Unbeknownst to most Americans, smart (the division of Daimler eschews capital letters) still sells cars, although mostly in places not found on a map of North America. Until now, smarts have been marked by funky styling and less than scintillating performance. But the EV revolution has given the company a chance to rethink its position in the world. The result is the smart Concept 1 unveiled this week in Munich.
Let’s start with styling. The Concept 1 is actually pretty mainstream in appearance. It is slightly larger than a Kia Soul, but with more interior space, thanks to its battery electric powertrain. Some media sites say they dislike the gold-accented roof panel, but overall the car is svelte and shapely with a buttoned down appearance that is quite attractive. Let’s take a break for some photos.
“We’re celebrating an important milestone with the smart Concept #1, which is the forerunner of the next smart generation,” says Daniel Lescow, vice president of global sales for smart in a press release. “The near-production study is an exciting taste of what our customers can expect from the smart brand. The new smart Concept #1 is the first glimpse of our vision of a new and sustainable mobility. It’s characterized by progressive design, premium equipment and advanced technology.”
Gorden Wagener, chief design for Daimler Group, adds, “The new sporty Concept #1 is a redefinition of the smart brand in a very cool grown-up way. We have created a completely new design DNA that has the potential to establish smart as the leading design brand.” The message, in case you missed it, is that smart is being repositioned as a premium brand, which is a far cry from its humble roots. Development is being headed by Geely, with Mercedes responsible for interior and exterior styling.
Writing for Autoblog, Joel Stockdale says, “The interior is where [the Concept 1] stands out. It looks almost like a budget Mercedes-Benz, and the company says it wants to become more of a premium brand. Particularly eye-catching is the use of polished gold colored trim on the dash and the high floating center console. Paired with the white interior and copious ambient lighting, it’s reminiscent of Maybach concepts. But the Concept #1 has just one screen sitting dead center, and it seems to take on the functions of infotainment, climate, and instrumentation.”
About That Interior
The interior of the smart Concept 1 is really quite special. Here’s how the company describes it in their press release:
Despite its compact exterior dimensions (length/width/height in mm: 4,290/1,910/1,698; wheelbase: 2,750 mm), the interior of the smart Concept #1 is extremely spacious thanks to its wheels positioned far out to the corners of the vehicle. The purpose-designed BEV architecture also means that, like the future five-seater production model, the four-seater study offers legroom and elbow room on par with vehicles from higher segments as well as plenty of storage space.
The light streaming in through the panoramic glass roof further enhances the subjective sense of space and contributes significantly to the interior’s lounge-like atmosphere. Sophisticated details such as the ambient light integrated into the vehicle floor, or the extremely elegant air vents, underline the premium appeal of the new smart model generation.
One of the design highlights in the interior of the smart Concept #1 is the center console, which floats between the front seats and merges seamlessly with the unique dashboard design. The central control element is the free-standing 3D touchscreen with a 12.8-inch display.
There’s no way on God’s green Earth those suicide doors are going to make it into production, and we wish companies would stop using this stupid design element when they know they have no intention of including those doors in an actual production vehicle. But as Autoblog says, the smart Concept 1 could lead to a car from the Mercedes brand with a chance to compete successfully with the MINI from BMW Group. The MINI has been a solid sales success for years, and it is incomprehensible that other manufacturers haven’t tried to horn in on the fun.
Will the production version of the smart Concept 1 be coming to North America. Here’s a clue. The url in the smart press release for more information is https://media.smart.com/eu. Draw your own conclusions. A shame really. Ignore the gold color roof and the Concept 1 is quite a tasty little crumpet.