Evolution outside, revolution inside, sums up the Mercedes-Benz approach to the launch of the fourth generation of its new A-Class as the company aims to get younger drivers behind the wheel.
The new model, on sale now, is targeting Audi A3, BMW1 Series and even top-of-the-line VW Golf drivers with the new offering which has fresh lines but sticks to the existing design, a tactic which many of the luxury car makers use to avoid upsetting loyal customers by making their cars look old hat.
But inside, the technological advances are so advanced that your car can virtually become an in-car office and will remember things like your favourite radio station, automatically display your most common routes on the sat-nav and give traffic updates, and make sure you do not drive when you are tired as you sit comfortably on your heated, and ventilated, seat. Air conditioning under your bum, that’s posh – and it will give you a massage if you ask for one.
Two large panels on the dash help make driving easier and safer, and many of the controls are within finger reach on the steering wheel. The Mercedes-Benz User Experience can learn to do your bidding through artificial intelligence and can be personalised and adapted to each driver to give the preferred combination of information, remembers telephone numbers, routes, all voice activated. Tell the car you are cold and the heat will come on.
Driver aids include a Driver Assistance system taken from the S-Class which scans the road ahead as we head towards autonomous driving systems, a package which keeps you out of harm’s way from the car in front and recognises corners and roundabouts, and in the four-wheel-drive version will automatically adjust your speed and suspension settings to stop unpleasant pitching and rolling.
The cabin is now roomier and the boot is bigger with a wider opening and can be made bigger by adjusting the rear seats.
There is a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission and three levels of trim and equipment depending on the Style, Progressive or AMG package your budget allows.
There are a number of new engines. The A180d 1.5-litre 116bhp diesel is now on sale with prices starting at €31,600, and the claim is that it can return close to 3.8L/100km (70mpg) with 0-100km in just over 10 seconds.
An A200 petrol option is priced at €34,235 and A160 petrol and diesel offerings will arrive later and are expected to be in the €30,000 price bracket. Saloon versions will arrive later.