It’s come a long way, the A-Class. All the way from the 1990s car and its infamous elk-avoidance issues to this: the all-new Mk4, which looks to be so posh that it’s virtually a shrunken CLS. From launch, the A-Class was automatic-only and is offered as an A180d, or as A200 and A250 petrol models, with manual gearboxes and more powerful diesel and petrol variants due to flesh out the range over 2019.
The last A-Class was a staple of the UK’s top 10 bestselling cars list each month, buyers were attracted to it in their droves by the competative finance deals that were regularly being advertised as the most affordable way into Mercedes ownership. It worked: the A-Class was a key reason behind Mercedes’ march to the top of the premium brand sales charts in the UK and the fourth-top-selling brand overall.
Sequels are rarely better than the original, are they? And when you string an idea out for a third or fourth instalment, it’s often a sign that a once-grand idea is now long past its sell-by date but that isn’t the case at all. In fact, it’s really rather good.
If there’s one aspect of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class that impresses the most from behind the wheel, it’s refinement. On a motorway cruise, it’s class-leading: a 0.25 drag coefficient means that there’s barely a whisper of wind noise. The engines settle down to a barely-audible hum, and the most obvious – but not intrusive – sound comes from the tyres.
Like-for-like, the A-Class is 20kg lighter than the old one, even though it’s grown in every direction. While the handling is an improvement on before, this still isn’t an exciting car. It’s got plenty of grip, but the suspension is biased more closely towards security than fun. Things aren’t helped by steering which has very little feel, though it is precise and its light weight at low speeds makes the A-Class very easy to park.
Of the engines available, it’s best to aim either low or high in the A-Class range. The entry-level A 180 d has a very sweet unit: co-developed with Renault, the 1.5-litre lump is smooth (both in noise and power delivery), quiet, and easily the most frugal choice in the range. Stats of 10.5 seconds to 62mph and a 126mph top speed are leisurely rather than thrilling, but it’s otherwise excellent. The 2.0-litre petrol in the A 250 scratches the performance car itch; a 0-62mph time of 6.2 seconds and 155mph top speed puts it into hot hatch territory, and though not exactly tuneful, it sounds sporty enough but can be a little slow to respond, especially when using the paddle shifters.
Predictably, the single diesel option is the most frugal version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Officially, the A 180 d achieves 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 111g/km, which is better than a BMW 116d, a car the Merc matches for performance, and a tiny bit thirstier than the equivalent Audi A3, which is slower. The A 200 is claimed to achieve 51.4mpg and CO2 figures of 123g/km. The A 250 trades some economy for performance compared to the smaller petrol, though if it gets close to its claimed 45.6mpg and 141g/km in the real world - it’s impressive for a car which offers so much performance.
The fourth generation A-Class sports a design which amounts to a fairly conservative evolution over the old model. It’s a bit sharper to look at while the lights are pointier and slimmer. The hot AMG versions get a sporty body kit and a lairy wing, but overall it’s a look which will neither set pulses racing nor put off existing customers.
The big changes come on the inside. The new model is a huge leap forward over the tidy, yet slightly cheap-feeling predecessor. The design is unique, attractive, well-laid out and feels immaculately put together with lots of soft-touch plastics. The giant leap forward in appearance, however, is thanks in no small part to its fantastic infotainment system. As standard, the Mercedes A-Class features a pair of seven-inch touchscreens. They don’t offer the customisation features or the stunning graphics of the bigger set-up, but they’re still a significant step up over the old car’s tech. 10.25-inch screens are also available as part of the optional Premium Package, which also includes electrically folding mirrors, active park assist, heated front seats, ambient lighting, keyless go and an uprated sound system.
If you fancy high-brow tech, serious brand swagger and an easy yet satisfying drive the newest generation of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the car for you! It sets new standards for infotainment and interior lustre in this class, and it’s about the comfiest, too, even if it’s not the most thrilling to drive at this price.
Pros ‘n’ Cons
- Styling √
- MPG √
- Ride Comfort √
- Infotainment System √
- Price X
(A180D Sport Specification)
- Max speed: 126 mph
- 0-62 mph: 10.5 seconds
- Range: 62.1mpg
- Engine layout: 4 Cylinder Turbocharged Diesel
- Max. power: 114bhp
- CO2: 111 g/km
- Price: £27,340
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