New

A Class Hatch | Mercedes-Benz A-Class A200 Progressive

BY Joel Tam

The new A-Class continues the the success of the old one and goes one-up to be even better.

It’s no surprise that Mercedes’ A-Class hatchback has been doing well here in Singapore since its first launch in 2013. An entry-level three-pointed star that’s zippy about town - which young urban upstart wouldn’t like it?

Sitting on a revised platform with lots of new interior goodies and a heavily updated exterior design, the new A-Class looks clearly different from its predecessor. Yet, it has cues from the old one – similar side profile and roofline – making it look like a mere face-lift. But it is truly more than that.

From the front, it wears the new Mercedes design language with aggressive downward sloping head lamps and stylised grille. At the rear, triangular tail lamps replace the older ones and it only take a few days with the car to make the first A-Class look dated.

The interior has some wow-factor too. New aircon vents that resemble turbines with some influence from art nouveau are the first thing you see. Then comes the 10.25-inch digital dashboard that combines all the info you need into one stylish and high resolution panel.

Stylish ambient lighting can also be customised to suit your mood. Choose from a palette of colours or just click on the various preset themes to be surrounded by a light display within your luxurious cockpit.

Driving the A200 is a rather pleasantly surprising experience. The car handles sharply for a family hatch and maintains confident-inspiring dynamics when made to work hard in the corners and ‘spirited’ inputs of acceleration and hard braking.

Pushing out a decent 160 bhp and 250 Nm of torque from a 1.4-litre turbocharged unit, the performance is lively and getting the car to respond to everyday traffic is really a breeze. The engine note is rather loud and harsh though, and in Sport mode, gets even louder due to the gears being held on for longer to keep the car in the ‘sporty’ rev band.

In fact, I might even call the engine coarse. It became rather annoying to drive hard, especially when the rest of the car seemed so well put together. The engine note and sound insulation just spoiled it for me. Sure, the numbers are pretty attractive; 0-100 km/h in 8 seconds and a top speed of 225 km/h. But if getting there is going to make me feel like I’m killing the engine, I might just give it a miss.

Another thing that shocked the life out of me was the assisted braking. Approaching a car in front of me, the feature kicked in aggressively and brought the car to a violent and abrupt stop. This startled everyone in the car and we had all thought the car had been hit by another vehicle. Needless to say I had it switched off throughout the time I had the car.

The new A-Class has improved in many key areas. It’s sleeker to look at, drives well and provides enough space and style for a luxury hatchback. But I hope car manufacturers will know what most drivers really need. A quieter engine and less intrusive tech are some which will top this reviewer’s list.