The new small car has been comprehensively overhauled and, along with a new interior, features a newly developed suspension setup.
It receives two different suspension sets according to compact vehicle testing boss Jochen Eck, and while both use the same MacPherson strut set-up at the front, they differ radically at the rear.
Lower end models will now feature a new torsion beam setup while other models will run a revised version of the multi-link suspension first seen on the outgoing third-generation A-Class.
Eck says part of Mercedes strategy to revive the ageing A-Class was to improve its ride.
“We knew we had to improve the ride. The whole class has moved on since we launched the old model,” he said.
“We’ve spent a lot of time tuning the bushings and kinematic properties of both systems to get the result we were looking for. The added torsional rigidity of the body structure helps a lot, too.”
That rigidity also helps improve noise, vibration and harshness in the A-Class along with more sound deadening foam in the body structure, claimed Eck. He said that while the predecessor’s NVH “wasn’t too bad at launch”, the competition has upped its game.
The new A-Class’ electro-mechanical steering continues to offer a fixed ratio or variable ratio depending on the chosen model but the car maker has made some changes including a repositioning of the rack now sits further back in the chassis.
“It is still quite light in overall weighting and fairy direct in comparison to the competition, but there’s definitely more feedback and communication than before,” said Eck. “I think enthusiast drivers will like it. There’s more on-centre precision, but it doesn’t come at the expense of off-centre sharpness.”
Along with improved ride and handling, the new A-Class features better outward vision which Eck admits was a problem in the outgoing model.
“The pillars are now thinner and the rear side windows are also larger. There is much better vision to the rear.”
Its wheelbase has also grown 30mm in length and inside the cabin has been drastically spruced-up, with a new widescreen cockpit similar to the display fitted to the new S-Class and the most expensive option using two 10.3in displays. It will also feature touch operation for infotainment and navigation on a Mercedes for the first time.
A number of driving aids seen on high-end models will also trickle into the German brand’s small car offering such as active blind spot assistant, called Exit Assist, and an improved version of the existing model’s Park Assist with 360-degree camera.
There will be five petrol variants plus two performance models, A35 and A45, and four diesel options.
For our first stint in the new A-Class, we’re in the entry-level diesel variant, the 1.5-litre A160d on public roads near Arvidsjaur in the north of Sweden where Mercedes has been busy cold-weather testing its entry-level model.
Although we’ve only experienced the new Mercedes from the passenger seat, it certainly feels smoother and more controlled than its predecessor over rough roads, even with the new torsion beam set-up and standard single rate dampers – the cheaper of the two suspension set-ups - as fitted to the A160d prototype.
There’s greater absorption of road shock and less vertical movement over bumps, particularly at the rear.
As well as improvements in comfort, noise, vibration and harshness are also better, and visibility appears superior, though we won’t know for sure until we are behind the wheel next year.
Eck believes the improved ride brings the new A-Class in-line with Mercedes’ finest offerings.
“The predecessor model was good, but I think we’ve managed to move the game along. It is more grown up, you could say it now meets the expectations of a Mercedes better than ever before.”
By next April we should be able to verify this for ourselves but for now, it appears the new A-Class is ready to replicate the sales success of its predecessor.