smart #1 BRABUS Review: 5 Reasons To Buy One Over A Model 3

A few compelling reasons as to why a smart #1 may be the smart choice over a Tesla Model 3.  

When smart Malaysia initially launched its #1 over here late last year, there were high hopes for it to become a competitor to the then-newly available Tesla Model 3. Unfortunately for them though, this really hasn’t played out the way they might have envisioned… 

Such is as while a Model 3 is really a dime a dozen on Malaysian roads already, especially in the higher-end parts of Klang Valley, the #1 still remains quite the rare beast to spot in the wild (outside of a smart showroom that is). And this is actually quite unfortunate really, because there are indeed a couple of points where the smart outscores the aforementioned American EV, especially in its red-hot BRABUS spec tested here. 

1. A Taller Driving Position

And starting simply with perhaps one of the best, but least discussed, benefit of the smart over the Tesla, the #1 has a taller driving position than the Model 3. 

Now granted, it probably is unfair to compare a compact crossover against a low-slung sedan, but there is a reason why the former class of car is currently replacing the latter in droves. The higher seating position in the smart really just gives drivers a better view of the road ahead after all, with its expansive greenhouse area further adding to the ease of piloting this car around town (or when driving it hard…)

Oh, and speaking of tall too, the boxy proportions of this #1 also enables for even the tallest of basketball players to comfortably sit upright within the #1 (and this is even while with a proper top knot as well). On the general size front meanwhile, this compact crossover still surprisingly manages to comfortably pack 4 lanky lads within it, though a fifth does see for some squabbling for rear shoulder room. 

2. Even Quicker Acceleration

Editor’s note: This story was written before Tesla announced the Model 3 Performance, with its scarcely believable 0-100 km/h time of 3.1 seconds rather ruining the argument to be made here. Though the smart is nevertheless still a rocket ship in its own right, and the praise given to its ride and handling still does hold true as well. 

With a quoted 0 – 100 km/h time of just 3.9 seconds, the smart #1 BRABUS really lives up to the traditional BRABUS name by being an absolute rocket off the line. In fact, line up against a Tesla Model 3 Long Range and the #1 will be long ahead before the smart driver can even say: bye Felicia!

And while there is certainly some merit to the Tesla owners’ argument that there isn’t much in it in the real world between a 3.9 second and 4.4 second century sprint (because who really does 0-100 km/h on a daily basis anyway), that split second difference does set the smart apart when it comes to how everything feels when the foot is eventually buried into the mat.

Such is as while the Model 3 Long Range feels like a quick car off the line, the #1 BRABUS offers up an accelerative sensation so brutal that it really serves as the perfect mass-market demonstration tool to exactly how insanely quick an EV can be. 

In fact, just taking a tangent into a personal anecdote here, the #1 BRABUS accelerates with such ferocity that one eager test driver nearly went into hyperventilative shock after just 0.5 seconds of full throttle action. What more to note here too is that unlike another EV that may claim to do the century sprint a touch faster than it (looking at you, BYD Seal Performance), the smart actually manages to deliver its rocket ship accelerative force at a more consistently brutal basis. 

Now of course with such accelerative power consistently right beneath the driver’s right foot, it does have the penchant to turn even most sedate saints into absolute arses on the road. And this urge to just give it some is not really helped too by the BRABUS’ all-wheel wheel drive dual-motor layout and its fat tyres, which sees this EV to still feel sure-footed and stable even at speeds that could not legally be put down on written record.

Naturally being an EV as well, the smart #1 has that typical all-electric quiet, with little road and wind noise disrupting proceedings even when well… “properly proceeding”. This inherent silence and high levels of refinement in turn sees for there to incidentally be no real sense of speed when travelling within it, until one pays attention to the speed readout on its heads up display, which is admittedly rather in-keeping with its Germanic Mercedes-Benz origin. 

3. A Nicer Interior 

Turning the discussion inwards now on how the #1 is better than the Model 3, it is undoubtedly an entirely subjective case for some to prefer the Tesla’s overt minimalism over the smart’s more conventional cabin layout. Though it is worth stating for the record here that with this more normal car-like setting, there is actually to be a turn signal and gear selector stalk in the #1. 

Also, arguably less subjective too on where the smart has an edge over the Tesla within is the fit and finish of its cabin. Such is as all the materials used across the major touchpoints in the #1 at least feel adequately premium, with everything having that satisfying sense of being properly screwed together as well. 

In fact, going back to the Mercedes analogy used previously, it could really be said that the #1’s cabin actually feels as nice (or even nicer) than some modern day Benzes. This however may be saying more for how current three pointed stars are put together than anything else…

In any case, the #1 Brabus adds red seat belts that are a nice sporty touch, as is the sportier suspension tuning, which surprisingly manages all that high speed stability, while still being composed and well damped enough to adequately insulate one’s arse from the worst of PJ’s worst roads.

4. The Hello smart App

One of the key conveniences Tesla owners love to tout is their (still exclusive in Malaysia at least) access to its much-lauded Supercharging network. And while smart does not have its own dedicated charging stations yet, its Hello smart App does possibly make charging the #1 out in public a much more accessible endeavour than the Model 3. 

Now for those who are unfamiliar, the Hello smart App essentially is an all-in-one charging app that interfaces with (what smart claims at least) 70% of public charge points nationwide. This hence sees for smart owners to essentially only needing 1 app on their phone for all their public charging needs, instead of having the typical 4 that most other EV drivers need to service all the different charge point operators in Malaysia. 

Also, while having all the various public charge points accessible (and rather importantly, locatable) on one app is certainly a big advantage that the smart has in making EV ownership less stressful, the #1 further trumps the Model 3 too by accepting 22 kW of AC charging power relative to just the 11 kW for the Tesla.

This doubling of AC charging power (and consequently halving of charging times) makes for public AC charging points actually somewhat of a practically feasible battery top up option, instead of a multi-hour long trickle charging sideshow.  

5. A More Pleasant Ownership Experience

The final key advantage the smart has currently over the Tesla is for it to at least appear in providing a more positive ownership experience in general. In spite of the perception some may have from it being distributed under the wider Proton umbrella locally, smart has, at least during these initial stages, made good on its promises in prioritising customer care, with there really only positive things heard from the smart owners club Facebook group. 

This is in contrast of course to Tesla’s where everything is more DIY on the part of its owners, which in turn has lead to more than a few voicing their frustrations online regarding issues like having to process their own financing and insurance for their purchases.  

In The Interest Of Balance…

Without beating around the bush here, the travel distance on a single charge for the smart is really nowhere near as good as the Tesla. Even the most longest-range Premium variant manages a quoted 440 km of range, which is really no where in the same league the 500-600+ km quoted by all variants of the Model 3 sold locally.  

For what is a bulbous-looking compact crossover too, the #1 does not really have all that big a boot. The frunk also not the most capacious, with the only use for it during this writer’s time with the car was using it as a wig stand compartment (EVs incidentally make for great air-conditioned cosplay prep rooms for comic-cons by the way).  

And for the audiophiles as well, while the Beats sound system in this BRABUS was clear enough and had sufficient bass, it was nevertheless just not as good as the Long Range’s impressive 17 speaker setup. 


Long story short, one of the biggest praises that can be given to the #1 i for it to possibly be one of the most maturely developed EV that has been launched to date.

Now there is no doubt for the Tesla to be the more glitzy, and admittedly more technically competent, of the two EVs. But having lived with the smart for a while, it can be honestly stated for the #1, with its nicer interior, taller driving position and in the case of this BRABUS, mad speed, makes for it to be the better daily transportation tool. 

And it really is not just this writer talking too, with all in the wider DSF team liking the #1 (in its BRABUS spec especially) so much that it was crowned as the e-crossover of the year for 2024!

It is therefore a pity then that it currently doesn’t have the same instant name recognition as the Tesla, which therefore relegates it to being seen as something like a Hyundai locally. Though much like how unknowingly good the majority of Hyundais are these days, those who know of the #1 will know just how good a car it is. 

Odds & Ends

  • The turn signal sound alert volume is adjustable, but is tied to all other alert volumes. 
  • The #1’s surround view camera is perhaps one of the best in the business, with the feed actually being quite clear and having a fantastically wide field of view. The picture in picture option is also a nice touch, where most of the major screen functionality is still available for use while still being able to get a better look at the car’s extremities. 

  • This may be an isolated incident with just this particular car on test, but Android Auto did have a consistent propensity of cutting off after an hour of driving. 
  • The #1’s built-in navigation system does a good job in showing the exact lanes to take. Waze, take note!

  • The smart’s round key has been likened by many to the self-collect UFO contraptions in food courts, but the bigger problem with it is that it is a rather awkward shape to fit in a pocket. 

  • The sunroof has a retractable blind that automatically closes when the #1 is powered down. No need for a piece of flimsy RM 300 DIY-erected alá Tesla Model 3 (or even smart #3) here!

smart #1 BRABUS Technical Specification

Motor: Twin permanent magnet synchronous motor (AWD)

Battery Capacity: 66 kWh

Range: 400 km

Max Power: 428 PS

Max Torque: 543 Nm

Top Speed: 180 km/h

0-100km/h: 3.9s

Charging Speed: 150 kW DC (10-80% in 30 mins), 22 kW AC (10-80% in 3 hours)

Price: RM249,000

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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