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Mercedes-Benz A-Class A180 1.5d 116hp 7G-DCT Auto AMG Line
02 May 2018
The German car maker's premium hatchback is packed with new technology and a hint of refinement. By Iain Dooley.
Twin 7in displays, voice activation, 18in alloy wheels, AMG bodykit, sports steering wheel, sports suspension, LED headlights, climate control, DAB radio, Artico and Dinamica upholstery, active lane-keeping assist, speed-limit assist, Keyless-Go, real-time traffic information
Petrol: 163hp 1.4, 224hp 2.0
SE, Sport, AMG Line
Seven-speed automatic, six-speed manual (to come by end of 2018)
Mercedes' small car is a big deal. Last year, the premium brand sold more than 43,000 A-Class models in the UK,helping it establish this country as the largest single market for its BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 rival. In 2018, the five-door compact hatchback becomes a more sophisticated proposition, thanks to an upmarket redesign and the inclusion of a wealth of new technology.
The baby Benz's exterior makeover might be more evolutionary than revolutionary, but the changes are sufficient to deliver an air of refinement that eludes the products from traditional volume brands. Rounded corners and smooth sheet metal replace its predecessor's sharper lines, resulting in a more organic appearance.
At launch, the A-Class will be offered with an updated version of the 1.5-litre diesel engine it shares with Renault, which is the one driven here. In this A180 d 116hp guise, it promises 108g/km CO2 if paired with 16in wheels and 111g/km CO2 with 17 or 18in wheels. Official fuel economy is a respectable 67.3mpg. Two four-cylinder petrol engines complete the line-up, with more expected later. Launch models come with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox as standard. A six-speed manual will be on offer by the end of the year.
The increased emphasis on refinement is most obvious out on the road. Mercedes has cut noise levels and boosted the car's aerodynamics, resulting in a quieter cabin. It's also a fraction larger inside; the extra few millimetres mean more head, elbow and leg room for occupants, while boot capacity has grown by 29 litres to 370 litres and the loading aperture has been enlarged. High-grade materials in all trims ensure a premium cabin ambience, with quality switchgear and distinctive design touches adding to the enhanced design.
Keen drivers will like the car's weighty yet accurate steering, the dual-clutch transmission responsiveness and the diesel engine's eagerness, despite its modest power output. The driving position offers plenty of adjustment and forward visibility has been improved.
Despite the car's impeccable road manners the main focus is likely to be Mercedes' big technology push, as two 7in colour screens replace conventional analogue dials. Keen to blur the line between smartphone and car, Mercedes has touch-enabled the right-hand screen, making it easy to swipe your way through the infotainment system's features. All three trim levels - SE, Sport and AMG Line - are recipients of this new interface and a laptop-style touchpad replaces the old rotary control wheel for more flexible navigation. Mercedes also includes a voice control function that it claims can understand natural-sounding commands, similar to Google or Amazon's connected home assistants. Its ability to comprehend requests to change basic audio, ventilation and navigation functions is pretty good, too.
Options to increase one or both screens to 10.25in include combinations of additional kit, such as an automatic park function, adaptive headlights, keyless entry and upgraded audio. Naturally this impacts the car's P11D value, but the standard specification is reasonably generous. The base SE trim includes sat-nav, DAB radio, air conditioning, keyless ignition plus Mercedes' own active lane-keeping and brake-assist safety systems. Sport trim adds 17in wheels, LED headlights, upgraded upholstery and climate control. The AMG Linedriven here gains a bodykit, sports steering wheel and upgraded alloy wheels.
Technophobes might baulk at having to use Mercedes' new touch MBUX interface to access even basic functions on the car and it's true there is a learning curve. The trade-off is access to many useful functions in this increasingly connected world. The clarity of the screens is also very impressive and the level of customisation on offer is considerable. Some features come at an additional cost, such as the augmented-reality navigation function, but seeing direction arrows overlaid on a live forward camera view of the road is helpful to anyone who regularly visits unfamiliar locations.
"The increased emphasis on refinement is most obvious out on the road."
Of particular interest to business users could be the option to monitor use through distance and fuel consumption data, while the ability to share the car between colleagues could make administering a pool service easier. This feature can be enabled through the Mercedes-Benz mobile app, which can also monitor the car's status and location, and facilitates the secure sharing via a second key embedded in the vehicle.
Mercedes has packed quite a bit of technology into its new A-Class and it is easy to become overwhelmed by its many features. Overall, though, this level of sophistication in a compact hatch is impressive, and combined with goodroad manners, plus the frugal and reasonably refined engine, it forms a strong package.
Mercedes Benz A180 1.5d 116hp 7G-DCT Auto AMG Line
On sale June 2018
Residual value 42.6%
Service, maintenance and repair £2,501
Cost per mile 57.4p
Fuel consumption 67.3mpg
CO2 (BIK band)111g/km (27%)
BIK 20/40% a month £127/£255
Boot space370 litres
Engine size/power 1,461cc/116hp
Positive: Big leap in overall refinement, clever use of technology, strong diesel performance.
Negative: Possible overload of tech features, no manual gearbox, only one diesel engine at launch,high-tech kit upgrades can be expensive.