Smart’s concept SUV teased ahead of Munich Motor Show

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Smart SUV teaser

Smart’s Munich Motor Show stand will feature a new crossover concept, which will morph into a rival for the MINI Countryman in 2023.

Smart has released more teaser images of its new concept crossover, which will take pride of place on the company’s stand at this year’s Munich Motor Show.

The compact SUV concept previews Smart’s design direction for the coming years, with new parent company Geely aiming to push the brand upmarket and focus more on quality.

The concept will become a production pure-electric SUV in 2023, becoming a new, all-electric rival for the likes of the MINI Countryman and the Audi Q2.

This new teaser image shows off the as-yet unnamed prototype’s floating panoramic glass roof, and offers a better glimpse at its rounded rump and narrow headlamps.

When it reaches showrooms, the new Smart SUV will look near-enough identical to these concept sketches. Our exclusive images give a good indication of how the finished car will look, as they’re based on Smart’s official design drawings.

Smart SUV

Despite Smart moving over to Geely part-ownership and the model being based on a Geely platform, the design of the new car has been penned by the company’s own in-house team, led by Mercedes’s design chief Gorden Wagener.

Kai Sieber, Smart’s head of design (who also reports to Wagener), gave a brief outline of his aims for the company’s rebirth, saying: “Smart is evolving, becoming more premium and high-tech, injecting a refined level of sophistication and quality.”

The most obvious part of this evolution will be a marked size increase compared to Smart’s current offerings. Instead of aiming for the city car market, the firm’s rebirth will be based on a vehicle that sits somewhere between a supermini and a family hatchback. It should be comfortably north of four metres long, in fact – potentially as big as a MINI Countryman. That also means there should be seating inside for five adults.

The car’s looks will continue the break from tradition, because they have little in common with the ForTwo and ForFour – and even the company logo has been heavily retouched. The brand’s trademark visible safety cell has also been axed, along with the ForTwo’s cheeky grin and some of the plastic panels.

“We have taken the opportunity to reinvent the brand,” Wagner told us, before suggesting that the new Smart face is supposed to be “cool, sexy and grown-up instead of cute and playful”. There are some carry-overs in the SUV, though, such as a two-tone paint job with a contrast roof that seems to “float” above the cabin like the peak of a baseball cap.

The new Smart SUV will be one of the first cars built on Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA). It’s a common platform that will underpin everything from the brand’s own Chinese-market models, like the recently launched Zeekr brand, to new Lynk & Co vehicles and Volvo’s forthcoming all-electric baby SUV.

SEA can support single, dual and triple-motor configurations, and accommodate enough battery cells to offer more than 692km of range under China’s less-stringent NEDC efficiency test.

The Smart won’t get that sort of capacity, which is probably reserved for larger SEA models. But it’s perfectly possible that it could offer more than 200 miles between charges, which is more than double the range of the current EQ ForTwo. And, SEA supports 800V technology, so it’s conceivable that the new Smart could offer super-fast charging speeds that trump those of Mercedes’s own models.

The SEA platform should give the new Smart impressive packaging, too. Wagener said: “Just like the current Smart models, the first car of the new era will also offer a better ratio of length to interior space than conventional vehicles.”

The next Smart’s more premium materials, bigger battery and larger dimensions are all but certain to bring a rise in price. But, the SUV should still be pitched beneath Mercedes stalwarts like the A-Class and EQA, not least because it will be manufactured in China with lower overheads. “We will remain an accessible brand for our customers,” promised Smart boss Daniel Lescow.

Luke Wilkinson

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