Smart reveals the production version of its #1 CUV ahead of launching sales of the Mini Countryman rival later this year in selected markets.
Initially previewed in lightly veiled concept-car guise at the 2021 Munich auto show, the #1 (Number One) is the first in a series of electric-powered models to be developed in a joint venture between Smart’s parent companies, Mercedes-Benz and Geely.
Under the terms of an agreement signed in 2020, Mercedes-Benz was responsible for the styling, while Geely has led the engineering of the #1, which will spearhead the relaunch of the Smart brand originally established by Mercedes-Benz in 1994 as a separate division responsible for dedicated city cars.
The German-Sino partnership also will be responsible for upcoming successor models to the Smart ForTwo and ForFour, the latter of which was developed in an alliance with Renault.
“Smart has entered a new phase of development spurred on by our ‘dual home’ business strategy,” Smart CEO Tong Xiangbei says. “We are confident the global market will embrace the all-electric offering.”
Based on Geely’s new open-source Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) electric-car platform, the rear-wheel-drive #1 is produced exclusively in Xian, China, in a move aimed at providing it with much-needed economies of scale together with manufacturing processes than those at Smart’s former factory in Hambach, France – a site now operated by British company Ineos.
The production version of the new CUV adheres closely to the earlier concept, with only detailed changes to the styling of its exterior, which adopts a smoother and more cohesive look than any previous Smart model.
Key design elements include distinctive headlamps joined by a light bar at the front. Farther back is a clamshell hood, floating roof and hatchback-style rear end with a tailgate that opens at bumper height.
Unlike the concept, the production car adopts a traditional B-pillar. It also rides on wheels ranging up to 19 ins. in diameter.
Inside, the cabin (pictured, above) features architecture similar to that of the early show car but uses a less-extravagant combination of materials. Included is a 9.2-in. (23-cm) digital instrument cluster and 10-in. (25-cm) infotainment display. Smart promises a “dedicated app environment” and a “customizable infotainment interface.”
Seating is for up to five, with trunk capacity put at a nominal 0.5 cu.-ft. (14 L) at the front and 9.6 cu.-ft. (272 L) at the rear.
At 168.1 ins. (4,270 mm) long, 71.7 ins. (1,821 mm) wide and 64.4 in. (1,636 mm) tall, the #1 is 1.7 in. (43 mm) shorter, the same width and 3.1 ins. (79 mm) taller than the soon-to-be-replaced second-generation Mini Countryman. Its wheelbase is 2.8 ins. (71 mm) longer than its key rival at 108.3 ins. (2,751 mm).
The new Smart model is powered by a rear-mounted electric motor developing 268 hp and 253 lb.-ft. (343 Nm) of torque. It is combined with a 66-kWh lithium-ion battery that uses NCM (Nickel, Cobalt and Manganese) cells operating at 400V.
Smart is yet to quote acceleration claims for the 4,012-lb. (1,820-kg) #1. However, it claims a limited top speed of 112 mph (180 km/h).
The battery, mounted within the floor structure of the SEA platform, can be charged at up to 22 kW on an AC system and at 150 kW on a high-powered charger. Charging time, from a 10% to 80% state of charge under optimal conditions on a DC system, is put at 30 minutes.
The range on the European WLTP test procedure is put at between 260 and 273 miles (419 and 440 km).
Smart departed the North American market in 2019. However, Smart officials have told Wards that efforts are underway to once again establish the city-car brand in the U.S. with a new range of battery-electric models.