Forget everything you know about Smart, its nonconformist-style two-seater minicars that weave their way around, but are almost never seen outside of town. The very wise new electric model, baptized #1 (pronounced Hashtag One), measures 4.27 meters, almost 60 centimeters longer than the emblematic Smart Fortwo, comfortably carries four people, and can travel just over 400 kilometers without stopover.
Virtually dormant for two years, the brand has undergone profound changes. Mercedes, its owner, formed in 2019 an equal joint venture with the Chinese number one Geely, sold its factory in Hambach (Moselle), in Lorraine, and decided to produce only 100% electric vehicles, but of all jigs. The objective of this revival, of which #1 is the first stone, is to make Smart a profitable manufacturer at last, twenty-four years after its commercial launch.
The two partners shared the tasks. Geely provides the technical platform (which will also be shared by its subsidiary Volvo) and ensures production in China, while Mercedes is responsible for the design, interior and exterior. The latest generation of Smart already shared its technical base with the Renault Twingo, but for the Sino-Germanic manufacturer, there is no longer any question of specializing in small vehicles, which are too difficult to make profitable. The electric Fortwo, which will cease production in 2024, will certainly be replaced, but other, larger models will be launched in the coming years.
Posing as an alternative to Mini
Smart, which wants to be a chic signature but clearly located a notch below Mercedes, intends to eventually pose as an alternative to Mini, the English brand included in the bosom of BMW. “We are no longer a niche manufacturer that would limit itself to the production of a single model. With #1, we are targeting the segment of compact models, the largest on the European market, with the desire to build an entire range of vehicles.”summarizes Cyril Bravard, president of Smart Automobile France.
Of its elders, the #1, expected in early 2023, retains some curves, but its profile remains classic and its neat interior is more consensual. As for its mass (1.8 tonnes), it is in the upper range of the category of compact electric models, which already includes the Renault Mégane E-Tech electric or Volkswagen i.3. Its price should be a little below 40,000 euros, excluding bonuses.
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