Test: Smart #3 – Serious EV with a playful slant

The frivolous half-brother of the Zeekr X and Volvo EX30

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Smart #3

One of the arguments for a Smart was once that you could park it across a parking space. History. The Smart #3 (pronounced hashtag three) is a mature electric mid-range car that takes up more surface area on the road than any Smart has ever done.

Where should we place the Smart #3?

Since Smart is a joint venture between Mercedes and the Chinese Geely, the brand only seems to focus on larger models. The small ForTwo disappears from the price list, the news can be found in the larger sizes. We were previously introduced to the Smart #1, an electric mid-range SUV. Now comes #3. It shares its technology with the #1 and therefore also with its half-brothers Volvo and Zeekr, only it is slightly larger. It is longer, wider and has a longer wheelbase than the #1. It is 8 centimeters lower, Smart presents it as a four-door coupe. But hey, you can also just call it a hatchback.

Smart #3 driving

Despite the coupe-like roofline, the Smart #3 is simply a hatchback.

Is the #3 a bit roomy inside?

A roof with a sloping coupe silhouette and eight centimeters lower, we fear neck problems. Nothing turns out to be further from the truth. The ground clearance has been reduced by two centimeters and the seats are 2.5 centimeters lower. This means you sit more comfortably than in the SUV and in practice there appears to be more than enough headroom, even if you are two meters tall. In the front you have more than enough space in all directions. This also appears to be the case in the rear, partly thanks to the stretched wheelbase. Partly thanks to the glass roof, the headroom in the back is not too bad. That roof has to make do without sun protection and that saves a few centimeters. The only disadvantage is that the sun always shines in when it shines. The luggage compartment is larger than the #1, but with 370 liters it is still not groundbreaking. There is a 15 liter trunk at the front, but you cannot store a charging cable in it without damaging everything, it has to be under the floor of the trunk. There is plenty of room for small items in the many compartments in the center tunnel.

Smart #3 rear seat

In the back you can sit comfortably under the glass roof, even if you are a little taller.

Is the car easy to operate?

The design of the dashboard looks futuristic and looks almost identical to that of the #1. The center armrest continues into the dashboard and ends just below the multimedia screen. Here we encounter the apparently biggest difference with the interior of the #1. In the #3 there are three round ventilation grilles under the large display, while in the #1 there are two elongated air vents. The finish and materials used leave a high-quality impression and everything you handle feels solid and solid; the family ties with Mercedes and Volvo seem quite close here. The interior is minimalistically designed, physical buttons have been eliminated to a minimum; for everything – and that’s really a lot – you have to rely on the busy infotainment screen. In all their youth, they have turned it into a somewhat colorful fair at Smart that we can’t really get used to. Fortunately, the system responds nice and quickly and the menu structures here and there are reminiscent of Mercedes’ much-praised MBUX system.

Smart #3 infotainment system

The infotainment screen is very frivolously decorated. Form takes precedence over function here.

What kind of battery technology does Smart use?

The Smart #3 has a choice of a 49-kWh or a 66-kWh battery pack and is available as a 272 hp rear-wheel drive or 428 hp four-wheel drive. In the latter case we are talking about the sporty Brabus version. With the 49-kWh battery you can cover 325 WLTP kilometers and with the 66-kWh version, depending on the version, you should be able to travel up to 455 km. Remarkably, the 49-kWh battery and the 66-kWh battery have the same dimensions and weight. The difference lies in the cell technology and in particular the chemical composition of the cathode. The 49-kWh battery features lithium iron phosphate technology (LFP) and the 66-kWh variant is a lithium-nickel-cobalt oxide-manganese (NCM) battery. The LFP batteries are known for a long lifespan and high power density, while NCM batteries have a higher energy density (hence the difference in capacity) and are faster to recharge. To keep the #3 with LFP battery cheaper, the basic version only has a 7.4 kW 1-phase AC charger, while the cars with NCM battery have a 22 kW 3-phase charger. Indeed, not the usual 11 kW but 22 kW. This allows the battery to be charged within four hours. According to Smart, this was done because in some places the use of a charging station is limited to four hours, including in the basement parking under the AutoWeek offices where you (with the exception of test cars) are only allowed to plug in for one part of the day. Anyway, then there must be a 22-kW charging station.

Do you need four-wheel drive?

We have our first introduction to the #3 Premium, which is a 272 hp rear-wheel drive with the 66-kWh battery. The engine responds full of life to the power pedal and has no difficulty in propelling the 1,810 kg car forward smoothly. Depending on the selected settings, the Smart brakes neatly with the engine, if you want you can also drive it with one pedal. It is a pity that you cannot set this – in order to quickly anticipate traffic conditions – via paddles behind the steering wheel. You always have to perform a number of actions in the infotainment system. The Smart has the character that comes with a rear-wheel drive. If you press the power pedal a little too enthusiastically when rounding a bend, especially on a wet road surface, you will feel that the rear wheels have the urge to take a step to the side. Before serious drifting starts, the electronic safety net quickly brings things back into line.

Smart #3 touchscreen

The Smart #3 can be steered accurately, but the steering system does not provide much information.

How does #3 steer?

Because the front wheels do not have to process any driving forces, the steering system is not affected by this, which gives you peace of mind. But the steering system also only transmits track forces to extremely limited extents. Although the car does exactly what you tell it to do with the steering wheel, the system hardly provides any feedback. There is little communication, as if you were playing a computer game. The degree of power steering can be varied, but this does not contribute to the experience. The #3 basically has the same chassis technology as the #1, many components such as wishbones can be exchanged one-on-one. There is a difference in the geometry and the suspension rubbers, shock absorbers, springs and stabilizer bars are dimensioned differently, making the suspension slightly stiffer. Together with the larger wheels and tires with lower sidewalls, this results in nicely dynamic handling. However, that is never uncomfortable. Nicely stable and nice and steady, the Smart moves predictably over the asphalt. And because prevention is better than cure, Smart provides the #3 with a variety of electronic assistance systems as standard. Only the two basic versions, the Pro and the Pro+, have to make do without an automatic parking function and adaptive high beam, other than that all systems are standard on all versions. Like most Chinese car manufacturers, Smart does not provide options and only offers a choice of version and color.

– Thanks for information from Autoweek.nl

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