Do you remember the first Mercedes-Benz A-Class? It came out in 1998. Nope? Great, whatever you do don't Google it because you'll never be able to unsee it.
And if you do remember, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. The good thing is, as each new A-Class came out it was better looking than the last, and now this fourth-generation version of Benz's small hatch has arrived, and it looks… well, you can read all about that below.
You can also find out how this new A-Class drives and what cool features are on board, including... wait for it, artificial intelligence.
We attended the Australian launch of the A-Class and while the complete range won't arrive until late 2018/early 2019, we did have the chance to drive the first to land on our shores – the A200.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
This fourth-gen A-Class is "all new". That means a new body, new platform, new interior, new technology.
There's also the new look, which is hardly a monumental shift from the previous model. More a refinement and adoption of Benz's latest smooth styling, seen most recently on the CLS (that wears similar headlights, grille and tail-lights).
The A-Class's dimensions have changed, too, with the hatch being 16mm wider (at 1796mm across), 6.0mm taller (at 1440mm high) and 120mm longer (at 4419mm end-to-end).
The A200 comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, side skirts, twin exhaust and a 'black diamond' grille.
A 'black diamond' grille is standard, but can be upgraded to the sparkly chrome 'diamond'-studded grille.
The A-Class's dimensions have changed: it's now wider, taller and longer.
The A200 comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels.
If you want the sparkly chrome 'diamond'-studded grille on the A200 you'll have to option it as part of the 'AMG Line Sports Package' which also includes 18-inch AMG wheels and a body kit.
On the inside there's red contrast stitching to the seats and doors, a metal trimmed steering wheel and stainless-steel pedal covers.
Despite some areas appearing slightly budget (such as the handbrake button) the standard A200 interior feels special, even without the AMG Line sports pack or 'AMG Exclusive Package' as were fitted to one of our test cars.
The two large landscape screens, the materials, the floating dash design and seats work together to create a 'blingy' but beautiful and comfortable cabin.
As a model comparison, from a 'wow factor' design perspective, the interior in the A-Class (specifically the A200) exceeds that of its BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 rivals. That said, they all have a high-quality feel and excellent fit and finish.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
You know what? At a list price of $47,200 the A200 is expensive for a small hatchback, but good value compared to small prestige competitors (Audi A3, BMW 1 Series) when you consider the extensive equipment list.
This new-gen A-Class contains impressive stuff you might not expect on an entry-level Benz.
The two 10.25-inch screens are standard on the A200 (look at the images, they're glorious) and so is the 'MBUX' (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) artificial intelligence media system which through a Siri-like 'Hey Mercedes' function gets to know you to make life easier (check out the video above, Hey Mercedes hates me, I just know it).
Also coming standard on the A200 is sat nav,Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a nine-speaker stereo, digital radio, wireless charging, a touch pad media controller, climate control, ambient lighting (single colour), LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, auto parking system and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Want your A200 to look sportier? Then there's the $1990 'AMG Line Package' which adds 18-inch gloss black AMG wheels, the chrome diamond studded grille, brake calipers with Mercedes-Benz lettering and perforated front discs, plus lower suspension a little for a tougher stance.
The two 10.25-inch screens are standard on the A200.
Among many standard features, the A200 receives sat nav, apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a nine-speaker stereo.
The A200's steering wheel comes with a thumb-swipe pad, which you can use to scroll through the options of your virtual display.
Grab yourself the AMG Exclusive package and your air vents will be lit up with glowing LEDs.
Our A200 had the AMG Line pack and the AMG Exclusive package which adds leather seats and multi-link rear suspension for $3190; and also the $2490 'Vision Package' which adds a panoramic sunroof and adaptive headlights. Fully decked out, the car we drove also had the $2490 'Communications Package' which adds a head-up display and 12-speaker Burmester stereo.
Our car wore the optional 'Iridium Silver' metallic paint ($1190), other premium hues include 'Mountain Grey' and 'Digital White', but there are three no-cost paint options - 'Jupiter Red', 'Polar White' and 'Night Black'.
I'm also a sucker for the ambient lighting option which looks great at night as the glowing LEDs transition from blues to reds and purples (there are 64 colour options). This comes with the AMG Exclusive package.
I have to say the Hey Mercedes function isn't as intuitive or (as creepy) as Hey Siri can be, but then again our cars were not connected to the internet. The ones you'll buy will be.
That means while I was asking my car to tell me where the nearest supermarket was, and it struggled for an answer, the fully operational version will be able to help. Still I don't think Hey Mercedes will be more proficient than an artificial intelligent assistant your smart phone can offer. Not yet anyway.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
More practical it seems than the new Toyota Corolla which Matt Campbell has just reviewed. That means a lot because the boot space in this prestige hatch is now 370 litres (+29 litres on the out-going model, thanks largely to the increase in length) while the all-time budget hero Toyota has 217 litres of luggage space.
Compared to its prestige rivals the 1 Series has 360 litres and the A3 Sportback has a 380-litre boot.
You'll find a decent sized centre console bin up front and bottle holders in the doors.
Legroom in the back is not fantastic, but the headroom is.
The boot space in this prestige hatch is now 370 litres.
Standard on the A200 are luggage nets and a 12-volt outlet in the cargo area, but don't bother looking for a spare (of any description), your only option is a repair/inflator kit.
Legroom in the back is not fantastic for tall people like me (I'm 191cm end-to-end), but I can just sit behind my driving position with about a finger's width gap between front seat and knees. Headroom back there is good – even for me.
Storage isn't bad either, with two cupholders up front, two in the rear fold-down armrest, a decent sized centre console bin and bottle holder in the doors. You'll also find a USB port along with a wireless charging pad up front.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
The A200 has been given a new 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 120kW/250Nm. The A180 will also have this engine, but Mercedes-Benz hasn't disclosed the output. Expect it to produce about 100kW when it arrives in 2019.
The A200 has been given a new 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 120kW/250Nm.
In the test car we drove the 1.3-litre engine performed well but keep in mind there was just me and an overnight bag on-board. Still, there was plenty of power to overtake and merge onto the motorway or move quickly if I needed to. Yes, it has a turbo, but power delivery is smooth and linear.
How much fuel does it consume? 8/10
Mercedes-Benz says the A200 should use 5.7L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads, and that's not far off the 5.9L/100km I recorded at the end of the launch program over 72km of motorways, country and suburban roads from Drouin in Victoria's east, to Mercedes-Benz Australia's HQ at Mulgrave in Melbourne's south-east.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
You're probably over me saying it, but only the A200 grade was available to drive at the Australian launch. I was able to drive two different versions of it – a stock standard A200 and one with the AMG Exclusive Package fitted, which has a more sophisticated suspension.
The standard A200 has torsion beam rear suspension and this was the car I started out in, snaking my way out of the Melbourne and onto country roads.
It's clear Benz has prioritised comfort over handling and driver feedback.
Light steering, plenty of oomph from the 1.3-litre engine, a comfortable ride and much better visibility out of a larger rear window make for an easy car to drive.
This isn't the most engaging Benz to pilot, and there are more affordable hatches that are more fun to steer, such as a Volkswagen Golf, but it's clear Benz has prioritised comfort over handling and driver feedback.
If you are looking for something that handles a bit better the AMG Exclusive Package adds a multi-link rear suspension set-up and adaptive dampers which improve dynamics and comfort.
Light steering and plenty of oomph from the 1.3-litre engine make for an easy car to drive.
I tested this out in the second A200 I drove. Again, it's no rip-snorting AMG 45 which handles like a magnetic train, but the quality of the ride is more composed and handling is improved, too.
If it was my money, I'd stick with the standard A200 and not opt for the suspension package. If you really want a weapon, I'd wait for the full-fat AMG.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The A200 has yet to be given an ANCAP rating, but the previous model scored the maximum five-star rating and we'd expect nothing less.
The standard safety equipment list on the A200 is impressive, with nine airbags, AEB,blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance, cross-wind assistance and traffic sign recognition.
The A200 has yet to be given an ANCAP rating.
In the boot you'll find a warning triangle and no less than three fluro safety vests, as well.
For child seats there are two ISOFIX mounts in the second row and three top tether anchor points.
You won't find a spare tyre under the boot floor, instead all A-Classes have run flats.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
The A-Class is covered by Mercedes-Benz's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 25,000km. You can expect to pay $496 for the first service, then $992 for the second and third visits each.
The new A-Class is bigger, better to drive and smarter than the previous model and while its looks haven't changed hugely the styling is now more refined with it wearing the latest Benz smoother design cues.
The A200 was the only grade we were able to test, but at this price, that impressive 1.3-litre engine, advanced safety equipment and great features list could make it the sweet-spot in the range.
Is the A200 better in every way than the Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series or is is just pretty lights and diamond grilles? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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