Road test: Mercedes A-Class
Not cheap or the greatest drive, but refinement, space and tech impress.
What is it?
The fourth generation of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class continues with a hatchback shape but has more space for passengers and luggage, as well as lots of new tech.
How green is it?
From launch, there’s a 1.5-litre turbodiesel that emits the least CO2 at 108g/km and gives 68.9mpg, though you have to pay for the seven-speed auto ’box to achieve this.
Who should buy one?
An average A-Class driver is 10-years younger than other Mercedes owners, so expect couples and families in their 30s to line up for this premium hatch.
Road test by Al Suttie June 2018
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
After the original A-Class’s topple from grace during infamous elk test, Mercedes has been cautious with the dynamics of its small hatch contender. While not dull to drive, it’s not been a rival for the best, such as the BMW 1 Series or Ford Focus. With this fourth-generation model, that careful evolution persists. It feels very much a car that’s a few percent better here and there rather than a full step on from its predecessor.
The result is handling that is surefooted and predictable, yet there’s none of the steering feel or agility found in a 1 Series. Nor is there the sumptuous ride comfort experienced in the Volkswagen Golf. Instead, the Mercedes tracks round corners in a faithful manner and is easy to park, especially with the optional £1395 Active Parking Assist with Parktronic that does it all for you.
Where we found the A-Class more flawed was the ride. In most instances, it absorbs bumps without fuss, but there was also a floating, bouncy sensation in some of the cars we tried. This can be tuned out by switching to the Sport setting if the car has adjustable suspension, but this then introduces an underlying firmness that’s not well suited to rippled tarmac.
However, it’s far from all mediocre in this A-Class. Mercedes has honed it in the wind tunnel to be the most aerodynamic car in its sector. It shows in how refined the car is at higher speeds and the paucity of engine noise audible in the cabin.
This is underlined by the superb smoothness of the three engines on offer from launch. The 1.4- and 2.0-litre turbo petrol units rev freely and work well with the seven-speed automatic that was the only transmission we could try. There will be a six-speed manual for the lower powered version and A180d.
The diesel uses a 116hp 1.5-litre turbodiesel that’s the pick of the bunch for its calm, quiet progress, though its economy and emissions are only so-so for the class.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
If the driving dynamics of this new A-Class are not class-leading, the cabin space certainly is. Mercedes has lengthened this car by 30mm over its predecessor and it’s also 14mm wider. This frees up a lot of room for occupants. In the front,the A-Class has more than enough adjustment for any driver to get comfy and all-round vision is much improved.
In the back, rear-seat passengers are treated to the sort of space you’d more normally associate with cars from the class above. Two adults can travel here in perfect comfort, though a third in the centre seat is compromised by the large transmission tunnel.
Mercedes has also made gains is the boot. Not only does it increase in volume by 29 litres to 370 litres with the rear seats up, the opening aperture is some 200mm wider now the rear lights don’t impinge on the load entrance’s sides. The flat floor and rectangular shape also make the most of this added capacity.
There’s no quibbling with the amount of safety gear Mercedes has packed into the A-Class, though given its pricing that should be expected. Every version comes with seven airbags, including a driver’s knee bag, and there are twin Isofix mounts in the back seat. You also have Active Brake Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist, though we found this acted very abruptly as the car neared road marking lines.
All A-Class models come with twin screens in place of the more traditional instrument binnacle and infotainment screen. As standard, they’re seven-inch units, but they can be upgraded to 10.25 inches. Go for both larger screens and it creates a single widescreen display. The ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice recognition system is standard, and operates many functions including the heating, though we found its responses patchy. You can choose from SE, Sport and AMG Line trims.
The cheapest to run A-Class at launch is the A180d with its 68.9mpg and 108g/km CO2 emissions, which are not quite as good as a rival Audi A3’s. The A-Class also has higher list prices, but this will be offset by very strong residual prices and correspondingly keen leasing deals. As with all Mercedes, you get a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and up to 30 years’ breakdown cover.
WE SAY Not cheap or the greatest drive, but refinement, space and tech impress.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62 in 10.5 secs
Figures for the A180d SE auto