Smart For Two 2023 – The Smart left the US market in 2019, setting the limits of our passion for this eccentric and extraordinary city car. Yet the company’s American misdeeds were only a small part of the brand’s larger business failure, which led to losses of $3.6 billion before being completely absorbed by the Daimler empire in 2006.
Smart, then, is going in a radical new direction and relaunching itself in China as a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and the Geely Group (which owns Volvo, Polestar and Lotus, among other brands). In the future, Smart will only offer electric vehicles and the first of these, the No. 1, uses Geely’s SEA electric platform and will be built in Xi’an, Shaanxi province. It will be sold in China and Europe, but there are no plans to bring the brand back to the US, but just as we thought you might like to know what you’re missing, we have one in Portugal.
Smart For Two 2023
Let’s start with the name. Number 1 is actually called Hashtag One, which is both funny and strangely interesting. We’re told to expect future smartphone models to keep the same look. While larger than any previous Smart and nearly twice as heavy as a Fortwo, the #1 is smaller than the segment average, with a length of 168.1 inches that dwarfs the Volvo XC40 Recharge and Mercedes-Benz EQA. There’s definitely something Mercedes-like about the full-width rear light bar, but the rest of the styling has an undeniably elegant heart.
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The interior is stunning, both in terms of space – it’s much bigger than it should be – and design. There’s plenty of room for full-size adults to sit side by side, and although the profile of the stroller hood at the roofline cuts into the rear door glass, the cabin feels light and airy. The large center console features a charging tray, cup holder and ice bin. Luggage space is limited, though, with only 11 cubic feet behind the rear seats and a small trunk under the hood.
The fit and finish of the cabin is good and there are some nice touches, such as LED lighting integrated into the metal vents and door panels. Nearly all of the physical switchgear has been cut, with functions controlled by a large 12.8-inch touchscreen in the center of the dashboard. The screen looked good, but our test car’s user interface seemed incomplete, with spelling errors and other failures: moving the stability control system board to what appeared to be its “on” position actually turned off. While Volvo and Polestar both use the Android Auto operating system, the Smart is based on Geely’s ECARX, which doesn’t support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. However, it offers a beautiful animated fox that rotates in the submenu.
All #1s will use the same lithium-ion battery, which we estimate should provide 59.4 kWh of usable capacity. The base model directs battery energy to a single 268-hp rear motor, while the top-of-the-line Brabus adds a second 154-hp front motor for a total output of 422 horsepower. All models support DC fast charging at rates up to 150kW and all but the base version have a 22.0kW on-board charger, which is increasingly common in continental Europe. Range according to the optimistic European WLTP test cycle ranges from 273 miles for the most efficient rear-wheel drive version to 248 miles for the Brabus.
These numbers are all at the top of segment standards and offer the No. 1 driving experience. Despite a claimed curb weight of 3,942 pounds, acceleration is brisk in the rear-wheel-drive version, especially going downhill, and although the Continental tires Eco-Contact n. 1 will occasionally scramble to get off the line, the car once feels safe to move. At 80 mph, the cabin remained comfortable and clean.
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While the #1 has selectable driving modes, it lacks adaptive dampers that would allow it to add discipline to its soft suspension. Ride comfort was good on Portugal’s typically soft asphalt, but cornering brought a lot of body roll and the low rolling resistance tires meant limited cornering grip and a tendency for the front end to widen at low speeds. The chassis also felt slippery on rough surfaces – it’s not a car that encourages the driver to push hard.
The #1 offers a one-pedal driving mode, although it requires drivers to wait through nine seconds of legal advertising before it can be activated. It proved terrible, slowing the car to such a gradual pace that it was difficult to use the brakes, and in Sport mode, it couldn’t stop the car on downhill grades.
While the rear-wheel-drive Smart #1 generally feels adequate by segment standards, the dual-motor Brabus version is, frankly, a dynamic mess. The arrival of the second engine brings about 60% more power, but little else has changed. Smart engineers say that the Brabus spring rates were only changed to account for the additional weight of this second motor (which supposedly adds 247 pounds). It also runs on the same EcoContact tires as the regular car, not the kind of rubber you’d expect to see under something with more power than an Audi RS3.
Brabus is the modern equivalent of a straight-line hero muscle car. It can attack all four tires at launch and its acceleration, Smart says, makes a 3.9-second sprint to 100km/h seem perfectly acceptable. But like a mischievous puppy, it gets very angry in corners, where the controls have to struggle to maintain any level of discipline. We often encounter both understeer and oversteer in the same corner. It was on new tires and on a warm, dry surface – the prospect of driving on cold, wet asphalt is a little scary.
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It could be argued that the car with more grip is fully capable of wearing the Brabus brand, the main purpose of the No. 4 all-wheel drive. 1 seems to be to showcase the greater versatility of the regular car. Europeans will be able to buy both from the beginning of next year, priced at around $32,500 at the current exchange rate. Brabus will cost about $10,000 more.
The Smart Fortwo has always struggled in the United States, where its demographic is mostly a small crossover between hypermiling misfits and circus clowns. Number 1 should have broad appeal.
Our man from across the pond, Mike Duff, lives in the UK but reports from Europe, sometimes beyond. He has previously held staff roles on British titles including CAR, Autocar and evo, but his automotive tastes lean towards German, whether the 987-generation Porsche Cayman S or the Mercedes 190E 2.5-16.
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Smart recently launched its latest EQ ForFour car and now only produces the EQ Fortwo microcar in coupe and convertible body styles.
Now a 50:50 joint venture between Daimler AG and Geely, Smart has big plans for the future. The company will replace the EQ Forfour with a crossover already previewed by Concept #1 at last year’s IAA show.
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As large as the MINI Countryman, Smart’s first crossover will be the new face of the brand and the first product of the Sino-German joint venture.
The model will also be the first Smart not based on the Daimler architecture; It will instead be based on Geely Electric’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA). While the Chinese automaker will handle production, Daimler will be responsible for design.
We already have an idea of what the crossover will look like thanks to the aforementioned concept car and the design patents filed with the EUIPO.
. Based on concept no. 1 and on the patent images, this is probably the most accurate representation of the unknown model yet.
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Unlike the concept car, the production model will have B-pillars, hinged front doors instead of automatic doors, slightly different bumpers, bulkier side mirror caps and flush door handles (the design study had no visible handles).
The faux front grille looks a little smaller as two vent-like trim pieces join it. The wheels appear smaller than the Concept’s 21-inch rims and adopt a different design.
When it unveiled the concept version, Smart said its first crossover would offer “a high level of dynamic handling”, long range, fast charging technology, a next-generation infotainment system that houses a 12.8-inch touchscreen . . Airline updates. Prices shown are recommended retail prices for specific countries and do not include indirect incentives. Prices and included options may or may not vary by region
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