When launched, this was the company’s first compact model and gained its designer, Martin Mattin the title of Designer of the Year.
The A-Class became a huge seller for the company, therefore there was considerable expectation heaped upon this new model. I can assure you, it does not disappoint.
This a new platform, with a 12cm longer wheelbase than previous models and it is stronger and lighter than before. The most noticeable facet is the dash which they call a ‘glass cockpit’. No convention dials but rather a highly configured screen display called MBUX, standing for Mercedes-Benz User Experience. I am not sure it is an ‘experience’ but it is a very effective and easy to use dash set up that includes two 7-inch screens running navigation and all connected services such as live traffic. This is a cinemascope experience that is spectacular and takes us in the realm of sci-fi, and marks the total redundancy of the old analogue layout.
Then there is the item that l have really been waiting for – a voice activation system that actually works. I say this as with the ever-changing cockpits of modern cars, we are still taking our eyes off the road to turn dials when, surely, we should just be telling the car what to do. Mercedes boast that this is the first system that really works and as the engineers urge: ‘It accepts natural language – ask it anything.’ It takes a while for the system to understand how you speak and in the meantime there are some hilarious results. I was showing it to some friends and told it to turn on the lights. It preceded to turn on the air conditioning. But, once it got the gist of my speech pattern, it really is the first automotive voice recognition system that works and once mastered, it makes a mockery of all those dials that one needs to locate whilst doing 70mph on the motorway. Just tell it what you want to do and it does it.
Propulsion wise, my review model was the A250, offering 224bhp and it really shifts. It feels traditionally Merc - sturdy, ridiculously well-put together, solid, stable and a joy to drive. They have certainly managed to produce a relatively small car that seems huge on the inside, with room for all. It’s a compact car but with all the feeling of the bigger, spacious cars in the range and they have done a sterling job.
Regarding the power plants, there is the 180, 200, 220 and 250 although l am sure there will be more along later and a fully electric model cannot be far behind. The 180 is too slow, the 200 is better but the 250 is the one for me. The A250 offers a 2-litre turbo petrol plant and is everything you will ever need. This model also comes with standard full independent suspension and you can add adaptive dampers, if so desired.
Inside, the cabin is close to perfection. The stylish air vents work well and are a great design feature. The graphics quality is superb and although it has a touch screen pad in the centre console, which l always avoid, this one really works well once you have wrapped your head around it. With the voice activation, be aware of saying the word Mercedes in any conversation with your passengers or on the phone as it makes the system spring into action and can surprise you.
The seating configuration is very good with plenty of room for two adults in the back and the boot offers 375 litres of space or 1210 when all the seats are flat.
The brakes pull it to a stop in a very respectable manner considering it is stopping 1374kg of metal mass and the chassis has natural poise and agility.
If you are looking for a relatively compact car with great residual value, a joy to drive and offers a very nice place to sit on long journey’s - this is the car for you.
Model tested: A250 AMG Line
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Speed: 0-60 6.2 seconds
Economy: 45.6mpg combined
Price from: £26,025
As tested: £28,129
Best lease quote: Mercedes-Benz Guildford
A180SE, £299pm. 48 months. 5.7% APR.