07 June 2024
Smart #1 Pro+ Review

Yes, that’s right, it’s called the “Hashtag One”. Let’s quickly move past its name and focus on the new kid on the block – the Smart #1 Pro+.

The name Smart traditionally conjures images of the ForTwo, that diminutive city car which burst onto the scene as a future vision of urban commuting. A collaboration initially sparked by Swatch and later dominated by Mercedes, it epitomised innovative compact design.

Yet despite its early promise, the little ForTwo never quite captured the market as hoped. Along came the ForFour, a four-seater concoction brewed with Mitsubishi, which along with other quirky attempts like the Crossblade and the sporty Roadster, aimed to expand Smart’s appeal. However, despite Mercedes’ efforts and multiple revamps including a shift to all-electric drivetrains, the brand continued to struggle financially.

All of that changed in June 2020, when Smart Europe GmbH was revitalised through a 50:50 joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and China’s Geely. This marked a strategic pivot away from niche urban vehicles towards the more commercially viable mainstream crossover market. Thus bringing us to the Smart #1.

But, being positioned as a crossover, it steps into an ever-crowded arena, so how does it stand up against the big dogs?

It Sure Looks Funky

Indeed. Looks-wise, it seems Smart has taken a leaf out of BMW’s MINI playbook, aiming to capture a bit of that retro-funkiness that has spelt success for MINI.

Mercedes, not wanting to be left behind, decided that if you can’t beat them, why not join them… or at least borrow some ideas?

The Smart #1 Pro+ has a whimsical and playful facade, with swooping full-width light clusters fore and aft giving it some uniqueness over distant siblings like the Mercedes-Benz EQA. It looks great, and the eccentric two-tone styling cleverly hides the tall minicab-esque roofline. Vaguely reminiscent of a Kia Soul but dressed in a different outfit.

It’s fun enough to appeal to the young at heart, and not garish enough to conjure cringe looks from others as you drive by. Sensible yet characterful design, this.

A similar design language envelopes the cabin too; there are hints of funkiness, but traditional German sensibleness has ultimately reined control.

The central infotainment screen stands tall at 12.8 inches, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8155 chipset. In English, this means fast and responsive inputs when you’re cycling between menus.

This screen controls nearly everything, which can be both dazzling and daunting to modestly tech-savvy folks. Smart has packed the #1 with features but tucked many of them into submenus, making some tasks like adjusting your mirrors a bit of a chore (similar to what you find in Teslas).

And then there’s the AI fox, a digital companion that lives in your infotainment system. It’s meant to assist with navigation and other tasks, but sometimes it feels more like a novelty, playing with a beach ball on your screen. Brownie points though, it does look rather cute, especially in the climate sub-menu.

The digital instrument cluster is more modest, being a 9.2-inch slit on your dash, but it gets the job done, displaying all essential driving data at a glance.

Where the #1 shines is its blend of premium cabin materials; soft-touch materials placed in strategic locations give crucial touch points more TLC. There are also various nooks to stow away your daily necessities.

Thanks to the tall roofline, headroom is capacious all around. The rear seats are surprisingly roomy, offering good legroom, and the adjustable back bench can slide to balance between passenger comfort and cargo space.

Speaking of cargo, the boot offers 411 litres of space, though it’s a bit awkwardly shaped, and you’ll find a tiny frunk that’s perhaps best left for your charging cables.

This Puppy Can Bite

Sure, there is a souped-up Brabus variant of the #1, but we’re focusing on the regular Pro+ version here. And to be honest, after getting around in this, most wouldn’t need the extra oomph from the red-roofed sibling.

268bhp and 343Nm are more than adequate for commuting with gusto, and power is distributed in a lazier ‘wave’ sensation, unlike other brands that give you whiplash as soon as you gun the throttle. This gives the Pro+ #1 a confident and robust demeanour when pushed, whilst staying well-behaved when you dial it back and want to take it slow.

Despite a kerb weight tipping at 1,900kg, the #1’s suspension is dialled in to offer softness without sacrificing control, managing to mask its weight effectively and commit to your directional demands without drama.

The layout of its chassis and the placement of the wheels play into this, optimising the car’s physical footprint for better stability. The engineers have seemingly endowed it with a traction control system that’s keen but not overbearing too, allowing a hint of tail wag before reigning things in. Just enough to remind you of its eagerness.

However, at lower speeds, regenerative braking is a touch too eager, making smooth stops a bit of a learning curve. And while it has its array of driving modes, it does little to change handling, mostly just controlling how much power is available to your right foot.

Comfort is not forsaken, thankfully. The cabin shields its occupants from the hustle and noise of the outside world, allowing the #1 to serve as a serene bubble of calm. It’s a multifaceted companion ready to tackle both the chaos of city traffic and the joy of an open road sprint. 

Like most modern cars, the #1 has an array of driver-assist features that keep you in check, although sometimes too zealously. The IR alert system can nag you for merely glancing at the infotainment screen. Ironic, given that’s where many of the controls are housed.

Straightforward Charm

Despite the Smart #1 Pro+ being slightly whimsical, the subdued design language does not set it apart dramatically from its peers. Underneath, the Geely framework provides a surprisingly solid base and satisfactory road manners. 

Yet, despite these credentials, the Smart #1 may not shout ‘distinctive’ as loudly as one might hope in a crowded market; it might have stepped away too far from the daring innovation that once defined Smart vehicles.

Overall, the #1 offers a clean drive, commendable visibility, and appears to be well-built. It might just find its niche among pragmatic buyers looking for a straightforward, reliable vehicle that brings the essence of Smart into a new era of automotive design.

Technical Specifications

Smart #1 electric Pro+

Powertrain: Single Electric Motor, Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 200kw (268bhp)
Torque: 343Nm
Gearbox: Single-Speed (A)
0-100km/h: 6.7 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: Unknown
Battery Capacity: 66 kWh
Drive Range: 420 km
Energy Consumption: 5.7 km/kWh (claimed)

Price: S$242,888 with COE (accurate at the time of this article)
Contact: smart Singapore

Photo Credits: Sean Loo (@auto.driven)

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