No longer the quirky, upright hatchback of old, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a sleek, polished and mature specimen packing a wealth of technology that would only recently be reserved for its maker’s top of the range cars. Design-wise this A-Class eschews its predecessor’s many creases and crisp lines for a smoother, more organic form. It might be an evolutionary approach, but it’s still a bold one when the car is tasked with getting buyers on the bottom rung of the MercedesBenz ladder.
Given the car’s best-seller status, it’s not surprising that its designers have stuck with the previous model’s basic format, as this low-slung five-door hatch ‘look’ clearly works. Rounding off the corners gives the A-Class an Apple-esque appearance, which boosts its premium aura and complements the various technology designed to make life easier for driver and occupants. At launch, diesel power is provided by an updated version of the 1.5-litre engine Mercedes-Benz shares with Renault. In use this A 180 d badged car is refined and its 114bhp proves more than adequate, while its 192lb ft of torque fills in any gaps when asked to work hard. Until later in 2018 when a six-speed manual gearbox appears, all engines – petrol and diesel – are mated to a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox, which is not only a welcome premium-level bonus, but also an experience that delivers smooth, predictable gearchanges. And in time the current range will also be bookended by both lower and higher power engine options. This car’s 68.9mpg and baseline 108g/km CO2 figures in SE guise highlights a distinct leaning towards fuel economy, which will please both private and company car drivers. The A 180 d is no slouch though, as it can be hustled around with relative ease. The car made light work of poorly surfaced roads on our launch route, and the weighty steering is pleasingly accurate and direct. This A-Class is likely to be remembered more for its high technology kit than its good road manners, even if they are a welcome improvement over its predecessor. Mercedes-Benz has transplanted a lot of technology that you’d previously only find in flagship models, meaning you’re now met by a pair of seveninch colour displays, upgradable to 10.25-inch versions, boasting touch control, customisation and the various infotainment features supported by Amazon Alexa-style voice control. This new ‘MBUX’ format, as MercedesBenz calls it, is being rolled out to the company’s ever growing number of new cars. It’s surprisingly intuitive, although the multitude of functionality can be a little overwhelming at times. Highlights include arrows that overlay a realtime forward camera view to help with navigation, and crisp, clear graphics are welcome touches.
Unsurprisingly some features are cost options; those screen upgrades plus a few choice items such as self-parking or intelligent headlights are low four figure bundles. Still, even the lowest of the three trim levels (SE, Sport, AMG Line) get a navigation system and a good list of active safety features such as lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking. Life on board is just as good for passengers.
Mercedes-Benz has extracted a few extra millimetres from the cabin, making it a little more accommodating for adults. It’s a similar story at the rear, as the previous car’s often criticised boot is now 29 litres larger and, crucially, offers an enlarged load hatch to make access easier.
On sale | Now In showrooms | May 2018
Prices | £25,800 to £28,540
Bodystyles | 5-door hatchback
Engines | 1.5 (114bhp)
Trim levels | SE, Sport, AMG Line
Also consider| Audi A3, BMW 1 Series
Model tested | A 180 d AMG Line
Price | £28,540
Built in | Rastatt, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; Uusikaupunki, Finland
Bodystyle | 5-door hatchback, 5-seats
Layout| Front-wheel-drive
Powerplant| 1,461cc, 4-cylinder, 8-valve, turbo diesel
Transmission | 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
Stop-start| Yes SCR | Yes
Max power| 114bhp @ 4,000rpm
Max torque | 192lb ft @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Top speed | 125mph 0-62mph | 10.5secs
CO2 emissions | 111g/km (Euro-6d-Temp)
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) |60.1/72.4/67.3mpg
Fuel tank size | 43 litres
Range | 637 miles
Insurance group | 22 BIK rate | 27%
Size (length/width without mirrors) | 4,419/1,796mm
Boot space (min/max) | 370/1,210 litres
Kerb/max towing weight| 1,455/1,400kg