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The all-new 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class compact luxury hatchback has been revealed, sporting a sharper look, more technology and more efficiency than ever before.
The unveiling took place in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, overnight, where the luxury brand showcased several different versions of the A-Class – all of them looking sharper and more serious than the predecessor model, but with smoother lines on the doors that help in aiding the A-Class to appear a bit more premium than before.
It isn't just outside that the new A-Class offers up some striking new features – the interior has seen a major makeover, with the most notable change being the twin screens that span almost two-thirds of the dashboard.
The Widescreen Cockpit, as Mercedes-Benz labels it, is an all-new multimedia system known as MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) – it features an array of different control options, including the touch-capacitive centre screen, a central touchpad between the seats, touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel, and "intelligent voice control with natural voice recognition". That last bit is pretty neat – so, think about your smartphone or your smart home gadget, and how might say "hey Siri" or "hey Google" to those gizmos. In the new A-Class, you can say "hey Mercedes", and it will ask you how it can help.
But the cool bit is that instead of having to say weird sentences like "adjust temperature to 18 degrees", you can simply say something like "hey Mercedes, I'm hot" and it will adjust the temperature. Apparently thanks to the system's inbuilt artificial intelligence, it'll learn your preferences and habits as you go - but, frustratingly, we weren't able to test the system at the unveiling.
It is unclear whether Australian buyers will see the twin 10.25-inch displays (like you see here) in every model, as there are entry-level versions with 7.0-inch screens instead. No matter which A-Class you buy, though, you get a fully digital instrument cluster, in-built satellite navigation, Bluetooth, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
The aim of the new media system is to make the car "a mobile assistant", one that you will hopefully develop an "emotional" attachment to, according to the company.
Ambient lighting is another key element to the cabin of the new-generation A-Class – there are even lights in the air-vents - and the illumination doubles as a safety feature: the new hatch has a safety component to the blind-spot monitoring, where it can detect cyclists and warn the occupants so they don't open their doors into the path of the rider.
That's just one part of an impressive safety arsenal, borrowing bits and pieces from the S-Class limousine flagship. It can drive semi-autonomously in some situations, with camera and radar systems that can read the road 500 metres ahead, and it can adjust the speed of the car based on navigation and mapping information.
Of course there is auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assist with steering assist, and there is blind-spot assist (with cyclist detection), rear cross-traffic and even forward cross-traffic intervention - if you don't see a car at an upcoming intersection, it can hit the brakes before you hit anything else.
The interior has seen massive changes aside from the screens and lights - it is bigger than before, thanks to a stretch in the wheelbase (now 2729mm - was 2699mm) and overall length is up by a substantial 120mm, to 4419mm. It is wider now, too, at 1796mm (up 16mm), and sits a little higher at 1440mm (was 1433mm).
All that translates to extra cabin space in every direction, and of course there has been a bit of European oneupmanship in the form of boot volume claims: the new A-Class has 370 litres (VDA) of cargo space, up 29L on the existing model, and 10L more than the BMW 1 Series (but still 10L short of the Audi A3 hatch).
It looks considerably more upmarket than the previous car, living up to the claim of Daimler chairman of the board of management, Dieter Zetsche, that the A-Class has "not much of an entry-level feel for our entry-level car".
So, how will the new A-Class line-up look?
The range is set to include the entry-level A200 model which is fitted with a new 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine with up to 120kW and 250Nm, and when paired with the seven-speed dual-clutch auto, it features cylinder deactivation - a bit like the 1.4-litre in the Audi A3. It is front-wheel drive, and has fuel consumption rated at 5.1 litres per 100km.
A note: Benz says this Renault-derived engine (based on the 1.2-litre turbo four from the French company) is a 1.4-litre, but it's actually a 1332cc engine, which traditionally would make it a 1.3-litre, because it should be rounded down. But there is form from Benz, here - they round up to 6.3L when the AMG models are actually 6.2L.
A lower-spec version of the 1.4-litre engine is expected for the A180 petrol model, which will continue in Australia. It'll likely keep the seven-speed dual-clutch auto, and - like the A200 - will have a torsion-beam rear suspension set-up, rather than the more sophisticated multi-link set-up the current version runs.
The A250 Sport 4Matic features a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 165kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It'll be a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and have all-wheel drive, with fuel consumption claimed at 6.0 litres per 100km.
At launch, the diesel offering is the 1.5-litre four-cylinder A180d, which won't be sold in Australia. That engine has 85kW of power and 260Nm of torque, and a seven-speed dual-clutch with front-wheel drive.
Australian buyers will get a higher-tuned A200d, which is expected to have similar outputs to the current model of the same moniker - 100kW/300Nm. It is unclear if that will be based on the 1.5L engine, or will run a carryover 2.0-litre.
Mercedes-Benz Australia senior manager public relations, product and corporate communications, David McCarthy, said that local buyers can expect the same range as before, but possibly with a new addition from the AMG stable.
"We'll take everything petrol from A200 up to the AMG A45," he said, and we believe there could also be a new Mercedes-AMG A35 model which may run a mild-hybrid system, similar to the one that has been announced for the new-generation Mercedes-AMG CLS 53... but with a four-cylinder engine, not a six!
AMG fans can also expect a power bump in the A45, which already holds the record as the most powerful four-cylinder engine on the market.
The first pieces of the A-Class range puzzle will commence deliveries in Australia in the third quarter of 2018, and buyers can expect a price jump because of the additional standard equipment on offer - but not too big a jump. You can read into that what you will, but it is expected we'll see a starting price below $40,000.
In Australia in 2017, the A-Class was the second-best-selling premium small car on the market, with 4768 sales - just behind the Audi A3, which notched up 5117.