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New car review

Mercedes-Benz A-Class test drive

Mercedes-Benz is the first to release the next wave of premium hatches, but is it enough to get ahead of the game?

What is it?

Premium hatchbacks have fast become one of the most popular segments on the market today, with three clear leaders – the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Despite this, they’ve all remained relatively unchanged for quite a few years now, but Mercedes has been the first to pull the trigger on the new generation of luxury hatches.

Not only does the three-pointed star have its sights set on getting an early lead in its class – with a new 1 Series on the horizon and Audi likely to refresh its hatch in the next couple of years – but also setting a new tech benchmark.

What’s new about the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class?

Although this is still instantly recognizable as an A-Class – despite a new design to bring it in line with Mercedes’ latest offerings – there’s plenty of new tech and engineering behind the hatchback.

The biggest selling point is a new infotainment system, dubbed MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). It’s designed to offer a more immersive experience – bringing a new Mercedes Me voice assistant, tons of customisation and some augmented reality features for satellite navigation.

Elsewhere, there’s semi-autonomous technology and a range of new engines – two petrol and one diesel.

How does it look?

The A-Class is the latest Mercedes to take on the more angular design language as introduced on the CLS. It remains instantly recognisable as a member of the German firm’s model line, but the new look is effective in bringing it firmly up to date.

Buyers will want to know their car will still stand out on the road in the same way its predecessors did, and it does thanks to sharp lines and a subtly aggressive look. The A-Class brings a presence to the road that rivals fail to deliver on.

What’s the spec like?

Our test car came in AMG Line trim, meaning standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, AMG bodystyling, LED headlights, keyless start and the MBUX system displayed on a seven-inch touchscreen.

Highlights on the options list include heated and ventilated seats, active parking assist and two ten-inch displays – one for the instrument cluster, and another for the MBUX system.

The MBUX system is the real highlight of the car. Not only is it intuitive, but the range of customisation options really brings a real touch of personalisation to the car. A ‘Mercedes Me’ voice assistant has been added here too – similar to the likes of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa – which allows some functions of the car to be controlled by voice, as well as providing deeper levels of information.

In theory, it’s a great idea but here it could do with some refinement in reality – often struggling to pick up basic phrases. As it’s cloud-based, it’s likely to be a fast-improving feature, though.

Continued on next page: Interior, drive and our verdict

Ryan Hirons
Ryan Hirons
Articles by Ryan Hirons are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.
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