On display at IAA 2021 in concept form and appropriately dubbed the Concept #1, the world’s first smart SUV may not be particularly big, but it stands tall, and we expect it to be reasonably successful. Personally, I thought that a smart SUV would be an instant home run, judging by how popular the brand’s other models are.
In fact, back in June, I wrote this little nugget which I might just end up regretting: “what if I was to tell you that while everybody is focused on what Tesla, the VW Group or various Chinese brands are doing, the real “EV threat” lies dormant within Daimler’s smart division. Oh yes, they won’t know what hit them and by the time they realize it, it may already be too late.”
I was referring to smart’s upcoming SUV ticking every single box regarding what people expect from a city car-sized crossover. Style, small dimensions, electric power and affordability.
As it turns out, aside from its electric drive, the smart Concept #1 may end up missing every single one of those targets. For starters, it doesn’t look particularly sharp. While Mercedes did come up with the design, the Concept #1 was engineered by Geely and in a weird way it sort of shows. The design language is anything but German/European. Honestly, you could slap any Chinese badge on it, and you wouldn’t know the difference.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can I even insinuate this thing isn’t small? Well, it’s about as big as a Mercedes EQA, which makes it darn near compact if we’re nitpicking. It measures 168.9 inches (4,290 mm) in length, 75.2 inches (1,910 mm) in width and 66.9 inches (1,698 mm) in height. It’s wider and taller than a MINI Countryman. The wheelbase meanwhile measures 108.2 inches (2,750 mm) in length – that’s anything but small. It’s Ford Focus-sized.
As for how affordable it’s going to be, we don’t know yet, but since smart is now looking to pass itself off as a more grown-up brand, it’s unlikely that it will ever leave its pseudo-premium roots behind.
Sure, the production-ready version of the Concept #1 might turn out to be a tremendous vehicle, but it won’t be like any other smart you’ve ever known and that’s both a positive and a negative. Remember the VW ID. LIFE Concept that also broke cover in Munich? That tiny little crossover already seems cleverer than the smart Concept #1 in terms of “packaging”, and it will only cost a smidge over $20,000.
The ID. LIFE also proves that you can indeed build a crossover the size of a city car, at 161.6 inches (4,091 mm) long, 72.6 inches (1,845 mm) wide and 63 inches (1,599 mm tall), with a wheelbase stretching just 104.3 inches (2,650 mm). Small yet surprisingly roomy. That’s the smartest of combos.