Mercedes has officially launched the 2018 Mercedes A-Class at a special event in Amsterdam, bringing more style and technology to the company"s smallest car.
The A-Class – a key rival to the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series – has been a strong seller for Mercedes, and has introduced a great many new customers to the brand who might previously have bought from rivals. The latest model is hoped to build on this success by debuting new technology that has yet to appear on any other Mercedes model.
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The A-Class is underpinned by a range of fuel-efficient new engines, with four-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox available across the range. Hi-tech new infotainment is a highlight, and one that adds a futuristic twist to the car"s interior.Mercedes A-Class styling
A quick look isn"t enough to appreciate just how far the A-Class has evolved – the old and the new have very similar proportions and the latest model looks quite familiar. Look more closely at the surfaces, though, and you can see that the latest model is far more expressively designed.
The wheelbase is slightly longer than the previous model, for a more dynamic look, and the wheelarches have grown to accommodate wheels that span from 16 to 19 inches in diameter. The front grille follows the three-dimensional form of other models, with a prominent three-pointed star badge surrounded by chrome diamond pins in a radial pattern.
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Upswept headlamps incorporate "torch-like" daytime running lights and add an aggressive, assertive look. Sharp feature lines draw the eyes towards the windscreen pillars from the top of the grille, framing a low, wide bonnet, while sculpted lower door surfaces add visual weight grant the A-Class a more athletic stance than before.
The rear end has a softer, less angular look than the outgoing model, and the shape of the tail-lights mirrors those at the front, while twin chrome exhaust finishers add a sense of symmetry as well as hinting at high-performance versions to come.Mercedes A-Class infotainment
Mercedes is phasing in an all-new infotainment system named UBEX, which stands for Mercedes Benz User Experience. It aims to simplify the dashboard by combining the climate-control system with all the usual entertainment and navigation functions.
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It"s also claimed to feature artificial intelligence (AI) that allows it to learn frequently used commands and preferences. Updates can be performed "over the air" rather than requiring dealership re-programming.
Like larger Mercedes models, the A-Class uses two neighbouring screens to create the illusion of a single, seamless display. One of these replaces traditional binnacle dials, while the other is placed right next to it, producing what Mercedes calls a ‘widescreen cockpit’. Three versions of this setup will be available; two seven-inch displays, a combination of seven and 10.25-inch displays, or two 10.25-inch displays. It’s likely that similar combinations will eventually become available across the Mercedes range.
Unlike in previous Mercedes models, the central screen is now touch-sensitive, but can also be navigated using a touchpad that occupies the space formerly inhabited by the rotary dial, and there are touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel, too. The A-Class is the first Mercedes to get this technology, but you can expect to see it reach other models in the future.
Voice recognition is also set to take a major role in the interior of the new A-Class. Much like similar systems on mobile phones, the car can be readied to receive commands by saying a set phrase – in this case, ‘Hey Mercedes’. The car’s AI means it’ll learn your habits to further improve the experience, and it"s claimed to understand "natural speech".
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The dashboard is modern, sleek and simple, with a focus on quality materials like open-pore wood trim and brushed metal. Its wraparound design is particularly striking, as are its jet-engine-like vents and ambient lighting system; Mercedes says the 12 colours selectable in the old car have grown to 64, while the whole system will be more sophisticated in general, making for "an avantgarde lighting display with spectacular colour changes" and using energy-saving LED lights.
Improved seats will also feature, with three front-seat options, including basic and comfort versions, along with a sportier option with integrated headrests. Mercedes claims a 10% improvement in all-round visibility, too. Most importantly, the A-Class will be bigger inside than before, with more elbow, shoulder and headroom for front and rear occupants as well as more interior stowage – the rear doors include one-litre bottle holders.
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Boot space has increased to 370 litres (29 litres more than the old car), thanks to a luggage compartment floor that"s some 11.5cm longer. A 20cm wider loading aperture means It should be easier to load, too.
As with today’s car, the A-Class hatchback will be five-door only, reflecting increased global demand for cars with rear doors over sportier three-door models. It"ll be joined later by an A-Class saloon model, which was previewed with the firm’s Concept A vision earlier this year.Engines
While the familiar A-Class designations of A200, A250 and A180d continue, the engines they refer to are quite different than before. These, the first models to be offered, all promise improvements in fuel economy and reductions in CO2 emissions, yet available 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox suggest that driver enjoyment hasn"t been forgotten.
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The A200 uses a new 161bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine co-developed with Renault. It"s the first Mercedes engine to feature automatic cylinder shut-off, which effectively reduces the engine size when full power isn"t called for. Fuel economy of 55.4mpg is promised, with CO2 emissions of 120g/km. The first examples will come with the dual-clutch automatic gearbox, with manual and four-wheel-drive options to follow.
The A250 has 222bhp and is exclusively offered with the dual-clutch automatic gearbox, although front and four-wheel drive versions will be offered. The former can return 47mpg, with 141g/km CO2 exhaust emissions.
As expected, the A180d is the most economical. It uses a 1.5-litre diesel engine that was co-developed with Renault, but uses Mercedes-specific components in the A-Class. Claimed fuel consumption is 68.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 108g/km.
These engines could be joined by a three-cylinder diesel that might be used in future plug-in hybrid models. Mercedes’ engine chief Bernhard Heil told Carbuyer that the engine “could be an option because in future there might come electrification, where it might make sense to have a three-cylinder”.
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Hall"s comments also support rumours of an all-electric EQ A hatchback that could arrive in around two years’ time – this will be a BMW i3 rival with a minimum range of 250 miles.
Hot-hatchback fans can look forward to a new Mercedes-AMG A45 that could offer even more power than the current car’s 376bhp – a remarkable 400bhp is believed to be the target. This model could be joined by a second high-performance model, possibly in the form of a Mercedes-AMG A43.Pricing and availability
Exact pricing and UK specification have yet to be announced, but the Mercedes A-Class is likely to head to UK showrooms later this year, following its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
In order to stay competitive, we expect A-Class pricing to stay fairly close to its current level. At the moment, an entry-level A180d starts at £23,150, while an A250 in AMG-Line trim starts at £30,225. Exact pricing is likely to be confirmed soon before the A-Class goes on sale in the UK.