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For years, Smart stood on the sidelines as rivals turned a blind eye to tradition and jumped in the highly lucrative crossover segment. The company is done watching; it’s allegedly preparing its own high-riding model for 2022.
Smart is aware that its entry into crossover territory is drenched in substantial irony. It was founded to give motorists a right-sized alternative to big cars. That’s where the money is, however, and co-owners Daimler and Geely can’t justify their investments into the brand if they don’t see a return. Viewed in this light, putting a Smart on stilts seems as inevitable as the Chevrolet Impala’s demise after 10 generations and millions sold.
Don’t expect Smart to put its name on a Cadillac Escalade-sized SUV. Italian website Motori Online learned the yet-unnamed model will stretch about 160 inches long, a figure that, if accurate, will make it approximately as big as a four-door Mini Hardtop and a full 54 inches longer than the tiny ForTwo no longer sold in the United States. It will ride on a platform developed specifically for it, likely with input from Geely. The Chinese brand purchased half of Smart in 2019; it also owns controlling stakes in Volvo, Lotus and Polestar, among others.
Power will come from an electric drivetrain built around a 78-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Motori Online expects its maximum driving range will check in at about 250 miles. Additional technical details (like whether it will be front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive) haven’t been released yet. All three configurations are possible, however.
Another point with a big question mark hovering over it is what Smart’s definition of a crossover looks like. It might arrive as merely a hatchback on stilts with plastic cladding over the wheel arches, a solution that would satisfy the greatest number of motorists. Or, the company could take a more creative approach to entering the segment by launching something along the lines of the ForStars concept (pictured) introduced in 2012. What’s certain is that motorists hoping for a pocket-sized car with Jeep Wrangler-like off-roading skills will be sorely disappointed. Smart’s upcoming crossover will be designed primarily for urban use, not for the Rubicon Trail.
The soft-roader will reportedly make its debut by the end of 2022, meaning it could go on sale in early 2023. We’re not sure if it will be sold in the United States, where the brand threw in the towel in 2019, or if it will exclusively be available in markets like Europe and China, where small cars continue to sell relatively well.