Looks by Benz, body by Geely: Smart previews its upcoming compact SUV
Smart has unveiled a sweet-looking "near production" preview of its next-gen electric urban cars. The Concept #1 is a compact crossover SUV with a super-slick interior and easy-access suicide doors in back – and it's huge ... for a Smart car, anyway.
"Progressive design, premium equipment and advanced technology" are the key targets for Smart moving forward, says Daniel Lescow, VP of Global Sales. Smart is now an equal partnership co-owned by Mercedes-Benz and China's Geely Automobile, and the next generation of these chipper little urban getabouts will be Mercedes-Benz exterior and interior designs built on a battery-electric chassis developed by Geely.
The design of the Concept #1 looks progressive enough, although most of the really eye-catching features, like the rear suicide doors, the full-length panoramic glass roof, the 21-inch wheels, the gold cabin accents and the shiny iPhone 3G-style plastic seat backs will likely be toned way down or thrown out altogether by the time this reaches production.
But production is always a drag; the Benz team sure does know how to make a clean, futuristic looking cabin either way, this time with a splash of gaudy excess thrown in the mix. A gleaming center console runs up between the front seats, acting as a rather grand golden runway up to a large 12.8-inch touchscreen. As a father of two, all I can imagine is cleaning grubby fingerprints off these smooth surfaces forever after.
LED lighting accents are everywhere, inlaid in the floor, the doors, the dash, the sunroof, the seats, the door trims, you name it. They're peppered across the exterior too. The Germans seem to be able to get away with decking cars out with great ropes of neon light while keeping the overall effect within the boundaries of good taste, and for that they must be commended.
The car itself is designed to marry a reasonably compact chassis with a roomy interior for four. Its exterior dimensions, at 4,290 x 1,910 x 1,698 mm (169 x 75 x 67 in) make it a bit wider and taller than a Mazda CX-5, but about 26 cm (10 in) shorter front to back, closer to a Mini Countryman. The interior certainly looks pleasantly spacious enough in the photos, especially with those opposing doors thrown wide open.
The production car will be a five-seater, says Smart, boasting "the highest level of dynamic handling and passive safety." It'll receive OTA software updates, have driver assist features like park assist, evasive steering assist, a motorway assistant and an emergency lane assistant available, and it'll have an AI-enhanced "virtual companion" you can talk to that is capable of learning and adapting to your preferences. These will position the upcoming Smart toward the premium end of the compact crossover spectrum.
We'll have to wait and see what that ends up looking like, but we wouldn't expect to be waiting too long, and certainly the direction on display here is promising.