Now in its fourth generation, the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class resets the compact premium segment standards, distilling the luxury, technology and comfort of superior class limousines in a compact yet desirable package. First test with the Mercedes A 200 turbo four-cylinder.
Built on the second generation of the MFA modular platform – more flexible and lighter, the new A-Class has more dynamic proportions, even uf it has grown sensibly in all major directions: 12 cm longer (4.42 m), 1.8 cm wider (1.80 m) and 1 cm taller (1,44 m) with a wheelbase of 2.73 m (plus 3 cm).
The design evokes classic Mercedes-Benz elegance and emphasizes cleaner, more natural lines. Thin, trapezoidal front and rear light units remind us of those of the CLS four-door coupe and give the new A-Class a sporty look. Another unique detail: compared to the previous generation, the exterior mirrors are attached directly to the doors.
Mercedes-Benz also says that the new Class A is lighter with up to 20kg than the old model – commendable given the plethora of new safety systems taken directly from the upper classes: Active Distance Assist, Distronic with Active Steering Assist (714 euro), Active Blind Spot Assist, Traffic Assist, Active Lane Change Assist (active between 60 and 200 km / h).
At launch, the Mercedes-Benz offers just an entry-level A 180 d (1.6-liter, 116 hp) diesel version and two gasoline powered turbo engines: A 250 (2 liters, 224 hp) and A 200 (1.33 liters, 163 hp) – the subject of this test. Transmission-wise, Mercedes offers a six-speed manual (standard for A 160, A 180, A 200) or a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox (2,094 euro or standard for A 220, A 250, A 180 d) – of Getrag origin for A 180 d and A 200 and 100% Mercedes-Benz for the A 250. The A 180 (1,33 liter, 115 hp) gasoline base model will be launched by the end of the year, while Mercedes’ new 2-liter diesel will appear in early 2019 under the bonnet of the A 200 d (150 hp) and A 220 d (190 hp) variants.
More interesting, however, is that the new A-Class is the first compact Mercedes model offered with a torsion beam rear suspension – a common solution for affordable hatchbacks due to space and cost but unprecedented for a car wearing the Benz logo. Mercedes-Benz says it’s not economics, but that the new setup is 8 kg lighter and more compact without affecting comfort at all. The A-Class is, of course, available with a four-arm multilink rear axle as well, but this is standard for the A 250 and 4Matic all-wheel drive versions only. Fortunately, you can also buy an A 200 with the more sophisticated rear suspension, the secret being the specification of some of the options in the long list of equipment available for the new Class A: the AMG Line package (3,510 euros), the 18 or 19 inch alloy wheels (2,499 euro, 2,796 euro) or Adaptive Suspension (€ 1,178), also present on the test car.
Particular attention was paid to the interior design. The perceived quality is simply fabulous, and the design and ambience, which draws inspiration from the E-Class and the S, far beyond what its best rivals offer. There are new vents that mimic the shape of turbines, the same steering wheel as in the S-Class and ambient lighting with LED technology – including the air conditioning nozzles with 64 colors, three distinct areas and varying degrees of intensity. All the attention is, however, inevitably directed towards the two TFT displays (one for virtual instruments – three display modes, Classic, Sport, Understated, the other for the control panel – 7 inches standard, optional HDD navigation with two 10.25-inch screens – Navigation Premium-Paket 3,016 euro) housed by the same frame.
The MBUX multimedia system, controlled by touch, voice commands, the touchpad on the steering wheel or the central controller is completely new, the concept of operation and its ultra-contemporary interface being the result of the cooperation between the Mercedes-Benz research and development centers in Sindelfingen and Silicon Valley, that is, the very center of the world where the logic of using smart phones and tablets continues to shape our everyday digital life. The new A-Class A takes the concept of infotainment to an unprecedented level in the compact class. The graphics are superb and, once the accommodation process is over, its functionality is really intuitive. The MBUX is modern, powerful, upgraded and equipped with artificial intelligence (voice command Hey Mercedes) – the more you talk to him, the more he will learn to understand.
And the space is clearly superior to the previous gen, especially in the back, where the seat has a long cushion, the back is well shaped, and the space for the shoulders and the head has been increased by 2 and 4 cm. The driving position is ideal, with ample steering wheel and seat adjustments, while the trunk is more generous with 30 liters than the old model, with the total load capacity measured being 305 liter.
The 163 hp and 250 Nm turbocharged L4 turbo engine, which equips the A 200, was supplied by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance but recalibrated by Mercedes-Benz in accordance with its refinement standards. This is a technological jewel that denotes vitality and a commendable elasticity for a small cylinder engine. Thus, the temptation to choose the Sport setting, to further sharpen the “feelings” of the engine, steering and ESP system, becomes addictive (the adaptive suspension can be adjusted in two ways, Sport and Comfort). However, you will also notice certain shortcomings in regard to the dual-clutch transmission. Otherwise maneuverable and efficient, when hard pressed it suddenly becomes hesitant about the ideal gear management and exaggerates the sound of the engine, highlighting the inherent limitations of a small turbo that ultimately has only 1,332 cc. And that’s why it consumes very little (especially in Eco Mode), and can only work in only two of the four cylinders at low revs – it is appreciated that the driver does not feel the moment when the cylinders are automatically deactivated or coupled. The recorded average did not exceed 7.25 l / 100 km, with 7.87 l / 100 km in the city and 6.33 l / 100 km extra-urban.
The comfort, even on the roads dominated by nasty potholes, is great, and the damping is supple, precise, even in the presence of generous 18-inch wheels, just as the isolation of the passenger compartment from unpleasant shocks or noise. Not even in terms of maneuverability, the new A-Class does not disappoint, provided that what you really want is a refined but agile car when corners becomes more and more tight.
The traction and the brakes are impeccable, the precision of the steering with progressive electric assistance just as good. Understeering is much diminished while, above all, the recurrent incisiveness of the new A-Class is undoubtedly the welcome consequence of the low mass influenced by the use of a small turbo. The smallest Mercedes-Benz is also an exceptionally silent car without a rival in this chapter, like its bigger brothers in their specific segments. The Benz tradition is strictly respected, regardless of class, price or size. The best or nothing!
VerdictMercedes-Benz manages the impossible, offering in the compact class what we did not think we would ever see: a small-scale S-Class. The new A-Class is the most technically advanced, the quietest, most comfortable, luxurious and sophisticated car in the segment.
|Engine/no. of cylinders||L3, turbo|
|Maximum output/revs (HP/rpm)||163/5500|
|Maximum torque/revs (Nm/rpm)||250/1620-4000|
|Gearbox||7-speed automatic DCT|
|Boot volume (l)||370-1210 l|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h(s)||8.4|
|Top speed (km/h)||219|
|Fuel consumption mixed||5.2|
|Price (euro with VAT, Germany)||32.325 Euro|