Completely re-worked A-Class offers improvements in every area
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class has arrived in Ireland, bringing unprecedented technology and safety to the luxury hatchback segment. Engine options include two new four-cylinder petrol engines (1.4-litre A200 with 163hp and 2.0-litre A250 with 224hp) and a new four cylinder diesel (1.5-litre A180d with 116hp that I tested). 6 speed manual and 7 speed dual clutch automatic gearboxes will be available, as will 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive. The new A-Class is priced from €31,600.
Mercedes-Benz claims the new A-Class can “learn its driver’s habits” within a few weeks, thanks to advent of artificial intelligence. “Hi Mercedes, turn the seat warmers on please,” I utter from the car’s cockpit in Powercourt hotel in Wicklow, in the hope it will do as shown in an earlier presentation. “Turning the seat heaters on,” comes the response. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is an impressive car; one capable of shifting the small luxury car segment onto a different level thanks to the advent of a new voice-driven interface, an S-Class level infotainment system and a hugely advanced safety suite. The new A-Class has a number of technology features including Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC which predicts and adjusts the speed when approaching bends, junctions or roundabouts. Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Lane Change Assist and extended Active Brake Assist also feature.
The new generation A-Class is longer (120mm), wider (16mm) and rides on a lengthened wheelbase (30mm) compared with its immediate predecessor, along with a boot that measures 29 litres larger, at 370 litres. As such, there is more rear seat space than before, allowing the A-Class to transport four adults in relative comfort, and even pass as an occasional family car. And unlike the vehicle before it, the fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class won’t have to face questions over its authenticity; such is the presentation of the cabin and the technology on board.
Take the aforementioned artificial intelligence. Mercedes-Benz’s new software interface, MBUX (short for Mercedes-Benz User Experience) debuts on the A-Class and uses the technology to monitor an owner’s habits. Say, for example, you call your significant other upon finishing work and settling into your commute at the same time each day, the new A-Class will recognise this and prompt the phone call without you pressing a button. Bear in mind this new technology is working its way up rather down through the Mercedes line-up. So where normally the S-Class would get the latest technology and it would slowly trickle down to the various other models this time Mercedes has decided to start with the A-Class and work up through the model range.
With regard to the engine. The A 180’s small four thankfully relinquishes some of the low-rev coarseness of earlier A-Class engines, offering instead a smooth take-up. The drive is a smooth and enjoyable transition from motorways to around-town speeds. The automatic gearbox feels refined and resists any low-speed abruptness while shuffling drive to the front wheels. Mercedes-Benz claims a fuel usage figure of 4.1 – 4.5L/100km from the A 180’s 1.5-litre engine. The Mercedes-Benz A-Class goes a long way in addressing its predecessor’s issues. Road noise is better blocked out and the cabin feels nicely put together. The A-Class feels much more proficient in the corners than before, offering better body control and nicely weighted steering.
What really gets the Mercedes-Benz A 180 across the line is the driving environment. It is a smarter hatchback for sure. With more time behind the wheel, you soon grow to appreciate the value of the new technology, along with the way it has been integrated.
The interior is completely new with some striking new design elements like the sporty turbine effect air vents and good quality materials making it a fit for the premium price tag. The new MBUX multimedia and infotainment system is the focal point, and there are a number of different screen combinations available depending on trim: two 7-inch displays, one 7- and one 10.25-inch display and two 10.25-inch displays.
Inside there is more shoulder, elbow and headroom, and Mercedes-Benz also delivered with easier access to the rear and more boot space (now 370 litres).
In all, the Mercedes-Benz A 180 version works well as a technological leader and raises the bar in this segment by some margin. While earlier versions of the A-Class have struggled for broader acceptance, the fourth-generation model finds itself in welcoming new territory. The new A-Class is a huge improvement on its predecessor in both interior, technology and how it drives. If looking for something in this segment I’d recommend a test drive at your local Mercedes-Benz.
Model Mercedes-Benz A 180d AMG Line
Engine Size 1.5-litre Diesel
Acceleration (0-100km/h) 10.5 seconds
Top Speed 202 km/h
CO2 Emissions 111g/km
Road Tax €200 per year (Band A4)
Base Price €31,600