The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is well designed on the outside and inside, and there’s a range of efficient petrol and diesel engines – so are there any downsides?
The previous-generation Mercedes A-Class looked like a mini-MPV. Mercedes obviously thought that a BMW 1 Series-like shape would be better for sales, so with the B-Class gaining the MPV-style appearance, the new A-Class is much lower and sportier.
The big news about the A-Class is the new, flowing Mercedes design language. Yes, we may have had hints at this with the recent B-Class, but if anyone still visualises a big, square S-Class when they think of a Mercedes, then the new A-Class should finally change such perceptions.
The exterior design looks very modern – futuristic even – with lots of flowing lines and different contours. There are numerous interesting design touches, such as the details on the front grille. Many design elements are intended to improve aerodynamics, ranging from the rear spoiler to the surface of the tail lights, resulting in a drag coefficient of Cd 0.27. The car looks amazing in the new South Seas Blue colour, which has an incredible reflective character.
The models that undoubtedly look best are the AMG Sport versions, with their standard 18-inch wheels. In comparison, the ‘eco’ A180 model has 15-inch steel wheels. These wheels may be great for reducing emissions, but they just look too basic to sit happily with the rest of the car that’s obviously been designed as a premium product.
The new design style is also applied to the interior , which successfully merges the overall feel of a larger Mercedes with a modern approach for a small car, with features such as an iPad-style screen and materials that look and feel high-quality. Even the dials look well-designed. Anyone who has a passion for design will appreciate the effort made in this area, and even people who aren’t normally overly concerned with design may be converted.
However there are a few areas for improvement in terms of ergonomics . The heater controls are hidden away very low down in the centre console. The button that allows you to swap between E (Economy), S (Sport), and M (Manual) modes in automatic transmission models is also hidden away on the centre console. In contrast, the drive mode controller on BMWs is exactly where you want it, easily accessible between the driver and the gear lever. And the electronic handbrake is also hidden away under the right hand side of the dash.
Unlike most Mercs of old, or even the rival BMW 1 Series of today, the new A-Class is a front-wheel drive machine. It comes with a range of efficient petrol and diesel engines and is available with Mercedes-Benz’ first double-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission (7G-DCT). All engines feature ECO start/stop as standard.
Standard comfort suspension is fitted to A 180, SE and Sport models. AMG Sport versions have a Dynamic Handling Package (optional on Sport), which lowers the ride height by 15 mm and has firmer springs and dampers plus AMG multi-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels. ‘Engineered by AMG’ models feature modified AMG sports suspension.
The new Mercedes A-Class is more fun to drive than the typical Mercedes, and with its lower centre of gravity, is certainly more sporty than the previous A-Class. The typical modern Mercedes feels well-engineered and refined, with a comfortable ride, but it doesn’t feel particularly agile. The new A-Class changes this expectation in the area of agility.
We drove two models over some of the best roads in the Pennines. The first was the automatic diesel A 200 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY AMG Sport 7G-DCT. This felt perfectly acceptable to drive, but it did generate a fair amount of noise, so impacting upon levels of refinement. Added to this, there wasn’t a huge amount of performance. It was comfortable enough overall, but it certainly doesn’t have the refined secondary ride comfort of many of the other models in the Mercedes range.
Mercedes is persisting with positioning its automatic gear selector as a stalk on the right hand side of the steering column, which goes against the wisdom of most other manufacturers, and is something that we’re not keen on. As if this isn’t enough, the indicator and cruise control stalks are both in a similar position on the left hand side of the steering column, which can get confusing.
A petrol 200 BlueEFFICIENCY AMG Sport was chosen for the return leg across the hills and we got on with this car much better than we did with the diesel auto. The petrol-engined A-Class, this time with a slick manual gearbox, felt lighter, had sharper steering and more enjoyable handling, it was smoother, more responsive, and quieter, and overall had improved dynamics and was a better driving experience.
The new A-Class has a range of petrol and diesel engines that should provide something for everyone, whether they’re looking for performance, economy, or a mix of both. All A-Class models come with the label BlueEFFICIENCY, which is the name that Mercedes-Benz gives to technologies which help to lower fuel consumption and emissions.
In terms of petrol engines, the A 180 BlueEFFICIENCY has average fuel consumption of 51.4 mpg (52.3 mpg with the 7G-DCT) and CO 2 emissions of 128-135 g/km (or 127-133 g/km with the 7G-DCT).
The A 200 BlueEFFICIENCY that we drove (with a 1.6-litre petrol engine) has average fuel consumption of 49.6 mpg (50.4 mpg with 7G-DCT) and CO 2 emissions of 134-136 g/km (or 131-133 g/km with the 7G-DCT).
The A 180 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY, with its 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine and 6-speed manual gearbox, is the leading ‘eco-model’, with average fuel consumption of 74.3 mpg and CO 2 emissions of 98-105 g/km. Note that the A 180 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY with the 7G-DCT seven-speed automatic transmission has a 1.8-litre turbodiesel engine.
The A 200 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY AMG Sport 7G-DCT diesel that we tested has an official combined economy figure of 65.7mpg, which should be sufficient for most prospective A-Class buyers. This is better than the 62.8 mpg of the manual version.
Interestingly, the A 220 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY (7G-DCT only), which has a 2,143 cc turbodiesel engine compared to the 1,796 cc unit in the A 200 CDI, has average fuel consumption of 64.2 mpg, equating to CO 2 emissions of 115 g/km. Despite having a larger engine, this is more economical than the manual A 200 CDI.
Prices for the new A-Class start at £18,945 for the petrol A 180 BlueEFFICIENCY, and rise to £28,775 for the petrol A 250 BlueEFFICIENCY Engineered by AMG. Note that this is the only model in the range to carry the ‘Engineered by AMG’ title; but there are eight models available with the AMG Sport label.
The diesel range starts at £21,200 for the A 180 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY SE, rising to £27,170 for the A 220 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY AMG Sport 7G-DCT.
In terms of safety, Collision Prevention Assist, Adaptive Brake Assist and Attention Assist is standard across the range. The new A-Class can also measure its own parking spaces and steer itself in, thanks to the optional Active Park Assist.
The new Mercedes A-Class looks great, inside and out, it’s more fun to drive than the average Mercedes, and the range of petrol and diesel engines should provide whatever performance/economy balance you desire.
It’s front-wheel drive, which is absolutely fine for this class of car, but ultimately this means it may lack the level of appeal that keen drivers may be seeking, and the A-Class isn’t always as refined as might be expected from a Mercedes.
Mercedes should be rewarded for making such an effort with the design of the new A-Class, and it’s also efficient, resulting in the car as a whole being a tempting proposition. It gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10.