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Driven: Mercedes A-Class. Image by Mercedes.

Driven: Mercedes A-Class
Mercedes packs refinement and technology into its all-new A-Class.

 



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Mercedes A-Class

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

You're not just looking at the new fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class, it's also currently one of the most technologically advanced cars to carry the three-pointed star on its nose. The arrival of the A-Class marks a change in approach, giving what was long considered the entry-point model some of the company's latest technology.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz A 180 d
Price: 21,165 (as tested); range starts at 25,800
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Combined economy: 68.9mpg
Top speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Power: 116hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 260Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

What's this?

Now into its fourth generation, the A-Class now looks every bit the part as a premium hatchback. The ungainly appearance of the previous model, which was the first to adopt the traditional hatchback proportions, is gone and the A-Class is now sleeker looking. Those cleaner lines add to the car's improved aerodynamics, thus benefitting fuel consumption.

Among the physical changes to the car over its predecessor is an increase in width of 14mm and a stretch of 30mm to the wheelbase which boosts passenger space inside the cabin, more for those in the rear. The boot capacity is up to 370 litres, just shy of the Audi A3's load ability.

But you won't need rulers to tell you just how different the new A-Class is when you sit in the front seat. Mercedes is taking a fresh approach to dashboard design with its smallest car, and it sets a new standard for the segment. Depending on which specification grade you choose determines just how good it looks inside, primarily around the dashboard. There is a choice between two seven-inch displays as standard, while top-spec versions get a dual 10-25-inch widescreen set-up that looks very impressive. This arrangement also adds to the sense of space inside, as it does away with the traditional instrument binnacle.

Fit and finish has gone up another notch, too. As with other cars in the range, the A-Class is available with an attractive ambient interior lighting package that highlights some of the design elements, and offers a choice of 64 different colours.

Among the other tech featuring in the new baby Benz is a voice recognition system called 'Hey Mercedes', that you can activate by saying those words followed by your command. Better software means that you can speak in a more natural way and it picks up on indirect commands. For example, just telling it that you're cold will see it adjust the car's temperature settings. It uses machine learning and can link up to an online system to continually improve how it works and delivers different responses all the time.

How does it drive?

Proving that the new A-Class isn't all just about looking flash, from the moment you drive away in it the high levels of refinement become clear. Of the many improvements that Mercedes claims to have made, it is the area of acoustics, in particular, reducing road and wind noise that is most noticeable. The A 180 d features a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel unit that Mercedes takes in from its partner Renault. Don't let that put you off. Before it goes into the car the boffins at Mercedes add in-house software to it.

The engine serves the car well, though with 116hp it's not the fastest, the 260Nm of torque is useful and gives the car plenty of pull and drivability out of bends. Its seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission works smoothly and out on the motorway its long seventh gear ratio keeps engine speeds down, adding to the quieter cabin and boosting fuel economy. Even in slow-moving traffic the engine's stop-start system operates smoothly and reacts quickly to restart.

As standard, the A 180 d and 1.33-litre petrol A 200 models get a new torsion beam setup at the rear, which Mercedes claims to offer the same amount of comfort as the multilink arrangement that features in the A 250. The A-Class certainly feels more biased towards passenger comfort than outright handling, but it does carry itself well when you push it on that bit more. In faster bends it holds its line, although there's a slight lack of feedback from the steering.

In comparison, the A 200 does feel more lively due to the rev-happy nature of the engine and by weighing 70kg less. With less mass over the front axle, the A 200 turns in that little bit sharper when you're driving with more enthusiasm. Flicking it into a sportier setting provides the usual changes, but the A 200 is as competent at covering ground with ease when left in its default driving mode.

Verdict

In creating the fourth generation A-Class, Mercedes hasn't just set a new benchmark for the segment; it signals a fresh approach that highlights the importance of the model for the company's future. The introduction of Mercedes' very latest technology was previously the reserve of the top-of-the-pile S-Class, now it features in the entry-point to the model range. Spec an A-Class the right way, and you'll wonder why you'd want anything more.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 17 Apr 2018









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2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.

2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.2018 Mercedes A-Class first drive. Image by Mercedes.








 

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