Keep your eyes peeled for the Paris Motor Show October 2018: there’s a new kid on the block. Hailed as the “rival Audi A3”, the new Mercedes A-Class 2018 is the latest sedan to join Mercedes-Benz’s ever-growing family of compact cars.
The buzz around the new A-class saloon began in April 2018, when Mercedes-Benz revealed the launch of the new production version at the Beijing Motor Show.
While the model sold in China would have a 60 mm longer wheelbase than the global saloon version (the UK model), Mercedes-Benz have confirmed that both variants will use the same styling.
Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener said: “They’re the same model but in different lengths. The added length of the Chinese version is concentrated wholly within the rear door, which is longer than that of the A-Class saloon to be sold in other world markets to ease entry to the rear.” Having taken a glimpse of the new A-Class in China, British motorists are now eagerly awaiting the UK release date.
Wheelbase dimensions aside, the latest release from Mercedes-Benz has largely been compared to the Audi A3 saloon in terms of affordability: both are saloon versions of their family hatchbacks.
The A-class saloon price comes in a little dearer at £26,500, while the Audi will set motorists back just £23,060. So, is the price justified?
The new Mercedes A-class will come with just two engine options: the A200, a turbocharged 1.3 litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with 161bhp and 184lb ft, and the A180d, a 1.5 litre, four-cylinder diesel with 114bhp and 192lb ft.
Ranking below the C-Class saloon, it will be deemed Mercedes-Benz’s most affordable four-door car.
Its vital statistics certainly seem to support that claim – while the petrol model boasts a combined fuel economy of 54.3mpg and 119g of CO2 per km, the diesel claims to offer 70.6mpg and 107g/km.
As a comfortable four-door saloon, this helps to make the A-Class ideal for both city driving and school runs, as well as more economical motorway journeys.
Both the aforementioned models come with a six-speed manual gearbox, or the option of a seven-speed dual clutch automatic box with steering wheel mounted paddles.
In terms of the engines and performance, the best features of the hatchback remain, including the abovementioned petrol and diesel options, and front-wheel drive.
Where the saloon differs from the hatchback, however, (apart from the obvious) is its environmental friendliness.
This comes down to in part the aerodynamics. The folks at Mercedes-Benz make the bold claim that the A-Class saloon is not only the most aerodynamic Mercedes on the market, but the most on sale today.
This claim is underpinned by the drag coefficient – the Alpine A110, known for its environmentally friendly sportiness, has a drag coefficient of 0.31.
The A-Class manages to make this even lower at 0.22 – the lower the drag coefficient, the more aerodynamic the car, translating into better fuel economy and a greener automobile.
So how exactly does the A-Class look? We’ve already established the difference in the wheelbase compared to the Chinese version, but there’s a lot more to it than just reduced rear legroom.
Again, it takes inspiration from the hatchback in terms of design with its front-end styling. Conspicuous grilles and angular headlights taper smoothly into the front fenders.
It’s not entirely the same, however – at 4549mm long, 1796mm wide and 1446mm tall, it’s 130mm longer and features a longer roof, rear doors and overhang. It may boast the same width and wheelbase size as the hatchback, but there is an additional 6mm of headroom.
How does this impact driver convenience? If you’re taking it on a family outing, considerably so – sitting right between the C-Class and CLA in terms of size, it offers 420 litres of luggage room in the boot.
Compared with the C-Class and CLA, which both offer just 360 litres, this is a huge step up – or at least, an extra pair of suitcases. That said, the Audi A3 still comes up trumps with 425 litres of space, and the A-Class lid somewhat encroaches on the overall boot space.
Mercedes-Benz prefer the phrase “sensual purity” when outlining the look of the A-Class Saloon. For us, the back end was a little too short to fit this description completely, but it does stay true to its marketing literature in terms of the “reduced lines and precise gaps” and its “sporty stance” on the road.
What’s more, with its aerodynamic design, including 16 to 19-inch wheels and pronounced wheel arches, any driver will appreciate the increased speeds and fuel economy. Couple that with more headroom than the C-Class, and you’re in for a very pleasant drive.
If the inside of the A-Class saloon looks a little familiar, there’s a reason for that: it’s the same as the hatchback.
Mercedes-Benz’s advanced infotainment functions are on offer as ever – starting with the innovative new MBUX operating system.
What exactly is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, otherwise known as MBUX? Proving once again that (occasionally scary) advances in technology have not eluded them, Mercedes-Benz have incorporated artificial intelligence into their onboard infotainment system.
The engineers profess that the system is able to “create an emotional connection between vehicle, driver and passengers”.
With its customisable features, it can learn more about the user – not so much his or her blood type, but certainly comfort and climate control preferences. It also integrates its multimedia system into this AI technology, so don’t be surprised if your favourite tunes come on time and again.
Aesthetically, this is presented in one long panel comprising two 7-inch screens, with the option to upgrade to 10.25 inches if required. It’s operated by touchscreen and can also connect to two users.
What’s perhaps most impressive is its conversation speech recognition ability – perhaps this is the “emotional connection” that Mercedes-Benz are so proud of.
Of course, there are ample opportunities for upgrades – augmented reality satellite navigation is another game-changing piece of technology that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without.
If you’re not familiar with the term, augmented reality involves layering images over real life through a camera lens. (Ask your kids to explain Pokémon Go to you and imagine it on a sat nav.)
Space plays a bigger part in the A-Class than the C-Class, offering additional headroom and an overall open cabin.
The on-board computer aids driver comfort by fitting in seamlessly with its wing-shaped design, ensuring no lack of continuity.
With fewer lines and large plastic slabs, it’s all about maximising the interior space efficiently.
Driving is made simpler and with safety in mind thanks to automatic emergency braking and lane assistance technology.
There is also the option to add semi-autonomous functions that allow the saloon to brake, accelerate and steer in certain situations.
This cooperative driver support works by carefully monitoring the current traffic system, using advanced camera and radar functionality to detect changes up to 500m in the distance.
Borrowing technology from the S-Class, the A-Class also offers the Active Distances Assist DISTRONIC. This effectively does the thinking for you as part of Mercedes-Benz’ Driving Assistance Package, adjusting the speed when approaching bends, junctions and roundabouts.
The upgrades list extends far beyond the infotainment system, naturally. For example, gesture technology allows the driver to open the boot simply by waving his or her foot under the rear bumper.
For more flamboyant motorists, an upgrade to 64 ambient interior lighting colours is available, as are 16 to 19-inch alloy wheels. That’s the kids and Mum and Dad sorted, then.
Drivers can also choose to upgrade to the KEYLESS-GO Convenience Package, which enables hands-free access and the abovementioned funky kicking motion for the boot.
At this early stage, there’s a lot more to be discovered in terms of the Mercedes A-Class performance, but if the incredible aerodynamics are anything to go by, then we’re definitely in for something exciting.
The Paris Motor Show will see the A-Class saloon on display. It’s expected that there will be just as much of a buzz around the global saloon as the Chinese version, which was met with universal acclaim back in April.
The rumour mill is already spinning in terms of forthcoming engines, with the A250 2 litre petrol on the horizon for spring 2019.
Likewise, the AMG A35 and A45 options may well offer motorists an impressive 300bhp and 400bhp respectively.
As a far more affordable solution in comparison to the C-Class, the A-Class demonstrates that Mercedes-Benz have managed to increase sales by releasing more budget-friendly compact cars.
With safety in mind and futuristic in-car features for the benefit of every passenger, the saloon makes a worthy rival for the Audi A3 and a modern addition to any family. We can’t wait to see what’s coming next.