Hi-tech, grown-up new Mercedes-Benz A-Class now more A*
With the UK the biggest market for Mercedes-Benz's A-Class, this new hi-tech, hi-spec fourth-generation hatchback's more grown-up feel is set to make it an even bigger hit, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
We love the A-Class, baby of the Mercedes-Benz range, in the UK – its largest market globally with 43,717 registered here last year, nearly a quarter of total sales.
This fourth-generation model raises both game and image, with a more grown-up feel and equipment including automatic transmission across the board for launch models – manuals will follow – and sat-nav, more safety kit and debuting the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) touchscreen interface and excellent ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice recognition. Hence the price hike.
Looks and image
It’s an evolutionary look with a smart face but a rather anonymous back end with slanting rear lights slant that make it look sad.
Inside, you’ll be happy with the upmarket ambience which would do much more expensive cars proud – it borrows finishing touches from the flagship S-Class – with a quality, hi-tech fascia, twin seven-inch instrument and infotainment displays on entry models and optional twin 10.25in screens which create one panoramic display – this is the future of fascias.
Under the bonnet
Efficient, new engines are 116hp 1.5-litre turbo diesel A 180d, developed with Renault and Nissan, 224hp, 2.0-litre turbo petrol A 250 but the star is the 163hp, 1.3-litre turbo petrol A 200.
The little cracker’s 250Nm of torque is almost as strong as the diesel but peaks lower at 1,620rpm. It spins freely at high revs for perky performance with the seven-speed automatic box responding readily to the throttle yet returned 47mpg, not far short of the less-refined, less responsive diesel’s 54mpg.
How it drives
Designed to be better to drive and more comfortable, the petrol-powered A 200 felt crisper turning into corners with better steering feel with the lighter engine compared to the A 180d diesel. Petrol AMG Line models, with multi-link rear suspension rather than torsion beam, feel livelier through twists and turns with a flat stance.
With either set-up the new A-Class is more of a driver’s car without sacrificing comfort, ironing out poor roads, but AMG Line’s bigger 18in wheels create more tyre noise.
Space and comfort
The new A-Class is wider and longer and, combined with clever packaging, you feel the benefits inside with more shoulder, elbow and headroom all round. Front-seat occupants are well catered for but rear legroom is just adequate for tall passengers.
Boot space has grown to 370 litres, with a wider opening, but while 40/20/40 split rear seat backs fold flat, AMG Line’s integrated tall head rests snag the front seat it too far back.
At the wheel
The dashboard surpasses all expectations with air vents more works of art and those high-clarity, colour display screens. The seven-inch units look good, although there is a lot of gloss black surround, but the 10.25in ones, especially the optional double screens, are the bee’s knees, functional and highly versatile in how and what is displayed where. It’s easy to navigate the menus via responsive touchpads and home and back buttons each side of the steering wheel to control individual screens or a central control pad – you can also save your profile.
Shame the indicator and gearshift stalks on the steering wheel look cheap by comparison.
You expect new innovations to be launched on flagship models but the A-Class debuts MBUX with intelligent voice control – no more staccato-like, two-way interrogation to get what you want.
Just wake up your ‘virtual valet’ with the keywords ‘Hey Mercedes’ and simply say what you want – where you want to go, who you want to phone, music choice, weather forecasts, writing and hearing messages and convenience functions such as climate control and lighting. It’s enough just to say ‘Hey Mercedes I am cold’ to change the temperature. It’s even got a wry sense of humour – ‘Hey Mercedes, tell me a joke’ elicits the reply ‘Sorry, my engineers were German’.
Active lane-keeping assist, to steer the car back if drifting off course, and autonomous braking are standard.
The latest A-Class in an even more desirable first rung on the Mercedes-Benz ladder – more grown up with innovative big-car technology which will appeal to drivers down-sizing. The higher price is one many will pay, especially on monthly finance packages.
SPEC AND TECH
MERCEDES-BENZ A 200
Engine: 1,332cc, 163hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol with seven-speed automatic gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 8.0 seconds; top speed 139mph
MPG: 51.4 to 53.3 combined
CO2 emissions: 123g/km
MERCEDES-BENZ A 180d
Engine: 1,461mm, 116hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel with seven-speed automatic gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 10.5 seconds; top speed 125mph
MPG: 65.7 to 68.9 combined
CO2 emissions: 108 to 111g/km
Price: A 180d SE £25,800, Sport £27,340, AMG Line £28,540; A 200 Sport £27,500, AMG Line £28,700; A 250 AMG Line £30,240
Warranty: Three years or unlimited mileage
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,419mm; W (excluding door mirrors) 1,796mm; H 1,440mm