Mercedes-Benz has announced the key details of its 2018 A-Class compact hatch ahead of the new model’s public debut at the the Geneva Motor Show in March.
The German prestige automaker has put a big focus on infotainment and connectivity with its new model, which debuts an all-new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) interface that brings a new voice control system, high definition augmented reality navigation, and touch screen control not even offered on its range-topping S-class.
The fourth-generation hatchback, which launches as a five-door before being joined by a new four-door sedan, will reach Australia during the third-quarter of 2018 and is set to become the first of an entirely refreshed range compact models under development at Mercedes-Benz.
By the end of 2020 the entire range - including successors to the current CLA four-door coupe, CLA Shooting Brake, and style-led GLA SUV - will be revealed. New models, like a more family-focussed GLB SUV and the all-electric EQ A previewed at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, will also be introduced.
Based on a modified version of the MFA platform from the current A-Class, the new model features a 30mm longer wheelbase and 14mm wider front track, the new 2018 A-Class is also claimed to offer vastly improved levels of refinement compared to its predecessor thanks to improvements in body rigidity, more comprehensive sound deadening measures and enhanced aerodynamics.
The new A-Class adopts Mercedes-Benz’ latest Sensual Purity design language, first seen on the recently unveiled third-generation CLS, with a focus on reduced body creases and simplified surfaces, capped at each end with aggressively angled head and tail lights and a so-called predator face with an AMG-inspired grille.
The adoption of the larger platform leads to an incremental increase in external dimensions. Length is up by 120mm at 4419mm, width increases by 16mm to 1796mm and height extends by 2mm to 1440mm.
The increases have enabled Mercedes-Benz to improve the overall versatility of the A-Class through the inclusion of larger rear door apertures to ease entry to the rear and a boot, whose capacity has grown by 29 litres over the old model at a nominal 370-litres.
Despite growing in size, the aerodynamic properties of the new A-Class have also improved. Mercedes-Benz claims a class leading drag coefficient of 0.25, which it says has been achieved through a series of measures, including the adoption of it so-called Airpanel with louvres that open and close depending on engine cooling requirements behind the grille.
While the A-Class wears a striking new look on the outside, it’s inside where the Mercedes development teams concentrated much of their effort.
The new A-Class, which receives a distinctive dashboard mounted black panel display and switchgear similar in style and treatment to that first introduced to the S-Class.
As standard, there are two 7.0-inch displays, an analogue instrument cluster and the first touchscreen infotainment system to be offered on a Mercedes-Benz model. Further standard features include a multi-function steering wheel with touch control buttons, USB-C connectivity, and Bluetooth phone and audio compatibility.
Alternatively, customers can also order the new car with dual 7.0-inch digital displays. As a flagship option a pair of twin 10.3-inch displays, with a digital instrument display and touch screen infotainment system, is also available.
The extended widescreen system adds a wi-fi hotspot and can be optioned with high definition navigation with live traffic updates and Car-to-X communication with map updates, a head-up display unit, traffic sign assist, augmented reality navigation, and a Burmester sound system among other functions.
The highlight of Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX connectivity system introduced on the new A-Class is an advanced optional speech recognition system designed to work along similar lines to “hey Siri’ and “okay Google” personal assistants.
It permits users to provide spoken commands through a “Hey Mercedes” function developed to understand conversational language rather than specifically worded commands.
The new A-class will be sold with the choice of three four-cylinder engines from the start of sales, though more are planned to join the range as production of the new hatchback ramps up at Mercedes-Benz factories in Germany and Hungary.
Among the petrol units is a heavily updated version of the Renault-Nissan produced 1.4-litre unit, the M282 as it is codenamed, delivering 120kW and 250Nm of torque in the A200.
Above it is Mercedes-Benz’s recently updated 2.0-litre engine, the M260, with 165kW and 350Nm in the A250 with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.2sec and an electronically limited 250km/h top speed.
A 1.5-litre diesel, also produced by Renault-Nissan, delivers 85kW and 260Nm in the A180d. Claimed to return 4.2 l/100km/h and boast average CO2 output of 108g/km on the combined European test cycle, thanks in part to AdBlue post-combustion exhaust treatment.
The A200 comes as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the A250 and A180d both receive a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox as standard. Although Mercedes-Benz has developed a new nine-speed dual clutch gearbox for transverse engine applications, it is not expected to be made available on the A-Class until the latter half of 2018.
Also offered is a newly developed 4Matic four-wheel drive system. Now featuring electro-mechanical operation instead of the electro-hydraulic set-up used on the third-generation A-Class, it also provides a fully variable apportioning of drive between the front and rear axles for improved traction.
For the first time A-Class will come with one of two suspension systems, depending on the model. All feature a MacPherson strut front end, but cheaper A200 and A180d variants run a simpler torsion beam rear end.
The more powerful models, including the A250, as well as those running the optional 4Matic four-wheel drive system are fitted with a modified version of the old A-Class’s multi-link rear end.
The standard suspension tune on all models is a so-called comfort set-up. With optional active damping control to allow a choice between comfort and sport setting via Mercedes-Benz’ Dynamic Select system that also allows the driver to alter the characteristics of the throttle, gearbox and steering.