, seats and panoramic sunroof.
On the inside, the #1 has a tall floating center console with a bunch of storage cubbies, a wing-like dashboard in a contrasting finish and lots of oval-shaped details. A super-slim 9.2-inch screen sits in front of the driver and is augmented by a 10-inch head-up display, and there's a freestanding 12.8-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash that uses a new infotainment system with AI-based voice controls.
The rear bench seat slides and reclines, and the #1 looks to have a good amount of cargo space. The car will feature over-the-air updates, phone-as-key capability and a number of driver-assist systems like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.
Instead of riding on a Mercedes platform, the #1 uses Chinese automaker Geely's SEA electric architecture. It has a 66-kilowatt-hour battery pack with a single electric motor powering the rear wheels that puts out 268 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. Smart says the #1 has a max range of 273 miles on the European WLTP cycle and can charge from 10% to 80% in under 30 minutes on a DC fast charger. Smart didn't reveal any performance figures yet, beyond that it has a top speed of 112 mph, but even despite the #1's 4,012-pound curb weight, it should hit 60 mph quicker than any previous Smart.
The #1 will be built in China as part of the Smart brand's joint venture with Geely, and it will go on sale in Europe by the end of 2022. While we don't know much about Smart's future plans, the #1 is a preview of what to expect from the brand's next models in terms of design and technology.