Smart #3 Review & Prices
The Smart #3 promises the most space you can get in a stylish low-roofed SUV. Big battery gives you a decent range, but the boot is very small and it doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd
Find out more about the Smart #3
The Smart #3 is the second car in Smart’s planned revival. As with the taller, but smaller overall #1, the #3 is an all-electric SUV that’s made in China, albeit as part of a deal with Mercedes, which has been running the Smart brand for 25 years now.
The #3 actually shares its basic parts — batteries, motors, chassis — with the Volvo EX30 because the other half of the partnership with Mercedes is Chinese car maker Geely, which owns Volvo, Polestar, Lotus and lots more. It means that the basic box of bits that goes up to make a Smart #3 (and the #1) will be found under lots of other cars too.
So Smart is going to have to work extra hard to convince people that it can make a big-ish four-door SUV, rather than the tiny two-seat ForTwo city car that everyone knows the company for. It's a bit like when the local restaurant that's been famous for making excellent pub grub undergoes a refit and starts selling gourmet food.
So, what does Smart offer you that Volvo doesn’t? The simple answer is space, and Smart reckons that’s how it can justify making a larger car. The idea is that because it’s a Smart, it will offer the most interior space you can get for a given size of car.
Actually that works out pretty well. There is indeed lots of space inside the Smart #3, with rear seat space in particular being vastly better than what you’ll find in the Volvo EX30. It’s almost on a par with physically bigger cars such as the Skoda Enyaq Coupe and the Volkswagen ID3. We’d expect that Smart will undercut cars like that when it comes to price, but the final UK specifications and costs haven’t been announced just yet.
It’s also very well equipped. Even the standard Pro model will come with a big 12.8-inch touchscreen, heated seats, climate control, and a panoramic glass roof. You’ll also find a 360-degree parking camera, pop-out door handles, electric seat adjustment, a powered tailgate, and 19-inch alloy wheels even on the most basic Pro version.
The Smart #3 has a lovely spacious cabin, but the infotainment system is quite irritating
That Pro model comes with a smaller, cheaper battery too. It uses much more affordable battery technology, which should mean that the Pro version will be very affordable, but the penalty is range. With its 49kWh capacity, it can manage just 202 miles on a full charge. It also only has 7.4kW AC charging, but on fast chargers it’ll top up pretty briskly, with 130kW charging meaning you can go from ten to 80 per cent charge in about 30 minutes.
Upgrade to a Pro+ (isn’t that a caffeine pill?) or Premium model and you’ll get a 66kWh battery using more expensive lithium-ion tech, and that’s good for a range of up to 283 miles. Premium versions also get much faster 22kW AC charging (which is really handy if you regularly use kerbside charging points) and while both the Pro+ and Premium get 150kW DC charging, although because the battery is bigger it takes the same 30 minutes to get to 80 per cent. Pro, Pro+, and Premium versions all use the same 268bhp rear-wheel drive electric motor, which has very good performance — 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds.
Or you can go for the high-performance Brabus version, which gets two motors, four-wheel drive, and 422hp. That version will hit 62mph from rest in just 3.7 seconds, but your range falls to 258 miles.
Inside, the Smart #3 has a well-made cabin that uses lots of nice materials. The front seats are big bucket-style items that are very comfortable, but the big screen in the middle of the dash can be really annoying. The menu layout is quite confusing at times, and there are way too many irritating bing-bong warnings that need to be laboriously turned off every time you start the car. The sat nav was also easily confused at times.
To drive, the #3 is pretty ordinary. Not in a bad way, but even through Smart says that it’s been designed to offer a keener and more enthusiastic driving experience than the #1, thanks in no small part to being 80mm lower than that car, the fact is that while it’s fine — safe, secure, and easy-going — it’s also not a lot of fun. That’s one area where the related Volvo EX30 is much better.
The ride quality is also on the firm side, so it’s probably going to be best to avoid the optional 20-inch alloys. The #3’s turning circle is also quite big, making it feel a bit awkward on tight streets, which is surely not what a Smart ought to be.
Is the #3 too big or too expensive for you? Check out our review of the more compact Smart #1 here. Or see all of Carwow’s best deals on electric car leases here, and have a look at deals on Smart’s latest models. Plus, when you’re ready to make the move on your new car, don’t forget you can sell your current car through Carwow.
Prices haven’t been set yet for the UK, but the cheapest Pro model will likely cost around £37,000, which is not exactly cheap, but it’s broadly competitive with other, similar electric cars.
Pro+ and Premium versions, with the bigger battery and more expensive charging systems, will likely be just over £40,000, while the high-performance Brabus model will be heading for £50,000.
On top of the standard equipment, Pro+ models get a 9.2-inch digital driver’s instrument screen which isn’t available on the basic Pro version, as well as wireless phone charging, ‘vegan’ leather seat trim, more advanced driver assistance features, and a powered tailgate.
Premium models add a head-up display, a Beats sound system, automatic parking, a heat-pump heating system (which is more efficient at keeping you warm on cold days, without hoovering up battery range), ambient lighting, and upgraded leather seats.
There’s a limited-edition 25th Anniversary model too, celebrating a quarter-century of the Smart brand, which is basically the same as a Premium model, but with special paintwork and 25th Anniversary badging.
Finally, the Brabus gets the extra electric motor, more power, 20-inch alloy wheels, red brake calipers, a Brabus exterior styling pack, and ventilated front seats with microfibre upholstery.
The Smart #3 is entirely competent to drive, and won’t do anything to upset you, but it’s not exactly exciting
You’d think this is where any Smart should excel, but that’s probably just the memory of the old, teeny-tiny ForTwo butting in. The fact is that the #3 doesn’t perform especially well around town, and much of that is down to the turning circle. With a big battery, the inevitable side effect is a long wheelbase and while that’s great for interior space, it gives the #3 a big old turn, which makes things like tight corners and mini-roundabouts a bit of a nightmare.
Being electric, it is at least smooth and easy to drive, as long as you avoid the Sport driving mode, which makes the accelerator pedal a bit too sensitive. All-round visibility is surprisingly good, especially given how low that roof swoops at the back. The forward view is good, and the windscreen pillars don’t get in the way too much. The ride quality seems very firm, even at low speeds though, so you’ll want to slow right down for speed humps.
High-spec models like our Premium test car come with an automated parking assistant which makes parallel parking pretty easy, but even basic versions come with all-round cameras and sensors, so you should be able to wiggle in and out of tight spaces pretty easily. The regenerative braking can also be set up to provide a one-pedal driving mode which will bring you to a complete stop without needing to touch the brake.
There’s an adjustable steering mode, entirely separate to the driving mode, which makes the #3’s steering wheel feel very light and swishy, which is nice when you’re trying to manoeuvre around car parks and tighter spots.
On the motorway
With 268bhp doing the pushing, the #3 doesn’t hang about when it comes to getting up to motorway speeds. Indeed, until you get used to it, the performance can all seem a bit sudden at times, certainly when picking up from low speeds. Once you’re above 50mph, the power does seem to tail off, but when you’re cruising at 70mph, the electric motor is able to add a big dollop of extra torque when you need it, which makes the #3 feel nicely brisk once again.
At speed, the #3 cruises smoothly and quietly, and on the motorway the firm ride quality actually plays into your hands, as it makes the #3 feel nicely planted and secure. There are lots of assistance systems, from speed warnings to lane-keeping to active cruise control, all of which work fine, but as we’ll see later they can also be spectacularly intrusive. Wind noise and tyre noise are kept well under control, so it’s a pretty relaxing thing and the range — normally something that motorway driving tends to wipe out — seems to hold up well.
On a twisty road
It’s not that the Smart #3 handles poorly on a twisty road, it’s just that it doesn’t do anything interesting. In any driving mode and with any setting, the steering just feels heavy and numb at all times. Grip and traction are good, and the #3 took a series of uphill and downhill hairpin bends in its stride, but without ever making you feel especially involved. Suspension comfort rears its head again, though, as mid-corner bumps can make the nose jerk slightly off-line, which doesn’t feel especially pleasant. Performance remains very strong, and again in Sport mode you have to be careful not to stamp too quickly on the accelerator or all of the torque will kick in all at once.
One good aspect is the braking, which when you set the regenerative braking to the ‘Standard’ setting feels entirely natural and doesn’t do that annoying thing of making you feel the switch between regen braking and the physical brakes.
The problem is that there are rivals which do this all better. The closely related Volvo EX30 feels much more responsive in corners, as does the Renault Megane E-Tech. Once you’re up to Premium spec in the #3 you’re also into the likes of the Polestar 2, which is just on another level to drive entirely. Smart just hasn’t done enough to make this new #3 feel in any way special nor distinctive, even though it’s perfectly competent.
Is it worth going for the high-performance Brabus version? It’s debatable — obviously, the Porsche-crushing 3.7-second 0-62mph performance is tempting, but the handling and steering aren’t that much better than the standard car’s, and the opportunities to make the most of that straight-line performance are going to be vanishingly rare. There is a specific Brabus driving mode in the car’s systems which does help to give the steering better weight and a touch more feel, but the difference isn’t night-and-day and the standard car is more than quick enough for anyone, really.
The #3 is very spacious both in the front and back of the cabin, but the boot is quite small and the ‘frunk’ is a joke
The #3’s cabin is pleasantly roomy in the front, even though the centre console is deliberately set high up to divide the front into two distinct ‘cockpits’. Underneath that console there’s a huge, open storage space which will easily swallow a handbag or a small backpack, while up top there’s a small storage space which also houses the optional wireless phone charger and two USB-C sockets. There are also two cupholders and a slim storage space for a mobile phone, and further back there’s a big storage box under the front seat armrest. The door bins are roomy, and will easily hold a large bottle of water, but they’re unlined so anything loose — keys, pens, coins — will rattle around endlessly.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the worry that the little ‘rivet’ design set into the seat base might jab you in the bottom proves unfounded. The driving position is decent, with plenty of adjustability in the steering wheel, and electric adjustment for the seats as standard, but the seat does feel a touch high and perched up for taller drivers.
Space in the back seats
In the back is where Smart makes good on its promise to provide lots of cabin space for a given size of car. Headroom and legroom are excellent, even if there are tall people sitting in the front, and the standard panoramic roof lets in lots of light, which helps to compensate for the bulk of the big bucket seats in the front, which do tend to cut off the view out for those sitting behind. There is an armrest in the middle, rear air vents, two more USB-C sockets, seatback pockets, and more unlined door bins. The floor is flat, which helps to free up space for anyone trying to squeeze into the narrow middle rear seat, but the floor is quite high, so taller passengers will find that their knees are too high up for long-haul comfort.
The price for good cabin space seems to be that the boot of the Smart #3 isn’t very big. At 370 litres, it’s actually smaller than what you get in a Volkswagen Golf hatchback. The boot floor is adjustable, which means you can set it up to have no loading lip if you’re trying to load in heavier items, and that gives you some space underneath to stash charging cables too. Space expands to 1,160 litres if you fold down the rear seats, and they fold almost entirely flat in 60:40 formation, leaving only a slight rise up to the backs of the front seats. The roof is quite low at the back, though, which will make it difficult to load up bulkier items. Those hoping to save on boot space by keeping a charging cable in the ‘frunk’, or ‘froot’ if you prefer, will be disappointed — there’s only a tiny 15-litre space under the bonnet, which is more or less useless.
The cabin looks, well, smart – but the infotainment is irritating in the extreme
Smart has done a good job of making the #3’s cabin look and feel reasonably expensive, but it doesn’t quite feel like a premium model inside. There are a few too many cheap-feeling surfaces — such as the column stalks and those unlined door bins — for that. You can also see where some costs have been cut, such as the fact that the entire centre console, from the armrest to the three round air vents under the big screen, seems to have been lifted from the last-generation Mercedes C-Class spare parts shelf.
Still, there are good aspects. The dash itself is trimmed in a contrast coloured plastic which looks and feels good, and the high-backed bucket seats do make things look at least a little more expensive.
However, the touchscreen… It’s incredibly irritating. The menu layout is at best confused, at worst downright obstructive, although like most such things it would probably become easier over time as you become used to it. The total lack of physical buttons for any functions is a major mistake though, especially when the driver monitoring system beeps angrily at you for daring to look at the screen for a moment to adjust the cabin temperature. It’s just one of a general cacophony of bings, beeps, and bongs that are in themselves hugely distracting and which surely negate the genuine benefits of such systems.
The speed limit warning, for example, is just dreadful as it frequently gets the limit entirely wrong, and then chides you for exceeding it — which will presumably make everyone just turn it off, entirely sidestepping any potential safety benefit. Don’t even get us started on the sat nav, which seems to get lost more often than we do by ourselves.
There are some good points. The shallow, 9.0-inch digital driver’s display works very well, and means you don’t get distracted by whatever else is on the big central screen when you just want to check your speed, while the head-up display — only available on the Premium and Brabus versions — is excellent. There are points taken off, though, for the digital voice assistant. This can, in theory, do things like adjust the cabin temperature, lower or raise one of the frameless windows, or enter a sat nav destination. The assistant gets a little carton Cheetah avatar, presumably because it’s supposed to be fast to respond, but we guess Cheetahs must be hard of hearing too, and on most occasions when we said ‘Hello, Smart’ she just didn’t respond.
Higher spec models get a Beats audio stereo which sounds good, with nice deep bass, and there are four USB-C sockets in the cabin (two front, two rear) along with a wireless charging pad for more expensive versions.
Vehicle Excise Duty for the #3 will be free for now, so that’s a good thing although of course it will change in 2025, going up to £180 for the second year onwards. The Smart #3 seems to use its battery with decent economy — we observed 3.5 miles per kWh in the standard 268hp version, and a still-fine 3.3 miles per kWh in the four-wheel drive Brabus. Mind you, that was on largely slow roads, in warm weather — a long motorway run in cold conditions might not be so optimistic.
The cheapest Pro version, with its 49kWh battery, has an official range of 202 miles, while the larger 66kWh version in the Pro+, Premium, and Anniversary models is good for up to 283 miles. For the Brabus, that drops to 258 miles. The Pro can only charge at 7.4kW on AC power, such as from a home charger or a kerbside charger. For Premium and Brabus models that upgrades to 22kW AC charging, which is great if you’re using kerbside chargers. The Pro will charge at 130kW from a DC fast charger, while the Pro+, Premium, Anniversary, and Brabus will do 150kW — both batteries will charge from 10-80% in 30 minutes if the charger is running at full speed.
Smart has packed the #3 with lots of standard safety equipment, including lane-keeping steering, adaptive cruise control, driver monitor, active speed limit monitoring and more. The #3 hasn’t yet been tested by Euro NCAP in a crash test, but given the close links to both Volvo and Mercedes, we’d be surprised if it didn’t score a full five-star rating.
Although Smart has a 25-year history, the #3 is a brand new model built in a brand new factory, so it’s very hard to get a handle on how reliable (or otherwise) it might be. All models get standard over-the-air software updates, which can be helpful in ironing out small bugs and electronic glitches, and the batteries and motors are shared with Volvo, Polestar and others so they’re likely to be fine. However, we did notice quite a few rattles and creaks in the cabins of our test cars — these were all pre-production models, so hopefully the quality of fully-finished cars coming from the factory in China will be better.