smart #3 EV First Drive Impressions: More Merc Than Mad

This supposedly sleeker and sportier #3 actually comes away being the more cushy and civilised smart. 

Now while it may not be as the fastest off the showroom floors, it nevertheless has to be said though that one of the best (mass-market) performance EVs on the market currently is actually the smart #1. 

In spite of it being dethroned from its century sprint crown by other more recent arrivals, just the sheer viciousness of how this (BRABUS-spec) compact electric crossover consistently fires off the line is no joke still the default car that this writer recommends to anyone truly wanting to experience how ferociously fast an EV can be. 

Add to that its sure-footed dynamics and stable handling at speed too, and the #1 really is to be considered one of the most enjoyable EVs this writer had the pleasure to properly hoon around in thus far. 

So when the invite came for the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the new #3 at Proton’s factory test track, expectations were quietly high that this sleeker and sportier counterpart might be an even wilder child than the its (slightly) smaller sibling. This bar was then raised a little higher still when this ‘dynamic urban companion’ was introduced with a ‘Chase The Thrill’ tagline, with those at smart further touting for this new model to be a better driver than the already dynamically-impressive #1. 

Having since gone out for a quick spin in both the BRABUS and premium variants of the #3 however, thrill isn’t exactly the most apt word this writer would use to describe this new EV. Now this is not to say that this slightly larger smart is not still as hot as the #1, but what perhaps was the bigger takeaway from it was its new-found maturity over its (ever so slightly) smaller sibling. 

Side Note: Due to the unique way the media embargo is currently structured, this story here will only cover the how this smart was like to drive, with some of the finer details regarding its spec to come at a later date. Though for those who simply can’t wait any longer, let’s just say that a prior story breaking down in detail the #3’s international specs (linked here) sees for little editing required when the local variants eventually land over here. 


Anyway, getting back to the topic of this #3 being more mature than the #1, its new-found grown-up persona is really most evident in how this EV launches off the line. 

Now on paper at least, the BRABUS trim of this #3 claims to snatch back the class crown with its 3.7 seconds century sprint time. With smart showing off a new Rocket Mode launch control system on this EV, there was the expectation that for the #3 to best the #1 and really feel like warp drive is being engaged when planting one’s foot to the floor from a standstill.  

It is therefore surprising to report then that the the way this #3 BRABUS launches off the line is to be comparatively more calm and composed than the #1, where one will be left firmly wedged into the seat with their vision going blurry from the lateral accelerative force. And without Rocket Mode activated, there was even the real possibility in the #3 of holding a proper conversation throughout the whole traffic light grand prix simulation, instead of just incoherent screams that most occupants will make when in its smaller sibling.  

This is not to say though that the #3 is slow by any standards, with the stopwatch at least still showing that this larger EV is able keep pace with its smaller sibling to the century mark. In especially its BRABUS trim too, the speed readout on its heads up display still easily manages to whizz from the low three digits to the (much) higher end of that scale in a time shorter than it takes to finish this current sentence. 

But even then, the more immediately impressive aspect here with the #3 was just how calm everything was when going from 100 km/h to 180 km/h, with only the muted whirring of its twin motors permeating through what was a mostly silent cabin, as the scenery outside went all the more blurrier. And for those who want an even more serene yet still sufficiently speedy experience, the single rear-motored Premium does 80% of what the BRABUS offers but with half the whirr…


Transitioning from how this smart shoots down the straights to how it boogies round the bends meanwhile, the #3 retains the same small turning circle of 5.5 metres as its slightly smaller #1 sibling. Meaning that this IONIQ 5-sized EV is still quite the agile and manoeuvrable thing, in spite of what one might initially think from its sizeable exterior dimensions. 

The #3 further follows on from its smaller sibling by remaining impressively flat and level whenever it is being flung into a corner. Though the slightly squatter stance of this comparatively larger EV means that it actually feels even more planted and sure footed at the higher end of its speed range than the taller and marginally skinnier #1. 

Much like the #1, the BRABUS spec #3 nets a slightly suspension setup with different rebound and compression settings, as well as a thickened stabiliser bar to better keep its body roll in check. Consequently, the Premium variant does roll ever so slightly more in the corners and is ever so slightly less stable at speed, but the difference really is so slight that only the most sensitive of arses will notice it, and that is if both trims are driven back to back too. 


And continuing along the topic of arses, it is worth highlighting for the #3 to actually have quite the comfortable ride. For comparison’s sake, it is actually to be more supple than the #1, with its suspension doing a better job at insulating everyone’s bums from the worst of (admittedly) what little bumps there was out on the test track. 

Similarly comfortable now is also the gentleness of this #3’s regenerative braking system. There are to be three modes (low, medium and high) of regen with this particular smart, with high being much more gentle in its braking than the nauseously strong ‘Strong’ setting in the #1, which in turn makes for an overall more comfortable experience in slowing down to a stop. 

Now unfortunately here, the aforementioned embargo current sees for the requirement to dance around the finer points of how it is like within the #3. It should however not be too much to give away that due to its sleeker roofline and consequently smaller greenhouse, being in this larger smart does somehow feel more cocooned than its smaller but boxier sibling. 

In spite of its sleeker profile though, there is nevertheless to be decent headroom for even a six-footer round the back. Its slight increase in width over the #1 also means for there to also now be more than decent shoulder and bum room at the rear to comfortably seat three (albeit comparatively slender) adults abreast. 

Final Notes

Scheduling constraints during this preview meant that there was yet the opportunity to try out its various active driver aids on offer with this #3, but the clear and surprisingly wide field of view 360º surround camera serves as a good preview for its systems to be similarly excellent as in the #1. 

What has also yet to be properly determined too is the claim for this #3 to be more rear biased in its power delivery than the already rear biased #1. So maybe some drifting experiments is in order to truly put this claim to the test, eh smart?

In any case, further pertinent information regarding this upcoming bigger brother to the #1 is to come in the coming weeks, with those wanting to catch a glimpse of this new EV being able to do so at the upcoming Malaysian Autoshow 2024 taking place from May 22nd to 26th. 

Joshua Chin

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

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button