Brabus Smart Test No. 1: That’s why Smart has become smarter

Brabus Smart Test No. 1: That’s why Smart has become smarter

It’s not known how many versions, powertrains, managers and billions Mercedes-Benz has spent on the smart little car since 1994, but it’s more than the board members, shareholders and salespeople like. It’s especially clever that the small car concept developed by the watch brand Swatch has not yet existed.

In a last-ditch effort for the time being, the Chinese company Geely has stepped in and launched Smart Car No. 1, the first of several small electric cars produced in China for sale globally. Sibling models Volvo EX30 and Zeekr X are also in the market, so competition will be tough both internally and externally.

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From the front, the car has a light line between the headlights and a more regular design, despite the prominent red details. Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

Still expensive

In the past, the price of a car was a challenge, as they rarely cost less than ordinary small cars, but at the same time they were smaller and only had two seats. Some four-seater versions did appear and an SUV was planned, but weak sales and high costs put an end to most of them. Although the car tried to be cool and modern.

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With Smart#1, the price has become more acceptable and the volume has increased, so we will give it another chance. Maybe this is what the number 1 in the name represents even though it’s not the first model? The brand name is also spelled with a lowercase “s,” which can be clever if you want to confuse it with clever.

The Smart#1 comes in three versions, not unlike its sister model, the Volvo EX30. The Smart doesn’t have the smallest battery pack in the range, but the Pro+ has rear-wheel drive, five seats, 272bhp, a range of up to 420km and a price of NOK 399,900. Not the most affordable in this segment, but not disproportionately expensive.

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In comparison, a Volvo EX30 with the same powertrain costs NOK 366,900, but the equipment level is lower and the space is smaller. The seven centimeters you get with the Smart#1 include a sliding rear seat and a larger luggage compartment. This also applies to the Smart #1 Pulse, which has all-wheel drive and 428 hp and costs NOK 50,000 more than the smaller, less equipped EX30 Twin Performance model.

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Lots of equipment

However, the top model and Smart#1 Brabus concept car has more equipment at a higher price. The car has a lot of the equipment you would expect in a modern car, but it also has a panoramic glass roof, an upgraded stereo, LED Matrix lights and some luxury details such as illuminated door sills, sports pedals and lights in the grille as standard. Then you don’t have to think about additional equipment.

It’s also three-tenths slower from 0 to 60 mph than the all-wheel-drive EX30. 3.9 seconds is in any case more than fast enough and the top speed of 180km/h is inspired by Volvo’s limited top speed if the motorway is a possible destination.

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Along with some special graphics on the touchscreen, there's a fox wandering around in the bottom right corner.  Photo: Andres Schiele / FinanceAffairs

Along with some special graphics on the touchscreen, there’s a fox wandering around in the bottom right corner. Photo: Andres Schiele / FinanceAffairs

Distinctive design

Smart #1 in general and Brabus in particular are still trying to be cool and modern, which has to be said. In terms of design, they have made moves that anyway separate the car from the jungle of aerodynamic soap bars and Chinese copies. The front may not be stunning, but the color-coded roof has a special design towards the rear and below the C-pillar. The light line at the top of the trunk is inspired by Mercedes-Benz, while the 19-inch wheels fit the car well.

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The front seats are good for sitting with good lateral support, but the short seat cushion cannot be reclined. A firm sports steering wheel made of leather and Alcantara with red stitching fits well in the hands, but is not warm. Leather on the dashboard, seats and doors, stylish air nozzles, firm headrests, red seatbelts, optional mood lighting and a high center console between the seats make entry cool. Although large parts of the center console are made of hard plastic, it feels a bit awkward. Space in the back seat is good, especially with the seat in the rear position, while the luggage compartment becomes correspondingly smaller.

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The Brabus version also has metal sports pedals with rubber grips.  Photo: Andres Schiele / FinanceAffairs

The Brabus version also has metal sports pedals with rubber grips. Photo: Andres Schiele / FinanceAffairs

A small dashboard with all the essentials and a head-up display is more than the Volvo EX30 can offer. The Brabus version has a special touchscreen with creative solutions, such as a moody fox, a stylized globe, weather and climate forecast and some express buttons. The car’s driving settings can be selected in several places, while the side mirrors must be adjusted via the touch screen.

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In a well-designed interior with a number of challenging details, the high center console is dominant, but the plastic on parts of it and on the dashboard looks a bit clumsy.  Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

In a well-designed interior with a number of challenging details, the high center console is dominant, but the plastic on parts of it and on the dashboard looks a bit clumsy. Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

Driving pleasure

We assume that the car is not completely different from its sister model, the Volvo EX30, when driving on summer tires and dry asphalt, which is considered very good. Good performance and balanced chassis suit most surfaces and driving styles.

With winter tires and snow cover, the car is still fun to drive and access shouldn’t be a problem. If you turn off the ESP on smooth roads, you quickly realize how easy and predictable the car is to drive, dancing away in a controlled manner with snow spraying from all wheels.

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This is due, among other things, to the electric powertrain, which transmits forces to the right wheels depending on, among other things, gas pressure, steering wheel movement, speed and friction. This is undoubtedly one of the advantages of electric cars in that the transmission changes more quickly than if the combustion, clutch, gearbox and axles had to do so in a conventional car. If you can say that anymore about a car with a dying combustion engine.

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The 60/40-split rear seat with ski opening can be pushed lengthwise for increased space and flexibility.  Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

The 60/40-split rear seat with ski opening can be pushed lengthwise for increased space and flexibility. Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

Fear and waiting

The downside of an electric car is the range and charging time when it becomes an issue, especially in the winter. The partly practical and partly scientific range test would have given us 312 kilometers if we drove the battery from 100 to 0 percent, which is roughly what the guesstimate gauge told us before the start.

Admittedly, the temperature was around zero, partly snowy as we skied and snowshoeed, and drove for a long time on the highway. All of this eats up range, and the 400km range stipulated by the WLTP figure should be achieved on a good summer’s day.

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From the rear, the car is far from stunning, but the subtle line across the entire width of the car suits it well.  Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

From the rear, the car is far from stunning, but the subtle line across the entire width of the car suits it well. Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

Another drawback of Norwegian temperatures is that they do not always match Chinese temperatures. The heater works great, but sometimes it has to be 18 degrees and other times 28 degrees to get the right temperature, it’s weird. This also applies to many electric cars coming from China, so they still have something going forward.

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Charging power of 150 kilowatts is theoretical, but on a hot summer day it would probably achieve more than the 80 kilowatts we had at most in a few degrees Celsius. Charging power has dropped to 40 kilowatts by 80 percent, so a full charge takes time. The built-in 22 kW charger makes charging at home efficient if you have that much power available. With a range of up to 30 miles in the winter and 40 miles in the summer, with a little planning you’ll rarely need a quick charge.

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The front seats are comfortable with good adjustment options, but the seat cushion is short and cannot be reclined.  Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

The front seats are comfortable with good adjustment options, but the seat cushion is short and cannot be reclined. Photo: Andreas Schell/FinanceAffairs

one two three?

Now the slightly larger Smart #3 will also be launched soon without knowing what happened to the #2, but we can’t avoid special car names. With the Smart#1 Brabus in the garage, or even better on the road, you can have fun behind the wheel if you like to drive actively, because it can handle it. Other than that, it’s a special that’s only bordering on cool, so it remains to be seen if it’s enough this time.

Basic information: Smart #1 Brabus

Drivetrain: Two electric motors, four-wheel drive

hp/kW/Nm: 428/315/584

0-100 km/h: 3.9 seconds.

maximum speed: 180 km/h

net weight: 1900 kg

length, width, height: 430/182/163 cm

Battery (net): 64 kWh

World Harmonized Test Range for Light Vehicles (WLTP): 400 km

Charging power: 150 kW

Trailer weight: 1600 kg

Box: 320/413+15 litres

price: From NOK 399,900. This model is NOK 499,900

Plus

  • Driving characteristics
  • Accessibility
  • Charm

minus

  • price
  • Unique design
  • Seat cushion

design: Distinctive for better or worse as the ceiling protrudes more.

Driving environment: Distinctive and sturdy design with solid materials and lots of digital.

Driving characteristics: Easy to drive, fun and predictable on all types of surfaces.

Offers: Faster than a Porsche 911 in a drag race, so it works.

place: The flexible back seat/trunk makes it practical.

Value for your money: More competitive than it used to be.

Conclusion: 6

A distinctive electric car that is more powerful than others.

This article was first published in Finansavisen engine.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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