All grown up: The next-gen Smart is set to be a compact electric SUV

STUTTGART: The world's best-known brand of two-seater urban runabouts is getting supersized, and Daimler has announced that it has started work on an SUV version of the Smart electric.

Daimler says it will present a near-production concept of the stately new four-door generation in the second half of 2021, together with its new joint venture partner, Chinese automotive company Geely.

The once cute car is also abandoning its playful look and early sketches from designers show a sobre-looking compact crossover, set to measure 2.75 metres in length.

According to Daimler design chief Gorden Wagener, the new Smart will measure well over 4 metres and offer space for up to five people. While unsurprising for an SUV, five seats is almost unthinkable for a brand that made its name with compact two-seater cars.

The new Smart will maintain its trademark two-tone paint scheme, Wagener says, but the electric motor will no longer rely on Daimler's Tridion safety cell.

Daimler and Geely also want to make big changes in infotainment and are promising standard features including over-the-wire updates like in Teslas and digital unlocking via smartphone.

This tech is said to be no longer coming from Daimler or the maker's current partner Renault, but from Geely. The Chinese manufacturer is set to supply a dedicated electric platform and handle development of this. The next Smart generation will be produced in China and delivered from there to Europe.

Like the Porsche Taycan or the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the platform has an 800-volt architecture, is designed for a range of up to 700km and can operate with three motors.

The start of series production is still more than a year out, and Smart brand manager Daniel Lescow has not yet given specifics on the new Smart's specifications.

But designers say they are not holding the current model's 150-km range and 130kph top speed as a benchmark.
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