5.11.2018Mercedes Benz A 180d review
Mercedes Benz has presented its A-Class as a technological tour de force, and the stylish hatchback has certainly got the equipment to back up those claims. An extremely popular model with UK buyers, this latest A-Class has a big job to do to capture the attention of buyers in an increasingly competitive market. NGC tests the A 180d to see how it stacks up.
Review by Chris Lilly
Although the demise of diesel has been well publicised, it still makes up a core part of the A-Class range, with a number of company car drivers wanting the fuel efficiency benefits that diesel can offer. The latest range of Mercedes engines have been fitted beneath the bonnet of the A-Class, meaning the diesel options are some of the cleanest on the market with this fuel type. The 1.5 litre unit produces 116hp, which isn't a huge amount. However, the 260 Nm of torque helps bring the 0-62mph time to a respectable 10.5 seconds, before the engine powers the Mercedes on to a top speed of 125mph. It's the entry level diesel model, but a good choice, balancing efficiency and performance in a slightly dull but sensible way. The A 180d is not going to get you excited about pushing on down a favourite road, but it performs well in town, on rural routes, and on the motorway - particularly the latter. Fitted with Mercedes' 7G-DCT seven-speed automatic gearbox, the A 180d is an effortless drive on long routes, and there's enough pep from the engine to deal with the stop/start nature of town driving well too. An eager petrol might be a better pick if sticking predominantly to urban driving, but those regularly stretching the car's legs on the open road could do worse than pick this A 180d model. It's not quite as refined at speed as the more powerful diesel options, though this is to be expected, and the A 180d can feel like a larger car than it really is.
Mercedes has had AMG fettle its A-Class for those craving driving thrills, leaving the rest of the range for engineers to set the suspension up for a more well-rounded drive. The A-Class can't match the dynamism of BMW's 1 Series for example, but it compares will to the Audi A3, and is a more comfortable proposition. The A-Class has clearly been pitched at premium hatchback buyers that enjoy driving, since the suspension is stiffer than those stepping into one from a C-Class might expect, but it's not uncomfortable, and it does mean that the A-Class is a fairly agile model. There isn't a lot of feedback for the driver from the wheel, but the steering is sharp and precise. It allows for a driver to confidently pilot the car through a series of bends, even if rival options might offer a bit more fun. Around town, the springs will let pot holes and bumps in the surface be felt by occupants, not wafted over as other Mercedes models can do. The car doesn't get unsettled by poor roads though, and it would take either a pockmarked farm track or a particularly fussy passenger to hear complaints from occupants about ride quality. Again, the A-Class is most at home on the motorway, with an assured ride at speed belying its relatively compact footprint.
I think the A-Class is one of the best looking cars in its class, with a refined design but one that can't be accused of being boring. Its sharper than the previous model, and somehow both more grown-up and youthful. Shared styling elements from larger models link the A-Class to the likes of the CLS, while a sportier approach to the design means that it should appeal to those that put looks high up on the list of priorities when buying a car. The A-Class has a good level of space inside, with the cabin sitting four adults easily, and boot space capable of swallowing up luggage. It doesn't lead its class in terms of practicality though, and leg space for adult rear passengers can be tight if those up front are long of lower limb. Access to the rear can be hindered by a small aperture in which to feed people through - though this is a common complaint amongst premium hatchbacks. The boot is a good shape though, and easy to access with a wide hatch. There's a bit of a lip to lift loads over to the boot floor, but it shouldn't be an issue for most.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
If the exterior has been sharpened and subtly improved over the previous A Class, the new cabin is not just a step forward but a giant stride. The interior looks like that of a far larger car, and in fact Mercedes said at the car's launch that it was up there or better than its flagship model - the S Class - in a number of areas. The dominant feature is a wide screen that stretches to include both the driver's instruments and infotainment system. There are different options available depending on trim, with two smaller screens, but the test model had the range-topping full 10.25-inch twin screen set-up that would look right at home in a luxury saloon, and creates quite an impression on this compact premium hatch. The important thing though is that the controls all work exceptionally well, with the MBUX system underpinning everything. This allows for a more initiative way of controlling elements, with natural voice commands, gesture control, swipe and pinch controls, and touch sensors on the steering wheel. These are logical in the sense that the left touch square controls the infotainment set-up (to the left of the screen), while the right-hand controls look after the driver's customisable instrument display (to the right) - a little touch, but one that has been though about and implemented well. The voice activation works like Alexa or Google Home, with a simple 'Hey Mercedes' kicking the system into action. There are also excellent features on the sat-nav, which mean that systems in rival offerings become a bit of a let down. Augmented reality uses cameras at the front of the car to show the road ahead, with commands and road names overlaid on the screen, making navigating in a new area a doddle. Users can navigate with What3Words too, which splits the globe into 3m x 3m squares, for exceptionally accurate directions. No need to get to a post-code and then look about for the right street or house, the system can take you right to the front door if you have the three-word code. Physical controls and buttons like the indicator and gear selector stalks themselves are a slight let-down, not feeling as premium as the rest of the competition.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Mercedes quotes the A 180d as returning 68.9 MPG, which is an excellent figure for someone running a family hatch to be able to use. In the real-world, after around 350 miles, the average on the A-Class trip computer showed 55.3 MPG, which is a fair drop, but an expected one. It's also still a good figure to work with, and with increased time at motorway speeds would increase too. Typically usage would suggest that 55 MPG is a reasonable figure to expect for potential owners, which should return pretty low fuel costs. To tax, the A-Class will cost £205 for the first year - included in a car's OTR price - and then the standard rate of £140 a year thereafter.
The A 180d uses one of Mercedes' latest range of diesel engines, which are about as green as it's possible to get while running diesel at the moment. Elements such as near-engine mounted emission control system - using AdBlue - and an efficient turbocharger that spools up quickly help matters. The 7G-DCT transmission allows coasting at higher speeds too, and the engine features automatic stop/start systems, which is linked to detected stop signs for improved use. A drive mode select system allows the driver to put the A-Class into Eco mode, which lessens throttle response and tweaks the automatic transmission's changes. There is also a driver eco score system, that provides feedback as to how well they have accelerated, braked, or maintained speed. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 40.
Equipment levels are very good for the A-Class, with even base SE spec getting 16-inch alloys, part leather trim, air conditioning, keyless entry and start, comfort suspension, USB C ports, DAB radio, and the excellent MBUX system, this time with twin 7-inch screens. AMG Line tested gets 18-inch alloys, two-zone climate control, AMG sports body kit with sports steering wheel, LED headlights, and dynamic select system. Options fitted to the test car included the Augmented Navigation Package, well worth the £495 cost, and the Premium Plus pack. This includes the 10.25-inch widescreen media display and the same size instrument cluster, active park assist with front and rear sensors, heated front seats, multibeam adaptive LED headlights, front memory seats, panoramic glass sunroof, and automatic folding wing mirrors & auto-dimming rear-view mirror. It costs £3,595, but adds a huge number of goodies to the car, and the twin 10.25-inch screens look (and work) great.
The A-Class is a very good premium hatch, offering a good balance between performance and economy in A 180d guise. It's stylish, relatively practical, and has a first class cabin that will sway a number of buyers into the smallest Mercedes.
Model tested: Mercedes Benz A 180d
Body-style: Premium hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.5 litre diesel / 111 g/km
Trim grades: SE, Sport, and AMG Line
On-road price: A 180d from £28,540. Price as tested £32,750
Warranty: Three year / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4 Stars