Think Mercedes-Benz and if you’re like me, you imagine seeing a black (or silver) sedan like the C-Class, E-Class and the S-Class. But don't forget that Mercedes-Benz also makes compact cars too.
It was the A-Class that started the ball rolling way back in 1997. 22 years later, the nameplate has gone from being a tall city car to a premium hatchback. But for a brand more known for building luxury SUVs and sedans, the A-Class is not exactly the first car that comes to mind for the typical Mercedes-Benz buyer, in a local setting at least.
But Mercedes-Benz wants to change that with the all-new A-Class. Now more than ever, it's aimed at the younger generation of car buyers that want a prestige branded car but with more youthful vibe. But can the A-Class actually do that feat?
Let's start with the most obvious of changes, outside. Right off the bat, I have to commend the designers for making the all-new A-Class sexier and sleeker. If the previous generation looked a bit chunky, the fourth-generation hatchback is more sculpted and streamlined, which gives it the illusion of motion even while standing still. From the thin headlights and sportier front grill and bumper, to the new taillights and lower roofline, this hatchback looks sharp.
While I much prefer hatchbacks painted in bright colors, the black finish on the A-Class actually suits it since it is a Mercedes-Benz after all. Even though black tends to hide some styling details, it still pops out in this hatch. Perhaps the only thing that I wished Mercedes-Benz Philippines would improve on the A-Class (style-wise) are the alloy wheels. Yes, the 17-inch set is nice, but a sportier set of alloys fill up the wheel arches much better in my book.
All in all, I am impressed of the redesign Mercedes-Benz made for the A-Class. Sure, the previous generation was already quite good looking. But to be honest, this new one is far better-looking and is pleasing to the eyes in every direction. Whoever penned this deserves a raise and a pat on the back.
If the exterior impressed us with its eye-catching looks, the interior dazzled us with its digital displays, aircraft-inspired aircon vents, ergonomic center console, splashes of metal accents and heaps of gloss black trim pieces. The driver’s seat is electronically-adjustable and comes with memory function. The passenger seat, sadly, is only manual adjust. However, both the driver and passenger seats benefit from what Mercedes-Benz calls 'Seat Kinetics', which basically means both have massage function.
Gone is the old COMAND infotainment system. Replacing it is the newer, more user-friendly MBUX. Short for ‘Mercedes-Benz User Experience’, it consist of two digital displays that show the instrument panel, and the media display. The digital panel can display various modes, and can even be altered to show a different look, depending on the driver's preference. Average fuel consumption, trip meter, odometer, as well as time spent on the road can also be displayed on the instrument panel.
The onboard infotainment system supports the usual AM/FM radio, USB, Bluetooth, as well as navigation (dealer option). Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both standard in the MBUX. I wasn't a fan of the COMAND's touchpad as I found it to be not as intuitive as I'd hoped. Thankfully, the one on the MBUX is better and feels like you're pressing on a laptop's touchpad. Did I mention how crisp the graphics are on both displays?
Should you be too lazy to fiddle with the touchpad or touchscreen itself, the MBUX does come with voice commands. Just say 'Hey Mercedes' and the system will immediately ask for your requests. While it is a neat feature, you do have to sound a bit German (or European) for it to understand your commands. So far I was only able to make it lower or raise the temperature of the climate control. It can search for points of interests via the navigation system, but you do have to have navigation installed on the car for it to work, however.
There are additional charging points inside A-Class aside from the 12V power socket placed on the center console, as well as for the rear passengers. However, they are of the USB-C kind. If you're more used to the typical USB port, you have to have an adapter at the ready in order to charge your devices. Even the port for plugging in a flash drive and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto makes use of USB-C. I wished Mercedes-Benz made use of the traditional ports, for the sake of convenience.
In true Mercedes-Benz fashion, Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH) isolation inside the A-Class was great. However, I do have to say that the power windows were a bit noisy during operation. The fan from the automatic climate control remain relatively hushed, however, even at its highest setting. Meanwhile, the buttons throughout the cabin felt tactile and appear to be of high quality.
A turbocharged 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine makes its home under the hood of the all-new A-Class. While it's smaller than the old 1.6 turbo from before, it produces more horsepower at 136 PS (+14). Torque, however, remains the same at 200 Nm. Like its predecessor, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sends power to the front wheels.
Don’t let its small size fool you. Sure, 136 PS won't set any speed records, it delivers sprightly performance nonetheless. That's thanks to 200 Nm of torque available on tap from its turbocharged four-cylinder. The result is quick acceleration from a relatively small engine. There is also generous amounts of torque as early as 1460 rpm which is useful especially during overtaking or when you're carrying additional passengers.
Dual-clutch transmissions are not known for being the smoothest of gearboxes. However, the one on the A-Class is actually quite refined. Yes, there is a bit of shift shock from first gear to second gear. But other than that, the dual-clutch went through the other gears smoothly. Whether it's upshifting or downshifting, the seven-speed did not disappoint when it came to performance. And should you want to switch gears yourself, the A-Class comes standard with paddle shifters, which are always a plus in my opinion.
Complementing the turbocharged engine is its nippy handling. Thanks to its relatively low ride height, the A-Class has a low center of gravity which helps it be more stable during turns. Turn the wheel and the car immediately follows your intended path. Meanwhile, the electronic power steering, is adaptable. This meant it was light in city driving and during parking, adding a little more weight during highway driving.
Ride comfort, on the other hand, is average to say the least. As it is a 'sporty hatchback', the dampers are a bit on the firmer side of things.Still, the chassis did a good job of absorbing the worst Metro Manila had to offer. Well, it's still a Benz after all.
As for fuel economy, the turbocharged A-Class delivered respectable figures. Out on the highway or expressway, the hatchback was able to return about 15.0 - 16.0 km/l. In the city, the A-Class was able to average between 9.0 - 10.0 km/l.
Despite the hatchback's diminutive size, Mercedes-Benz took great care in giving the A-Class a large enough cargo space at the back. I reckon the A-Class can carry a weekend's worth of bags, and still have enough space to hold several boxes. Fold the split rear seats, and you can carry longer items for easier transportation.
So the A-Class is one of the stepping stones to owning a three-pointed star. Its relatively small size, quirky looks, as well as level of technology, have all the makings of a premium hatchback priced at less than Php 3 million. However, not everything was great with the A-Class. They could have added more standard amenities and features inside the A-Class.
For starters, I was surprised to see that the hatchback does not come with LED / HID headlights and instead only comes with halogen reflectors. The standard sound system was not as impressive as I’d hope, which was a bit of a downer. I also wished that the front passenger had the benefit of having a power-adjustable seat. Yes, the A180 is an entry-level model, but the missing features mentioned would at least make it look and feel even more upmarket.
So it's not the most well-appointed car out there, but it doesn't compromise on safety. Mercedes-Benz fitted the A-Class with a wide array of safety features like front and rear parking sensors, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, a host of airbags, traction and stability controls, as well as a reverse camera. Beyond that, the A-Class also comes with active driver aids. Thanks to a radar-based system which constantly monitors the road, the hatchback comes with forward collision warning with active brake assist, as well as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.
At Php 2,690,000, the A180 is the most affordable way to get a (brand new) three-pointed star. Sure, it's not the most feature-packed car out there, but it will impress you with things you don't see but rather feel, such as build quality and general feeling of solidity.
But say you want an A-Class but in a different flavor. There is the CLA which is basically the swoopier and more dashing four-door, but that model is selling at Php 3,190,000 (+ Php 500,000 more). But if you really want an A-Class in a more traditional shape, there's the A-Class Sedan at Php 100,000 more and comes with a turbo-diesel engine.