Driving report: Smart #3: Business as usual

Driving report: Smart #3: Business as usual

The former Smart small car brand has become a completely normal car manufacturer that is now bringing electric models with Chinese Geely technology to Europe. After the still young Smart #1 comes variant #3 with almost identical technology.

Less practicality means more design, greater emotions and also a premium of more than 1,500 euros – the SUV coupé called Smart #3 will be launched next spring at prices starting at 38,490 euros and it is likely to find its fans with solid technology and attractive proportions. Given its close relationship to #1, the question remains as to why the designation #2 was omitted. Tilo Schweer, responsible for product development of the Smart models: “We are still examining the feasibility of a successor to the Fortwo, but no decisions have been made yet. But since the numerical naming of the cars is not related to their size, the number has been retained and can be used in any future Smart vehicle.”

The platform of the 4.40 meter long Smart #3 is the Sustainable Experience Architecture and was first presented at the Zeekr 001 in spring 2021; This was followed by models such as the Zeekr X and the Volvo EX30, sales of which will also begin in early 2024. The proportions of the threesome differ significantly from those of #1, as the length has been stretched by 13 centimeters. Most importantly, the rear overhang is noticeably longer to accommodate the coupe-like, sloping rear, increasing the trunk volume from 323 to 370 liters. In addition, the body of the second Smart model is six centimeters lower, which not least has a noticeable effect on the interior and driving behavior. Despite the manageable dimensions, the amount of space at the front and rear is definitely decent because not only the seats and steering column but even the pedals have been lowered and it is particularly comfortable to sit in the rear despite the sloping roof line. It’s a shame: the back seat cannot be moved variably. However, no thought to the fact that three people can sit in the second row of seats. As with the #1, the large panoramic roof is standard, as are heated front and rear seats and the 360-degree panoramic camera.

Most surfaces are hard but solidly processed and are complemented by soft modules in the upper area of ​​the door panels and the dashboard. There is no shortage of storage space inside or in the charging compartments, even if the Frunk can hardly accommodate more than the charging cable. Chinese manufacturers generally use above-average infotainment systems, and that also applies in this case. The Qualcomm 811 chipset and ECARX software boast good graphics and fast response, and overall operation is intuitive once you get used to it. Even the AI ​​avatar Fox enables fluent interaction with most vehicle functions using voice control. Almost everything is controlled via the various menus on the central 12.8-inch display; even the exterior mirrors or the head-up display. This leaves only a narrow row of physical buttons below the central display, which have direct access to the driving modes, the vehicle settings and the heating of the windows.

Powertrain and batteries are the same as those used in the #1. This means two batteries: one with 66 kWh (nickel-cobalt-manganese), which promises a range of up to 455 km for the 200 kW / 272 hp rear-wheel drive car. For beginners, the smaller 49 kWh battery remains, with a less sophisticated lithium iron phosphate chemistry, which is also homologated for the rear-wheel drive #3 for a range of 325 km. However, the charging speed is not very impressive at 130 or 150 kWh. The RWD version uses a 200 kW / 272 hp motor on the rear axle, which also provides a maximum torque of 343 Nm, while the Brabus version has an impressive output of 428 hp and 543 hp thanks to a second motor in the front axle Nm can shine.

Some changes have been made to the suspension, as Tilo Schweer explains: “The McPherson independent suspension at the front and the Multilink independent suspension at the rear have the same mounting points, but the dampers, bushings, springs and stabilizers are specifically adjusted to accommodate the different proportions to do justice to the body of the #3.” Once behind the wheel of the rear-wheel drive version, driving comfort and stability are very well balanced, so that there is hardly anything swaying or nodding, even when cornering quickly. Despite its 1.8 tonne curb weight, the sporty Smart #3 really puts you in a good mood, especially at a brisk gallop, even if a top speed of 180 km/h is all too little for this engine power. But the smart three-series can not only sprint adequately, but also decelerate well, because the braking system offers significantly more feel and bite than most of its competitors.

The steering, on the other hand, feels quite synthetic and could be more direct. The different driving programs do not make any major differences noticeable – neither when turning the steering wheel – nor otherwise. As far as consumption is concerned, this first trip cannot serve as a reference because the test route was uphill / downhill and full of rally-like curves, which, together with the The motorway section drove up energy consumption and pushed it well beyond the planned 16.3 kWh/100 km.

Source: Stern

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