Once upon a time, if you wanted to have the latest and greatest from Mercedes-Benz, you had to look to the flagship S-Class. Now that idea is being turned on its head with the new A-Class. The smallest Benz is far from being the runt of the litter, as it premieres a new look interior that features some very clever technology. It makes the BMW 1 Series seem old hat and gives the Audi A3 a run for its money in the refinement stakes, too.
Did you know? The largest market for the A-Class globally is the UK.
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The Mercedes-Benz A-Class sets a new standard for the premium hatch market. It looks more mature than ever, but it’s not what you’d call an eye-catching design. Reserved and slightly understated best sums up the exterior.
It’s when you open the doors that you see a more impressive side of the A-Class. The execution of the cabin design is second-to-none, and it features some class-leading technology that goes some way towards future-proofing it. Extra space over the previous model is good news for those sitting in the rear, too.
A good selection of diesel and petrol engines are complemented by slick-shifting automatic transmissions, with manual versions set to follow. Whatever the A-Class lacks in real driver engagement it more than makes up for in the refinement stakes. Even as a premium hatch it is punching well above its weight and is good enough to make you question whether you need a larger saloon for longer commutes or not.
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Great dashboard design
Driving position and visibility
Refinement levels on the move
We Don’t Like
Can get costly with options
More focus on efficiency than driving enjoyment
No manual gearboxes for now
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The A-Class sticks to a traditional two-box hatchback shape, and while it is a case of evolution rather than revolution, in comparison to its predecessor the car now looks more in line with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range. It seems sleeker with taut surfaces adding to that upmarket image.
A new grille proudly carries a large three-pointed star and diamond stud design that helps to differentiate the specifications. Angular headlights add to the sharper image, with Sport trim line models getting LED units as standard. Sport also adds 17-inch wheels, which do suit the car’s proportions better – instead of the standard 16s.
If you’re after a sportier image, the AMG Line beefs up the A-Class further, with 18-inch alloy wheels, different bumpers, and side skirts. Drilled brake discs and Mercedes-Benz branding on the callipers complete the look. All but the entry grade SE versions get twin trapezoidal exhaust exits.
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If the slightly conservative styling of the exterior doesn’t get your pulse racing, then opening the door to the cabin might. Just because this is a hatchback doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the posh bits, and if you’re willing to spend the money you can kit the A-Class out with trappings that are usually the preserve of luxury cars several classes above.
A big part of the cabin’s roomy feeling is down to the dashboard layout that is more upright and closer to the windscreen. It’s brimming with lovely design touches that have a quality to their finish that you would expect to find in a car costing double the price.
Unlike the previous generation, you’ll have to look hard to find any cheap-feeling materials inside.
Go for the Premium equipment line on either Sport or AMG Line models and at night the cabin takes on an ultra-modern look with flashy ambient lighting featuring a choice of 64 different colours. It amplifies the design and sets it apart from rivals. It’s part of a lb2,300 pack, but you do get a heap of other equipment like the 10.25-inch instrument cluster, keyless access, and engine start, plus an upgraded sound system.
The ride quality is good across the board, but only the A 250 gets multilink rear suspension. Other models make do with a torsion beam design at the rear, but with well-judged spring rates and higher levels of sound insulation than before, the A-Class delivers a comfortable ride all the same.
As part of the car’s new design the visibility all-round is claimed to be improved by 10 percent, mostly thanks to thinner A-pillars. With the A-Class growing in length and width, the interior space has also benefitted those in the rear, with more room for elbows and shoulders and a touch more headroom, although taller passengers might still feel the limits of the latter.
Improvements in the car’s packaging result in a boot space grown by 29 litres, bringing the total capacity to 370 litres. That places it right in between the Audi A3 Sportback’s 380 litres and the 360-litre boot in the BMW 1 Series. More importantly, the A-Class’s boot aperture is now 20cm wider, which is useful for handling bulkier items. All versions of the A-Class get a 180-degree reversing camera that shows parking guidelines.
Technology & Connectivity
The A-Class is positively bristling with new technology, placing it almost on par with the flagship Mercedes S-Class. Even better is that much of it comes as standard.
Dominating the new dashboard is the dual-screen setup that combines the instrument display and infotainment system into one wide unit. From standard, this setup uses two seven-inch screens, but can be upgraded to one or two 10.25-inch displays. Once you see the latter, it’s hard not to want it, even if it does add over lb2k to the price of the car.
How you interact with the car is changing, thanks to a new voice control technology called ‘Hey Mercedes.’ Just like Alexa or Siri, you can talk to the car by saying “Hey Mercedes” and asking it to perform tasks, like adjusting the temperature or setting a new destination on the sat-nav. If you don’t want to get chatty with your car, there’s still the MBUX user interface that debuts in the A-Class. It’s a whole new style of infotainment system that operates as slickly as it looks – it’s very intuitive and simple to use.
Perhaps the coolest feature is how the MBUX can use augmented reality for the navigation. As you approach junctions or near your destination, a camera in the windscreen plays the view ahead in real-time on the navigation screen while overlaying directions, street names and building numbers as your drive. It comes as part of the Advanced Navigation package, which is a lb495 extra on models with Executive equipment lines or higher.
From launch there is the choice of two petrol and one diesel engine. Initially, these will only be available with seven-speed automatic transmissions, but manual versions will follow.
Diesel has long been the popular choice in the A-Class and here it gets a new engine through Renault, though Mercedes applies its own software and tuning. The 1.5-litre unit produces 113bhp and 191lb ft of torque and meets all the latest regulations thanks in part to using an AdBlue system to help reduce exhaust pollution. It gets from 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds and officially returns 68.9mpg. You’re still aware it’s a diesel when you work it harder, but generally it operates at a refined level and is suited to the automatic transmission.
The A 200 uses a 1.33-litre (Mercedes calls it a 1.4-litre) turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with an output of 160bhp and 184lb ft. It’s a smooth-running engine that is great around town where it is less stressed. Out on the open road it can feel slightly underpowered, especially if there are a few passengers in the car. Still, its 8-second dash to 62mph from rest is respectable enough. Drivers can choose to flick between gear ratios manually with the paddles on the wheel, but it’s not the most involving experience and is best left to the auto.
A more potent 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is available in the A 250, bringing with it a healthier 221bhp and 258lb ft, although it uses more fuel, naturally. Until the expected Mercedes-AMG version arrives, this represents the most fun you can have in the A-Class line-up.
Handling and comfort
All A-Class models come with Dynamic Select, offering a choice of four distinct driving modes. Active damping adjustment in the suspension can be added as an option, but for most people it does fine with its standard setup. In the A 180 d and A 200, that consists of a torsion beam rear arrangement while the A 250 gets a more elaborate multilink suspension design at the back.
For the most part, the A-Class deals with mixed road surfaces well, although the ride quality is biased more to the firmer side and bigger bumps will still send a shock through the cabin.
Like other Mercedes cars, the steering is light but direct, allowing you to accurately judge your inputs and place the car with ease. While there isn’t that nicely weighted and relatively analogue feel of the BMW 1 Series, it suits the overall package of the Mercedes. Toggling through the different drive modes has more of an effect on the engine and transmission response than anything else.
Still, show it a series of quick bends and the A-Class grips well, only moving off-line when you apply excessive amounts of power for the situation, which is expected in a front-wheel-drive hatchback. All-wheel-drive models (badged ‘4Matic) are expected to join the range in the future. Body roll is well contained and, overall, the car responds keenly to driver input.
In town and in traffic the start-stop system is smooth on restart and it’s in tighter confines that the light steering comes into its own, making easy work of navigating car parks and the like. When you get onto more open stretches and choose the Eco mode the smaller petrol and diesel engines have an extended coast function when off throttle that further reduces fuel consumption.
Recommended engine: A 180 d (auto)
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Euro NCAP has not yet tested the new A-Class, but even with the increasingly strict testing procedures, the scope of standard safety equipment should see it score very well.
Mercedes claims that the improved construction techniques see the car provide the same structural strength and impact absorption as an E-Class. All models of A-Class will come equipped with Active Brake Assist and autonomous braking intervention. Pedestrian safety is helped by an active bonnet system that raises by 65mm in the event of a collision.
A multitude of airbags including one for driver’s knees features across the range. The Active Lane-keeping Assist system also makes its way into every version and helps to prevent drifting outside of your lane. Cruise control with a speed limiter function is in all cars to help reduce the risk of speeding fines and take the stress out of long distance motorway schleps, while Attention Assist in every model watches out for signs of tiredness and can suggest a coffee break.
Traffic sign recognition is part of the lb495 Advanced Navigation package and automatically scans the road for speed limit signs, alerting you to any change to the posted limit. This information can also be shown on the optional head-up display, meaning you won’t have to take your eyes off the road to get the information you need. Not only can the Blind Spot Assist add an extra set of eyes to alert you of vehicles around you, but it can also now warn against cyclists passing when you’re parked up. On the security front, every model comes equipped with an alarm and immobiliser rated in Thatcham category T1.
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Spec & Trim Levels
The colour palette for the A-Class isn’t quite as varied as the number of hues that you can select from the car’s ambient lighting package. White and Red are the standard offerings, but if you want one of the three metallic colours you’ll need to stump up an additional lb595. Consisting of a black, grey and silver, if your preference is for bright, vibrant colours you may want to consider an aftermarket option.
For the A-Class there are three specification grades: SE, Sport, and AMG Line. Within these are different equipment grades consisting of Executive, Premium, and Premium Plus; these add groups or packs of options.
The range kicks off with the A-Class SE that comes equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels and a simpler body kit without a visible exhaust. The cabin features part Artico man-made leather and fabric upholstery and gets the dual seven-inch screen setup; this is the only one that doesn’t come behind a single sheet of glass and this is only available as an A 180 d.
Mid-level Sport brings more visual appeal with larger wheels and a nicer styling kit for a lb1,540 premium, adding LED headlights and automatic climate control among other things.
Size and Dimensions
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Of the trio of engines available from launch, it is the new 1.5-litre diesel in the A 180 d that delivers the longest driving range and best fuel economy at 68.9mpg. You will need to keep it topped up with AdBlue, but it has a useful tank size of 23.8 litres that means you’ll cover thousands of miles before the AdBlue top-up reminder will appear on your dash. Conveniently, the AdBlue filler is next to the diesel filler neck.
The 160bhp petrol engine in the A 200 fares well in the official fuel economy stakes with 51.4mpg. That’s no doubt helped by a coasting function in the car’s Eco mode that allows it to freewheel at speed while the engine idles when you lift off the throttle.
Those considering the A-Class for a company car will be drawn to the A 200, as it has the lowest rate of BIK in the range at 25 percent for 2018/19. The A 180 d is rated at 26 percent, though if you do longer distances it may make better financial sense in the long-term due to its better economy.
Reliability and servicing
The previous A-Class ranked slightly below average for reliability, but this is an all-new model, so we expect Mercedes to have incorporated some improvements.
All new Mercedes-Benz models sold in the UK come with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty against manufacturing defects, plus roadside assistance. If you prefer to spread out the cost of servicing, the Mercedes Service Package lets you do just that. Prices range from lb28 per month based on two services over 24 months or lb34 for three services over 36 months.
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Currently, comparing the A-Class with its closest rivals, the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, means it looks a touch expensive, but the Mercedes is available with a smaller choice of engines and only automatic transmissions for the time being. It does, however, trump both in terms of quality and design.
The A-Class kicks off at around lb26k for the entry-grade diesel, but most will likely want to spend closer to lb28k to get into the mid-level Sport version and, even then, some may consider the further lb1,395 to add the Executive equipment line. It’s a similar story when you go looking to add that slick-looking dual-10.25-inch dashboard unit, although if you can get yourself a competitive finance deal, it should take the edge off ticking those options boxes.
Gallery: 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The diesel SE keeps the purchase price down, along with the running costs.
It has to be the A 250 in AMG Line Executive, leaving some room in the budget for extras.
Closely rivals it on refinement, offers a broader range of engines.
BMW 1 Series
Slightly cheaper, but now showing its age, still offers three- and five-door body styles.
Okay, so it’s not an obvious rival, but if you’re buying on looks, the Evoque makes a strong case for itself.
Hybrid powertrain and reliable build quality, but can’t rival the tech on offer.
Available with economical engines, still looks good on the outside, now dating inside.
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