the urban brand denies its DNA but gets its bet?

This is the story of a car manufacturer who falls in love with magic. It is also the story of his first trick of turning a sparrow into an elephant. Mercedes, the magician, or rather its urban brand Smart, actually set out to revive the 90s icon, but in a different guise. Get out of the city flea, the one that only needed half a parking space to make its nest. The new Smart generation, called #1, gained a few inches and a few pounds too. Now it’s an SUV.

Mercedes is not the only actor working on this transformation. In recent months, Smart has been an entity owned half by the German brand and the other half by the Chinese Geely (owner of Volvo and Polestar, among others). In fact, the design work is shared very clearly. At Mercedes, the pencil stroke and the software part, at Geely the platform and the vehicle manufacturing.

Dimitri Charitsis – 01net – The Brabus version pulls the muscles.

A dash of Mercedes, a dash of Brabus, not much of Smart

It’s been a while since the Smart has been tweaking its number 1. Introduced at the IAA 2021 in concept form, the compact SUV has evolved very little since then. Designed by Mercedes and designed by Geely, the #1 brings a slight touch of originality to the heavily formatted world of the SUV. This impression is undoubtedly the result of an absence of prejudice. Considered a compact SUV, a Crossover or an elevated compact, depending on who you ask, the #1 is careful not to offend any automotive religion and navigates between two waters.
However, the affiliation with Mercedes is evident both in terms of optics and in the cabin that takes up the spirit of the brand’s latest productions with the star. A panel that gives the impression of floating, a characteristic steering wheel and exquisite finishes, without a doubt, the shock absorber german quality it is deserved.
This is even more true in the BRABUS version, the most sophisticated model in the catalogue, the most sporty too, that we had the opportunity to try. The latter benefits from even more particular care with regard to reputation Award of the current partner.

Smart has fun with its operating system

In the center of the cabin is a beautiful 12.8-inch screen in landscape format. A quick glance reveals that your operating system is unlike any other. It is even one of the most interesting aspects of this vehicle. In fact, Smart could have contented itself, like many of its competitors, with opting for simplicity, that is, opting for Google Automotive. Furthermore, Geely is not shy about using Mountain View’s integrated solution when it comes to equipping its Volvos or Polestars. No! On the contrary, he chose to develop his own solution and inject originality and good ideas into it. Let’s be clear, the Smart’s operating system is indeed an Android derivative, but Mercedes engineers have taken the trouble to develop an overlay that deserves our attention.

From the home page, the foundations are laid. This one looks more like a cluttered desk or particularly colorful wallpaper. However, one detail stands out: a small animated fox in the lower right corner of the screen that regularly calls the driver. This avatar that looks like Firefox’s red panda is the embodiment of Vehicle AI. It is to him that the voice commands of the occupants are addressed and of course they are particularly well interpreted. Thus, the system not only recognizes advanced commands such as “I’m cold” (to increase the cabin temperature) or “close the window”, but it is also able to locate them according to where they are placed . were issued. This will close the correct window and increase the air conditioning of the passenger affected by these concerns.

Furthermore, although the interface is not always the most intuitive, efforts have been made to facilitate navigation. We also suspect that Smart will get some good ideas from Apple (gesture controls), but especially from Tesla. Indeed, as with the Californian manufacturer, the operating system is considered an important player in the vehicle, and should come into play especially when it is charging. Thus, in addition to integrating Spotify and Tune in, the interface works on a model of more or less successful applications. It should also be noted that Smart is trying to develop a video game part composed for the moment of two games that above all make you want to trust your smartphone to pass the time.

Dimitri Charitsis – 01net
Dimitri Charitsis – 01net – Games on Smart are still not at the expected level.

The operating system, which works thanks to a Snapdragon 8155 chip, is quite fluid, but it is not without some bugs. Here it should be clarified that we tested a pre-production vehicle. According to Smart officials, most software issues are known and should be fixed via an update before the vehicle is commercially released. If the interface of this #1 is not, therefore, perfect, it has the merit of bringing a little freshness and novelty to a universe that is often serious, not to say monotonous. If the new Smart has lost its uniqueness in terms of design, it retains a certain originality in its interface for sure.

Effective but annoying driving aids

A strong point of Mercedes, but also of Geely, the driving aids are part of the strengths of this #1. Whether it’s level 2 autonomy (lane-keep assistance, adaptive cruise control) or parking aids, the observation is the same: they are well balanced, intuitive and easy to use.
However, unless an adjustment is made in a future update, patience will be required to support its omnipotence. Indeed, the driver assistance systems are certainly effective, but they are also particularly intrusive. So the simple fact of scratching your head gives rise to a call from the sleep assistant, which is also triggered every 30 seconds when the driver decides to wear glasses. The fact that we tested the vehicle with a pre-production model does not allow us to fully understand the improvements that Smart will make to the operating system before delivering its first models, but also at this point they prove necessary.

In autonomy, the #1 pays for excess weight

Built on Geely’s SEA platform, the #1 has a 66 kWh battery. Obviously, the autonomy varies a little from one finish to another, not all having the same equipment or the same engine power. However, the Smart has a range of 400 km and more, regardless of the model, including the Brabus. During our test, on a mixed route that covered both urban passages, a few kilometers of motorway and mainly the secondary network, consumption proved to be less attractive. The manufacturer advertises 17.9 kWh/100 km. For our part, we found an average consumption of 20.4 kWh / 100 km, which would allow the Smart #1 Brabus to travel 330 km on a single charge. It’s honorable, but at a time when most manufacturers are getting better at this point, Smart seems a little behind.
As for the charging part, the Smart is doing well for being in the current average of comparable vehicles. Concretely, this corresponds to a maximum power of 150 kW on fast charge (it takes less than 30 minutes to go from 10 to 80% of the battery). As for recharging in alternating current (AC), it is limited to 7.4 kW in the entry-level version, the Pro+, and reaches 22 kW in the other better equipped models.

The #1 Smart on the road, what’s it like?

The Smart’s strong point is undoubtedly its acceleration. This is palpable in comfort mode, but in Sport mode and even more so in Brabus mode, it becomes absolutely thrilling. In fact, if all Smart trims have three driving modes, the Brabus adds one more, the only one that takes full advantage of the two electric motors and allows it to reach a maximum power of 315 kW (543 Nm of par). If acceleration is undeniably present, with 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds in the Brabus model, the behavior of the chassis does not necessarily follow and proves to be more suited to flexible and comfortable driving than to the dynamism of its nominal power invites. Ultimately, the Smart #1 remains a family car despite above-average capabilities in the first few hectometers.

Overall, despite some inconsistencies, the #1 surprises for its behavior and mainly for the fact that it really changes from one driving mode to another.

What is the price ? Who are your competitors?

Although Smart is considered the affordable brand of the Mercedes group, it is not really what we would qualify as low cost… In other words, Smart is not for Mercedes what Dacia is for Renault. In addition, although we are not at the price standards of an EQS, the #1 remains a high-priced electric vehicle, one of those that, even with the maximum bonus, will not be able to integrate our selection of the best electric cars for less than 30,000 euros. .
In fact, the entry ticket Smart #1 costs 39,990 euros, for the Pro+ version. Two other higher trim levels complete the slim catalogue, a Premium version for €43,490 and the more sophisticated Brabus for €47,990. Furthermore, the question that must be asked is: who is this Smart for and who can he really compete with? With an entry-level version a little cheaper than a Mercedes EQA and a premium version at the price of a Tesla Model Y Propulsion, this #1’s mission promises to be dangerous to say the least. Between these two extremes, the war is fought with a number of competitors, including the very serious Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, Volkswagen group electric trio (Audi e-Tron Sportback, Skoda Enyaq and Volkswagen ID.4 and ID.5) and even a Renault Mégane E-tech EV60 from the French side. Let’s be clear, #1 doesn’t come out with favorite status.

judgment verdict

With this #1, Smart’s bet was quite bold. Is it successful so far? Clearly, there’s not much to criticize about the Brabus version of our test. It’s a solid, serious electric SUV that combines dazzling acceleration with honest driving pleasure. Of course, its price issues, but otherwise, the overall balance is positive. With that observation made, two questions emerge almost immediately.
Who is this number 1 for? Why would it be preferable to the series of electric SUVs already on the market, some of which are among the best electric cars at the moment?
Where did the intelligent spirit go? The brand’s DNA resided precisely in the fact that it offered cars cut for the city… like the Smart EQ Fortwo at the end of the route. Wouldn’t electrification make more sense in these types of small-town cars than in large SUVs? Without throwing anything away from the success of the #1 Smart, we can only express the wish that the #2, which is not expected to arrive before 2024, will find the Smart touch.

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