Back to the future with Mercedes-Benz’s new A-Class

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The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is somewhat underwhelming. Initially, I thought it was a face-lifted version of the revolutionary prior model. Visually, the side profile looks familiar on the eye. The distinctive changes are the new rear tail lights and slim headlights combined with the cool bumpers. 

 

I’m an idiot - this ain’t no facelift. It’s a new car! 

 

In the flesh, you quickly notice the changes to the new A-Class. Mercedes-Benz call the new design language “Sensual Purity”. It’s slightly bigger. All the folds and design creases have been erased for clean and simple body panels. The rear is controversial - either you like it or not. I like the new rear light cluster even if they do resemble the lights of a KIA Cerato hatch. 

 

The front styling cues of the new A-Class are borrowed from the new CLS, giving the car greater aggression through its sharp lines. A highlight is the all-new LED headlights. Like the previous model, the chrome diamond grille surrounds the iconic three-pointed brand star. 

 

Overall, this design is progressive and arguably the prettiest amongst its competitors, the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. 

 

There is a modified platform used by its predecessor albeit the dimensions have been increased. 3cm extra has been added between the wheels and 0.6 cm width. Overall the car is 12cm longer. This means a bigger boot (370 litres) and improved rear legroom. 

 

The exterior styling is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

The surprise is in the cabin, where Mercedes-Benz has applied most of its magic. It is a revolutionary, drawing its inspiration from the latest E-Class and even the S-Class, adopting the impressive and massive horizontal 2-screen cockpit system. That’s right - one big screen divided into two sources of information. Your infotainment system and your instrument binnacles. 

 

There are 5 turbine-inspired air vents, borrowed from the E-Class and the multifunction steering wheel is the same as the latest S-Class. 

 

Depending on the model you select, there are three screen options available. The base model features two 7-inch screens while higher-spec derivatives combine a 7-inch and 10.25-inch screen or two 10.25-inch screens. 

 

Technology is the key word when it comes to the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Safety systems straight from the flagship S-Class make their debut into the hatchback. The car's cameras and radar will be able to scan the road 500 metres ahead and is able to recognise pedestrians and cyclists. There is a fair degree of autonomy, too - the A-Class can prevent bumper bashings by applying an automatic brake and it can automatically follow the traffic in front of it. 

 

If you’ve always wanted a personal assistant, you get one as standard with the new A-Class - just holla the phrase “Hey Mercedes”. Users can then adjust the air-conditioning, send a text message, or find the quickest route out of the city centre on a Friday afternoon.

 

The suspension has greatly improved; reflecting positively on the ride and handling. This Merc feels like a Merc should feel - solid, reassured and refined. Not perfect - the A200 model I drove in AMG line kit features sporty 18” rims. The lower profile does compromise ride quality over poor road surfaces causing an audible thudding sound through the cabin.

 

The A200 is endowed with a feisty 1.33-L turbocharged motor. Good for 120 kW/250 Nm, this power output means the compact Mercedes will dash to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds. This is the engine I reviewed.  

 

If that’s not quick enough for you, there is the 2.0-L turbocharged motor, badged an A250 Sport. This motor’s 165 kW/350 Nm. There will be a diesel option in the new year, too.

 

Both motors are mated with Mercedes-Benz’s 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that chops through its gears with aplomb.

 

The new A-Class is arguably the segment leader now. It is gorgeous to look at, has the most advanced interior that is beautifully put together, offers driver adapted and user-centric technology and is a lot of fun to drive. Noise levels from the compact engine are too audible and take away from the car’s upmarket feel. Comfort levels from the Comfort Suspension are spot on. Mercedes-Benz have upped their game – A is for attack!

 

Plus +

  • Technology leader
  • Good looks

 

Minus –

  • Load 1.33-L engine
  • Compact interior

 

The competition

BMW 1 Series, Audi A3, VW Golf, Volvo V40, Alfa Romeo Guilietta, Lexus CT, Opel Astra and MINI 5-door Hatch.

 

The pricing

A200 R500 012

A250 Sport R596 969

 

Service and warranty  

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class comes standard with a 6-years/100 000km maintenance plan.

 

My choice  

A250 Sport R596 969

www.mercedes-benz.co.za

 

 

 

 

 

 

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