From £25,800
The wide array of specced options to try makes the latest-generation A-Class a long-term story with room to develop

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz A-Class 2018 road test review hero front

This new version is the most luxurious A-Class yet, but has Mercedes made it a class leader?

Mark Tisshaw
12 March 2019

Why we’re running it: To see if this VW Golf rival has come of age, and to pick the ‘perfect’ version

Month 4Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Month 4

Getting selective with the options list - 20th February 2019

Some option packs are better value than others. The A-Class’s £1395 Executive Package certainly works. It includes heated seats (essential in winter), the excellent 10.25in larger central infotainment screen, front and rear parking sensors, electrically folding mirrors (those last two are vital in our HQ’s tight multi-storey), and the ability to park itself, which I’ve yet to try.

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Mileage: 2409

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Finally settled on buying an A-Class? The tricky bit’s deciding which one - 13th February 2019

Now we’re onto our second Mercedes-Benz A-Class – this A200 AMG Line following the original A180d Sport – the different ways in which an A-Class can be specced to create cars with such different characters are really starting to manifest themselves. Each difference between the two A-Classes is big enough on its own, but combined they create a car that feels like something new again.

The most obvious distinction between this A200 and its A180d predecessor is, of course, the engine – and the fuel station pump at which you fill it. The A200 uses a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol unit to the A180d’s 1.5-litre diesel. The 161bhp/184lb ft engine, co-developed with Renault-Nissan, feels of far greater displacement than its official 1332cc figure suggests, offering plenty of torque at low revs and surprising muscularity at higher revs. You can’t say that about too many downsized turbo petrol units, although it does share its zingy soundtrack when under loads with its small-engined cousins.

Impressive everyday economy was a strong suit of the A180d and surprisingly – given that downsized turbo petrols are typically among the worst performers in the real world – you can easily get upwards of 40mpg in the A200, and even push 50mpg if you drive parsimoniously. That’s within spitting distance of the official claimed figure of 53.3mpg. Bravo, Mercedes.

One piece of the driveline the two cars do share is their seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Its performance at step-off and low revs was the worst part of the A180d. The transmission is better in the A200, but not perfect. More work is needed to better integrate it with the engine, and ensure faster and more responsive getaways to get you through gaps in the traffic and roundabouts.

The chassis is the other big mechanical change. As discussed previously, the A180d uses a torsion beam set-up for the rear suspension, while the A200 AMG Line gains a multi-link rear axle (non-AMG Line A200s get the torsion beam). Jumping into the A200 for the first time, it felt much more alive in the way it went down the road and engaged the driver. I was surprised at just how much more agile it felt, but put this down to the lighter petrol engine over the front axle helping the handling feel more nimble more than the rear suspension offering greater body control.

Comparing the ride between the two cars is a more subjective thing, as it’s not as simple as torsion beam versus multi-link. The A200 comes with the larger 18in AMG alloy wheels, as opposed to the 17in rims of the A180d, and associated lower-profile tyres (225/45 in the A200 plays 205/55 in the A180d). The A200 does feel a touch firmer than the A180d, but the ride is more sophisticated, less ploddy and with better body control. We’re going to keep experimenting with different wheel and suspension set-ups to see if a sweet spot can be found, but it’s advantage A200 AMG Line in the chassis stakes so far.

The interior is also a step up in class and sophistication from the already impressive A180d Sport. You’d expect that in a pricier, range-topping trim, but the AMG Line does deliver. The sports seats grip you well and are pleasing to the look and touch, while the optional £1395 Executive Package provides a further boost in perceived quality. Among its additions is a larger 10.25in screen for the central display, the highlight of which is the crispness and clarity of the graphics. A map has never looked so good.

I’d grown rather fond of the A180d. As an entry-level ‘real-world’ model (ie the best value you can get for both spec and running costs), it felt like the kind of car to do 20,000 fuss-free motorway miles in each year. The A200 shows just how differently the A-Class can be flavoured, with no less pleasing results.

Love it:

Sleek styling This A-Class isn’t pretty from every angle, but it’s never looked better than in black with AMG Line trim.

Loathe it:

Transmission response Step-off is better in the A200 than the A180d, but still not as smooth as it should be.

Mileage: 1844

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Time for a change - 30th January 2019

The A180d we started this test with has been replaced by the A200 you see here. The A200’s 161bhp 1.3-litre turbo petrol, on first impressions, revs nicely and helps improve the overall drivability compared with the A180d’s 1.5-litre diesel. AMG Line brings a leap in toys and perceived quality over the A180d’s Sport and the more sophisticated suspension subtly improves agility.

Mileage: 1455

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Life with a Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Month 3

Pass me another A-Class, we’re done with this one - 9th January 2019

By the time you read this, A-Class number one of three in this series of back-to-back tests will have returned to its maker. This A180d is to be replaced by a petrol-powered A200, meaning the diesel leg of this trilogy is over and the first set of conclusions can be drawn.

What’s worth noting straight from the off is just how relevant a diesel engine of any type remains if you do big miles. When you’re doing just shy of 2000 miles a month, as we were averaging in our short stint in the car, diesel makes the best sense of all.

Our average economy figure has slipped from the 60mpg around which it had hovered in the early days. The weather has cooled and the number of shorter journeys has increased, but we’re still mightily impressed by a 55mpg average. That will make for interesting comparison number one as we switch from our 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel to a downsized 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol in the A200.

Just what will our wallets make of the switch? From previous experience, downsized petrols are some of the least impressive for real-world economy. We’ll have the calculator out over the next couple of months and let you know.

One thing I won’t miss about this A-Class is the transmission. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox’s step-off is the single worst thing about the car. There is simply no go when you ask for it with your right foot, no matter how gentle or hard you are on the pedal. It takes a good second for drive to appear, which is as unimpressive as it is baffling: just how did Mercedes sign off the car like this?

It’s a shame, because for the most part the transmission makes for an easy-going counterpart to the A180d once you’re on the move. It kicks down with minimal fuss when required and offers impressive drivability in the 30-50mph acceleration bursts that are a part of everyday driving.

The seven-speed dual clutch auto also appears in the A200, so it will be intriguing to see whether the issue is one related to the transmission itself or one caused by its integration with the diesel engine.

The next big difference between this A180d and the incoming A200 is the rear suspension. Both the A180d and A200 use the torsion beam rear suspension option – unless you spec your A200 in AMG Line trim, which our car will include to add an extra element to this story.

On the standard suspension set-up and with 17in alloys in this mid-range Sport trim, the A180d rides well but not with class-leading status. There is greater sophistication in the way a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus rides. The A180d’s body control comes unstuck over higher frequency surfaces and can set the cabin shaking. Intriguingly, there were a couple of big dissenters among the Autocar staff on the way the A180d rides on this standard set-up.

The final big change we’ll be noticing is with the MBUX infotainment system. Our A180d has the dual 7in screens, one centrally for the infotainment and another for the driver’s instruments.

Others who have experienced the larger 10.25in options in other A-Classes have smirked at how small it is, yet I’ve never had an issue with the graphics, legibility, size or functionality. I’m looking forward to seeing if bigger does mean better when we upgrade one of the two screens on the A200.

Love it:

SEAT COMFORT Not one fidget, tweak of the back or numbing of a bum cheek on even a 400-mile journey.

Loathe it:

ACTIVE LANE KEEP ASSIST If you don’t want it on, you have to turn it off every single time you restart the ignition.

Mileage: 4875

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Mercedes feels ahead in tech terms - 27th December 2018

Having spent much of the past year in a Golf, I thought it’d take more than a month or two to familiarise myself with the A-Class. Wrong. Last week I jumped back into a Golf and was surprised by how dated the VW felt. The A-Class has greater material richness and its technology and slickness surpass the VW’s – a car that’s likely on the podium for its class alongside the Audi A3.

Mileage: 4222

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Life with a Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Month 2

One of these cars was the third bestseller in October, the other fifth. Which is which? - 28 November 2018

When did mainstream cars become so expensive? Was it about the same time that the premium players came down to more mainstream segments such as the family hatchback class to try and steal the established players’ lunch?

After a month or so quickly piling on the miles in our recently acquired Mercedes-Benz A-Class and getting to know it rather well for the months of this test that lie ahead, I thought it best not to let the chance slip by and do similar with the Ford Focus.

After all, it’s the likes of Focus buyers who have fallen under the spell of that Mercedes badge and saved a few extra pennies.

The Focus and our A-Class share very similar mechanical specifications. Both use small-capacity four-cylinder diesel engines (1.5 for the Focus, 1.3 for the A-Class) closely matched on power, torque and 0-62mph time (118bhp, 192lb ft and 10.2sec in the Ford plays 114bhp, 221lb ft and 10.5sec in the Merc).

Both use automatic gearboxes (an eight-speed torque convertor for the Ford, seven-speed dual-clutch auto for the Merc). They also both have MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension.

And the cost? There’s less than £1000 in it, in the sporty ST-Line X trim in the Focus, and the sporty, erm, Sport trim of the A-Class. By the time you fiddle with the various standard kits and options, you end up with quite literally just a few extra pennies for the Mercedes. Translate that to a PCP deal and a monthly payment, and diddly-squat becomes the numerical value.

The point? For however brilliant the Focus is to drive, and it is that, the quality of Mercedes and its overall package are of huge appeal, and the best example of how the premium players are squeezing the middle-market mainstream brands with cars such as the A-Class. Ask the average car buyer whether they’d have a Ford or a Mercedes for the same money, and we can all guess the answer.

It’s working for Mercedes, too. The A-Class is perhaps the most commonly spotted new car I’ve seen on the roads this autumn, after the ubiquitous Ford Fiesta. Hardly surprising, when it was the third bestselling new car in the UK in September. Third bestselling? Crikey.

Like me, all those owners will be discovering more about what an interesting car it is to live with. The Mercedes’ interior and technology are in a different league from anything else the segment has seen.

The MBUX infotainment system may be ‘only’ the entry-level one with the two 7.0in screens rather than the full S-Class-style widescreen treatment across the whole dashboard, but it’s wanting for nothing in functionality.

I’m experimenting more with the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice activation system, which is definitely one of the better ones I’ve encountered. The trick is to speak to it normally, and not like a robot. ‘Hey Mercedes, can you call Andrew Frankel, please?’ will have you on the phone to the road test guru faster than ‘Hey Mercedes. Call. ANDREW FRANKEL’. ‘I’m sorry, could you repeat that?’

I’m continuing to be bowled over by the effortless efficiency of the A180d. The economy has settled around 60mpg now the weather has got colder, a quite extraordinary figure and in another league again to the 45mpg or so average I got from a similar drivetrain in the Focus. That’s another part of the financial argument in the Merc’s favour.

Yet there’s a negative point on the transmission, specifically at step-off. It’s just so darn slow to react. Take this example. There’s a T-junction on my commute on the edge of town. You have to pull across the traffic to join a lane that has just come around a blind corner. Gaps in the traffic can be only a second or two, so once you add in your reaction time and the time for the transmission to engage and then to pull away, the gap could well have gone.

Manual gearboxes are coming soon to the A-Class and I suspect its overall quality will only increase more when that day comes.

Love it:

Quality feel Classiness and quality run through the A-Class. Solid door thuds are as pleasing as the crispness of the interior screen graphics.

Loathe it:

Ride quality ‘Loathe’ is strong, but the ride is proving divisive. It’s too firm for some, lacking sophistication for others. I’d call it okay.

Mileage: 3462

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Life with a Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Month 1

Odometer makes for positive reading - 14th November 2018

In less than a month since it joined us, the A-Class has racked up a vast number of miles – a sign of how well it fits into daily life. Yet much debate has started in the office among those who’ve driven it: ride quality (mixed), fuel economy (highly regarded), suitability of the transmission (not popular), interior quality (a high point), and size (Golf-like ‘just right’). Much to explore further…

Mileage: 3222

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Welcoming the A-Class to the fleet - 31st October 2018

It’s testament to the impact Mercedes-Benz has made with the A-Class in the UK that the arrival of this all-new fourth-generation model has been considered one of the most keenly anticipated launches of the year.

We say fourth generation, but you could argue it’s only really the second given the A-Class’s radical transformation in its previous generation from futuristic, spacious, ahead-of-its-time MPV-supermini mash-up to, dimensions-wise, a meat and two veg family hatchback pitched right at the heart of the European family hatchback market.

The last A-Class was a staple of the UK’s top 10 bestselling cars list each month, buyers attracted to it in their droves by the attractive £199 per month PCP deals that were regularly being advertised as the most affordable way into Mercedes ownership. It worked: the A-Class was a key reason behind Mercedes’ march to the top of the premium brand sales charts in the UK and the fourth-top-selling brand overall.

While we’re here, that’s quite a remarkable statistic. Mercedes sold more cars in the UK last year than Renault, Peugeot and Toyota to name just three, and the A-Class is one of the biggest players in the family segment in the way the Mégane, 308 and Corolla were a decade or two ago. Premium really is the new mainstream.

There are three different engines initially available from dealers who are tasked with continuing that success. Yet there are so many subplots within the range that this will be a long-term test with a twist.

For starters, KT18 RZA you see here is a car we’ll be saying goodbye to much earlier than we normally would, for by the time the year is out another shiny new A will be along replace it.

Why so? To try to get as broad an experience as possible in the new A-Class. Early drives have suggested it is a car that can be specced in different ways to alter its character so dramatically; we really need to try more than one car in one solitary spec to make our recommendations.

Up first, then, is an A180d Sport. This car’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit with 114bhp and 192lb ft is the only diesel option until the more potent 2.0-litre A200d and A220d arrive very soon. Drive is sent to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the only transmission available. Don’t worry: manuals are available in some petrol variants.

The petrols for now are a 161bhp 1.3-litre turbo in the A200 and a 221bhp 2.0-litre turbo in the A250, while a 187bhp 2.0-litre in the A220 with optional four-wheel drive is due to split them. There’s also a 134bhp 1.3-litre in the entry-level A180. A headline-grabbing, Volkswagen Golf R-rivalling A35 AMG has also recently been announced, ahead of a launch next year – our current plan being to crown this test with a longer stint in that car with what might be the A-Class’s greatest hits album.

But there’s much to discover before we draw any conclusions like that. Such as finding out more about one of the key stories in this A-Class: the suspension of its rear wheels. The A250 is the only A-Class available now with the multi-link rear suspension, the A180d and A200 getting an eyebrow-raising torsion beam. Unless you spec your A200 with the 18in alloys in AMG Line trim, which is due to follow our initial torsion-beam-equipped A180d to get that comparison.

Trim wise, our car is a Sport, which sits in the middle of the A-Class range. For the £27,340 asked by Mercedes, you get a level of kit that hasn’t left us wanting for much in these early days. The wheels are the standard Sport 17in rims, and the only option is metallic paint. That leaves the standard kit list to include dual-zone air-con, some excellent LED headlights and the new MBUX infotainment system controlled through either the standard 7.0in touchscreen, the trackpad on the centre tunnel or the steering wheel controls.

All those controls seemed a bit bewildering when I first sat in the car, perhaps due to such recent personal familiarity with BMW/Mini and Volkswagen Group systems, yet already I’m finding it intuitive to use.

The vibrancy of the graphics is a highlight, as is my experience of the Hey Mercedes voice control. Utter those two words and you get Siri-style search function of the car’s controls, as well as some online search too. I’ve heard from colleagues that the system was quite buggy on its initial international press launch, yet it got up the number of a taxi firm in Norwich I needed (is that you, Mr Partridge?) the first time I used it.

One other first impression: the A180d has an engine of effortless efficiency. Economy is closer to 70mpg than 60mpg (claimed: 68.9mpg). That’s quite remarkable with only 1000 or so miles on the odometer. The car covered another 1000 miles or so in its first couple of weeks with us, and that kind of economy over those kinds of motorway distances is the latest case for the defence of diesel. In cars like this used in this manner, the black pump makes absolute sense.

And did I mention that interior? Well, it’s not just lovely to look at, it’s also lovely to sit in and navigate your way around its controls. That’s just the entry-level system: we’ll be testing the optional 10.25in screens for the full widescreen cinema experience over the course of these updates for another element to this developing story.

Are you sitting comfortably? We have a busy and exciting few months ahead getting to know this most important of new cars, and so we’d better begin.

Second Opinion

Two things stand out. First, its all-round excellence: the steering and low-speed ride make rivals seem coarse, and promise a fantastic next-gen Golf if VW is to keep up. Second, how much more conventional it is from the first, nutty, shorter-than-Fiesta edition. Seems VW was right all along.

Steve Cropley

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Mercedes-Benz A-Class A180D Sport specification

Specs: Price New £27,340 Price as tested £27,935 Options Mountain grey metallic paint £595

Test Data: Engine 4 cyl, 1461cc, turbocharged diesel Power 114bhp at 5000rpm Torque 192lb ft at 1750rpm Kerb weight 1445kg Top speed 126mph 0-62mph 10.5sec Fuel economy 62.1mpg CO2 111g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Comments
59

25 November 2018
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25 November 2018

So the cheaper torsion beam suspension will be a bigger issue for rear seat comfort. I hope you test the car with passengers aboard to test this fully.

25 November 2018

Mercedes are currently advertising these as available from £269 per month with a £4700 or so deposit, plus you will not own the car at the end of the term. What a collossal waste of money.

25 November 2018

I'll sort you one for £250PM 47M + 1x£1500, inc VAT, 10k per year, plus my fee of £240. How's that sound?  Or perhaps the Merc isn't for you.

26 November 2018
I love this site when it comes to motor news

26 November 2018

Interesting to see it without the massive screens. Is it just me, or is there no rev counter?

27 November 2018

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