The new Mercedes-Benz A Class four-door is not an E Class far away but a perfectly formed small saloon. Ireland’s car buyers have always had a soft spot for saloons (or sedans) and with the arrival of the front wheel drive A Class saloon there is a new access point to the premium brand’s four door range.
Okay we have to forget the relentless rise of the far more fashionable SUV and crossover as a body type, and trust that there is still life left in the saloon body form. The baby Merc confirms this. The premium brands three box A Class is a direct rival to Audi’s slightly smaller A3 saloon and at first glance looks like a C (or even an E Class) from a distance. The A saloon is 137mm shorter than the C Class at 4686mm and surprisingly 4mm taller at 1446mm. The baby Merc’s proportions are spot on. Up front the car has presence with a smart nose and grille – and almost angry looking light clusters. The new A Class hatch fills up a rear-view mirror nicely but when it passes still looks business-like unlike the hatch. The 420 litre boot area (370 hatch) is neat and well formed.
Inside the cabin features the latest MBUX user interface from the impressive A Class hatch. Even the entry model gets its great-looking long flat panel display that serves the driver and gives cabin occupants a great view of secondary controls like sat nav etc. Thumb buttons on the left of the steering wheel operated the centre display area while the right side is for the driver’s display. The initial setting up of the display can be fiddly but when mastered becomes second nature. Apart from the small door apertures the car feels spacious for its compact exterior dimensions. Of course room in the rear is tight but four adults (there are five seat belts) can travel without too much discomfort for those in the rear. The detailing is nice too with sculpted air vents and other touches adding to the premium feel. Depending on specification you can get all sorts of high tech aids like Apple and Android smart phone integration, augmented reality sat nav that uses camera view overlays, ‘hey Mercedes’ voice control, multi beam LED headlights, HUD head up display etc. and of course the latest ADAS driving safety stuff.
On the road you have to remind yourself that the little four door is not a larger premium car and forgive the transmission’s tendencies to be less than silky smooth at times. My A200 AMG Line test car had a teeny but powerful 1.33 litre turbo charged petrol engine powering the front wheels. The 163hp/250nm unit combined with its lightweight body could be quite quick when provoked (0-100km/h 8.1 seconds) but simple physics means the A saloon cannot deliver the same weighty momentum enjoyed by drivers of larger Mercs. It is a great cruiser though and our automatic was surprisingly frugal on juice too. Can you fling it about the place? Yes, but behind the wheel I didn’t really want to. That my friends is what happens when you join the saloon Merc club. You slip in to contented, confident and in the nicest sense ‘smug’ driving mode.
Style is the entry trim grade followed by Progressive and the sportier looking AMG Line with additional ‘packs’ available. The petrol range has a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes with the 180 and 200 (1.33), while the 2 litre 250 and A35 are auto only. The diesel range or I should say model is the 116hp A180d automatic (1.46 litre). Pricing in Ireland starts from €31,455 (A180 136hp petrol manual) with the 306hp Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic topping the range at €59,900. My A200 AMG Line with the Advantage pack and Night pack cost €43,332.