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The new A–Class represents a sea change in the quality of Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level offering. We test the A200...

Although the closely contested automotive arms race between the German Big Three can be dated to the early 20th century, these firms broke premium-hatchback ground only within a year or so of one another in the 1990s. With BMW’s E36 3 Series-based Compact treading its own RWD path, it was the sales rivalry between Mercedes-Benz’s A-Class and Audi’s A3 that set the premium-hatch-segment rolling.

Closely based on the Volkswagen Golf, the A3 represented a safe approach to the new field, majoring in refinement and build quality as adjuncts to a badge that, at the time, did not hold quite the same cachet as the Three-pointed Star.

Benz adopted the opposite method, hinging innovations such as a space-creating and crash-safety-improving “sandwich” chassis construction to a brand already possessed of a powerful draw. It proved something of a double-edged sword, though. The first-generation gained notoriety for its failure of the “elk test” evasive-manoeuvre exercise, while the second-generation car, although better crafted and spacious, looked rather MPV-dumpy when viewed against sleeker rivals. Benz’s more recent tilt at the premium-hatch segment placed greater emphasis on styling as the outgoing model attempted to offset its dynamic and packaging shortcomings with a bold wrapper. But, with the A3 seemingly going from strength to strength, this fourth-generation car needed more than just a pretty face adorned with that covetable badge to make a meaningful impact.

When Mercedes-Benz unveiled the striking Concept A at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show, appetites were suitably whetted for the production version to come. While Mercedes-Benz has attempted to slant the style-versus-substance equation a little more to the latter, the new car’s close adherence to the Concept A’s design means it’s no shrinking violet. As the first recipient of the firm’s “predator face”, the A affects a striking pose (head-on, at least). The tail, although echoing the more horizontally oriented taillamp array that’s become a Benz staple, is by contrast neat but largely nondescript.

While the new A-Class is underpinned by a reworked front-wheel-drive platform marginally longer in the wheelbase and wider in the beam, its interior dimensions are close to those of its predecessor. It may have been an upshot of the chunky, well-bolstered AMG line seats fitted to our test unit (other versions have more traditionally shaped seats with adjustable headrests), but our measurements showed that, while luggage space has taken a welcome upward hike from 208 to 272 litres, rear kneeroom is similar. The seats, although form-fitting and supportive fore and aft, also feature fixed headrests that impinge on the degree to which the rear backrest can be flattened with a six-foot occupant up front, compromising the utility space to some degree.

But that about covers any gripes we could level at the A’s interior. The design and execution of the facia represents a sea change from the previous car’s creaky and ergonomically clumsy affair. Although not quite as dense of plastic and rattle-free as an Audi A3’s innards, the A’s interior nonetheless feels considerably better screwed together and has character its rivals would kill for. Touches such as the ambient-lit turbine air vents which glow red or green according to HVAC temperature control inputs, plus the glass panel that houses Mercedes’ crisp, function-rich MBUX “Hey Mercedes” infotainment interface (a version which is optional; smaller displays are standard with more limited MBUX functionality) and the extra-cost digital-instrument cluster floating above the tiered dash are an absolute treat to behold.

Mercedes-Benz has stuffed a good deal of sound-deadening material into the new car and the improvement in overall running NVH is palpable. But, while the cabin is well insulated against road noise on anything other than really coarse-grained surfaces, the Renault co-developed 1,3-litre turbopetrol engine occasionally sounds mechanically unrefined when pushed – there’s a curious rough patch between 2 500 and 3 000 r/min that can be clearly felt in the steering and pedals – but this smoothens out once at speed.

One aspect of the engine that doesn’t disappoint, however, is its overall performance. With 120 kW and 250 N.m served up in a broad swathe from 1 620 to 4 000 r/min, it’s a flexible unit with plenty of punch in the mid-to-upper rev range, posting a sub-nine-second 0-100 km/h sprint time during performance testing and impressively matching the manufacturer’s claimed 6,7 L/100 km on our fuel run.

The A’s reworked seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is generally a smooth operator and feels a bit more alert than the previous car’s unit, although manual inputs are still rather leisurely. The low-speed slip which often afflicts dual-clutch units is thankfully all but absent here, although the grabby brakes require practised modulation to make low-speed manoeuvring less abrupt. At speed, that sensitive pedal and strong bite brought the A to a stop from 100 km/h in less than three seconds, garnering an “excellent” rating on our testing scale.

Our A200 test unit was equipped with Mercedes-Benz’s Dynamic Body Control adaptive suspension. This setup incorporates a MacPherson strut front/multilink rear arrangement and is overseen by the firm’s Dynamic Select drivetrain-control system. While the virtues of this system’s drivetrain presets are largely moot, the adaptive suspension system works well to rein in body lean and is allied with steering that’s light yet direct to make the new A an entertaining little car to drive. The ride quality is similarly impressive, proving more supple and better resolved in terms of rebound and composure over larger road imperfections, despite working against 45-profile run-flat footwear.

While we were suitably pleased with the A’s newfound composed road manners, there is a caveat. The adaptive suspension system is a R22 400 option and Mercedes-Benz has decided to move away from the previous car’s multilink rear arrangement to a newly developed torsion beam tail on entry-level models. The firm’s engineers claim this new setup shaves 7 kg from the car’s kerb weight and its geometry has been tailored to serve up a comfortable ride befitting the brand’s products. Although we’ve no doubt Benz’s boffins have done all they can with what’s largely seen as a budget-car suspension arrangement (although it’s becoming more commonplace in this market, with the VW Group and Ford doing the same), such claims need to be taken with a pinch of salt and we’re going to reserve overall judgment of the new car’s capabilities once a standard-spec car comes our way.

Speaking of specification, the modestly equipped A has the potential to spring an unexpected price-tag trap for those giving little thought as to how their car is specced. Our unit bristled with around R200 000 of options and, while it appeared well equipped, it didn’t feel as special as the R700 000 price suggested. This is particularly galling when you take into consideration the car costs half a million rand before any extras are attached.
SPLIT, Croatia – If Mercedes-Benz's 2012 strategy of reimagining its third-generation A-Class into a fully fledged premium hatchback package has proved an inspired one, both in terms of slashing the average age of the brand’s ownership profile and welcoming a fresh batch of first-time Merc buyers into the family, the launch of the fourth-generation A looks set to grant the car proper trendsetter status.

Not only does the new car look suitably sleeker and more contemporary than the model it replaces, but Mercedes-Benz is rightfully proud of what it has achieved in terms of in-car infotainment technologies and, indeed, the way the new A-Class interacts with its owner.

Built on what is essentially a new platform, the fourth-generation (W177) A-Class is 120 mm longer and 16 mm wider than the model it replaces, yet is, on average, 20 kg lighter, model-for-model, than the outgoing range. Interestingly, despite a 30 mm stretch in wheelbase, there’s been no increase in rear passenger legroom, an area for which the previous A drew criticism.

Indeed, while the enlarged dimensions do translate to a welcome increase in both head- and shoulder room for all occupants, as well as a slightly larger luggage area, much of the focus in terms of the shape of the new A-Class has been around making the car that much more aerodynamic. A resultant drag coefficient of just 0,25 Cd (the previous car offered 0,26) means the more slippery design is not only more efficient, but also goes a long way towards newfound (and class-leading) levels of NVH – meaning the cabin is impressively well insulated from unwelcome exterior noises.

An undoubted highlight of an otherwise suitably upgraded A-Class interior (in terms of both fit and material finish) is Mercedes’ new MBUX interface. Best displayed via a (likely optional in most SA-bound models) 10,25-inch touchscreen mated seamlessly with a crisp digital instrument cluster, MBUX essentially offers all the functionality of a modern smartphone built into the car. While an entry-level system makes do with a dedicated 7-inch display, based on my experience with the highly customisable touchscreen, its wealth of functionality and its crystal-clear graphics, it’s the top-of-the-range unit that you’re going to want to save up for before ordering your new A-Class.

While voice-activation has been around for some time, MBUX (or, Mercedes-Benz user experience) introduces the kind of interaction previously reserved for modern smartphones and the latest home-based operating systems. Here, a simple “Hey, Mercedes” instruction is greeted by a “ how can I help you” response from the car. While there are still some obvious (likely accent-related) shortcomings on this system, I was nevertheless able to successfully switch on my seat cooling function with a “my seat is too warm” statement, and find various sat-nav-linked fast-food suggestions via a “I’m hungry” comment. Much like Apple’s Siri, MBUX has also been programmed with a bit of built-in humour – asked what she thinks of Tesla, her reply was “They are nice, and I like seeing one in my rear-view mirror”.

Like all such systems, there’s both a level of familiarity and a fair amount of novelty factor inevitably linked with it. That said, with Mercedes able to continuously offer cloud-based system updates, as well as such statistics that suggest around two-thirds of US citizens use at least one form of voice activation throughout their day, you have to think Mercedes has stolen a march on its rivals when it comes to how we’ll interact with our cars in the future.

While the model range destined for South Africa has yet to be finalised, at this stage three things are certain. The relatively inferior quality of our local diesel means we won’t be getting the impressively refined, all-new A180d; the A250 with its new 165 kW turbocharged 2,0-litre will eventually be announced; and the new A200 will be introduced at launch.

A200 by name yet 1,3 litres in displacement, this all-new turbocharged (M282) 1 332 cm3 engine was co-developed with Renault and offers 120 kW and 250 N.m of torque. Different to the Mercedes-built version offered in the A250, the A200’s seven-speed dual clutch transmission is a suitably refined and intuitive Getrag-sourced unit. While the cylinder-coating technologies shared with the Nissan GT-R are among the notable technological highlights of this engine, another significant feature is the introduction of cylinder deactivation under light load (cruising) driving conditions, thus saving fuel by engaging only two of the four available cylinders when conditions suit.

Willing enough both around town and on the open road, perhaps an unintended consequence of making the cabin so quiet is that a fair amount of mechanical strain can unfortunately be heard once this particular powertrain is asked to pick up the pace. While it certainly doesn’t feel like an 8,0-second 0-100 km/h car to me, accepting the relative limitations of this downsized engine and adapting your driving style accordingly should hopefully not detract too much from the otherwise premium feel of this package. Also, there’s the reward of a claimed 5,2 L/100 km to look forward to.

Another concession towards economies of scale (as well as, to a degree, packaging) is the standard fitment in smaller-engined A-Class models of a torsion beam rear suspension setup, where the faster derivatives keep their independent arrangements – on request linked with adaptive dampers. While I didn’t have a chance to sample the more affordable twist beam layout during my time with the A-Class, I suspect most A200 owners would be more than satisfied (or oblivious) with a trade-off in handling “prowess” compared with more powerful derivatives.

With an (optional in European markets) independent suspension fitted, the new A-Class offers a markedly improved ride quality compared with its predecessor. I also enjoyed the weightier steering setup and was relatively impressed with the way the front end stuck to its task under the strain of a more spirited driving style. As before, look to AMG to work its magic on this otherwise well-balanced package once both the forthcoming A35 and A45 derivatives arrive.

While in a traditional sense it seems slightly odd that a new infotainment system should be the highlight of an all-new vehicle launch, such is the pace with which we as consumers are seeking to both personalise and streamline our lives via interactive technologies, it’s difficult not to give Mercedes full marks for its ground-breaking progress in this department.

That said, rear passenger legroom aside, the new A-Class also improves on its predecessor in every department. A neater all-round package, the list of under-the-skin upgrades and refinements carried out by Mercedes’ “A-team” is remarkable.

Look to traditional motoring media to bemoan the absence of character and relative performance in the new A200’s drivetrain, yet anticipate heavy foot traffic through local dealership doors as, hopefully, Mercedes-Benz South Africa prices the new A-Class as the enticing entry point into the brand that it’s intended to be.

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: partial cloth + artificial leather
  • Leather bolster spartial leather: artificial
  • Leather upholstery: partial suede-cloth + artificial leather (opt artificial leather / opt leather)
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: opt front
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Run flat tyres: Optional
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Driver knee airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Rear side airbags: Optional
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 7 (opt 9)
  • Lane departure warning: opt lane keeping assist
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Optional
  • Attention assist rest assist break alert: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Directional turning headlights: opt LED
  • Adaptive headlights varying light distribution: opt LED
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: emergency-brake flashing brake lights
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Sports suspension: Standard
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: opt adaptive
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Eco, Comfort, Sport
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: touch
  • Head up display: Optional
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Optional
  • Cruise control: std (opt adaptive)
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Optional
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear
  • Central locking: keyless start (opt keyless access)
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: start (opt access)
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Optional
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: opt driver
  • Sun roof: opt panoramic
  • Panoramic roof: Optional
  • Electric seat adjustment: opt driver
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: opt driver
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: opt LED
  • Highbeam assist: Optional
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: opt rear / opt surround view
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Towbar trailer hitch: Optional
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 768 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 7
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automated dual-clutch
  • Transmission name: 7G-DCT
  • Gear shift paddles: Standard
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 225/45 R18 (opt 225/40 R19)
  • Reartyres: 225/45 R18 (opt 225/40 R19)
  • Length: 4419 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1796-1992 mm
  • Height: 1440 mm
  • Wheel base: 2729 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 11.0 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 370-1210 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 1210 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1355 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 515
  • Gross weight (GVM): 1870 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 675
  • Towing capacity - braked: 1600
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 43l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 6.9 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 4.8 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 5.6 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 128g/km
  • Power maximum: 120 kW
  • Power maximum total: 120 kW
  • Power peak revs: 5500 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 88.6 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 250 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1620-4000 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 250 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 185 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 8.0s
  • Maximum top speed: 225 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1332 cc
  • Engine size: 1.3l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.3T
  • Engine + detail: 1.3 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 2
  • Warranty distance (km): unlimited km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 5
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): service interval indicator max 20000 km
  • Brand: Mercedes-Benz
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 44002824
  • MMVariant: A 200 A/T
  • Introdate: 2019-02-18
  • DuoportarecordID: MercA-Cl_4h07

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Mercedes-Benz A-Class A200 hatch AMG Line for sale in Kempton Park from one of Carmag.co.za's apporoved car dealerships
Used A-Class A200 hatch AMG Line availbale from the following auto dealer:
Josca Motors used car dealership located in: Kempton Park, Gauteng, South Africa
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