TESLA’S boffins have clearly been busy.
Having not got distracted by their founder snapping up some of Twitter and then declining a seat on its board despite being its new biggest shareholder, the electric car experts have managed to find time to release another model. It’s a small crossover, capable of hoiking itself 270 miles on a single charge and equipped with an in-car avatar that acts as an intelligent companion that operates the gadgets so that you can get on with driving.
Except this new arrival isn’t a Tesla at all, despite the fact it could easily sit alongside a Model Y and most people would assume it’s from the same range. It’s…. a Smart.
This titchy five-door Juke-basher is from the company best known for two-seater city cars that you can park end-on to the pavement (although, in Britain, I’ve never actually seen one being used this way), but it’s smart in the handsome sense, with a lower case ‘s’. Smart’s original schtick was that you could order your City Coupé with bonkers panels covered in bright colours and eye-grabbing Noughties graphics, and when they became unfashionable two days later you could simply pop to your dealer and have another set clipped on. Essentially, it was a Nokia 3310 on wheels.
This one’s the other way around – surprisingly sober looks and a stupid name. This new Smart is called the #1. Not 1 or One, but the Twitter-friendly #1. However, that does of course mean that it’s the first of many models, and that logically, all the others that follow will be better. Starting, unfortunately, with Smart doing a number two.
But the rest of it gets my vote. It might not be as mad as some of Smart’s earlier efforts, but the fact I initially thought it looked Tesla-esque is not necessarily a bad thing. Beneath the skin it’s equipped with an electric motor that sends the zero emissions equivalent of 272 horses to its rear wheels, enough to propel it to 112mph should you ask it to. Word on the street is that there’s going to be a hot version too, with Mercedes’ tuning experts, Brabus, doing a 400bhp model in the not-so-distant future. I also admire Smart’s insistence of being electric-only across all its models. There’s no mucking about with plug-in hybrids, and as a result the engineering isn’t compromised by having to create a car with two power sources in mind.
There’s no word on official UK prices yet, but if they manage to offer it up for less than £35k than they’ll give the Vauxhall e-Mokka – which is less powerful, not as good-looking and won’t go as far on a charge – a very hard time.
I’d have one. As, I suspect, will someone at Tesla’s research and design department.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly