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Mercedes-Benz A-Class


Cupra Leon

Summary

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.

Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.

The A-Class sedan is substantially longer and fractionally taller than its hatchback sibling, but does that mean it’s better, or simply different?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.3L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Cupra Leon

If you're the kind of person who usually names their car, then I've got some good news for you – Cupra has already gone and done it for you.

Meet Leon, the new brand's performance-focused hatchback with strong links to the ever-popular Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R.

What's a Cupra, you ask? It's a Spanish performance brand that sits under the Volkswagen Group umbrella (much like Skoda), with a trio of models, including our mate Leon, launching in Australia around the middle of the year.

Why would you have one over a Golf R? Read on.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8.1/10

Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.

But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.

Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.


Cupra Leon7.3/10

Another warm-to-hot hatch family enters Australia, only this time with the added trick of electrification up its Spanish sleeves.

Welcome to Australia, Leon. I'm sure you'll find plenty of people who want to be your mate.

Design

Mercedes-Benz A-Class9/10

A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.

The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.

A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.

Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.

The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.

Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.


Cupra Leon7/10

Don't ask me why, but the Leon looks (but happily, doesn't feel it from the cabin) somehow smaller than the Golf, coming across as compact and aggressive – which is probably exactly what you want from a warm or hot hatch.

The Cupra treatment works well here, too, with a wide bonnet that kind of tapers towards the small(ish) grille the the Cupra badging, giving a look of purpose and intent to the Leon.

At the rear, a solid-red light bar spans the width of the boot, while the quad exhaust tips (and the copper-tinged alloys) all add to the sense of sportiness emanating off this hot hatch.

Inside the top-spec model, you'll find a pared-back and performance-focused space, with a new-look gear selector, and the big screens taking pride of place in front of the driver and in the middle of the dash.

But while it feels well put-together, for mine it doesn't quite feel special enough in the cabin to fully justify its pricing.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.

The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.

In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.

In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.

There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.

One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.

But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).

Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.

That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).

At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.


Cupra Leon7/10

According the UK's official data, the Cupra measures 4398mm in length, 1442mm in height, and 1799mm in width, and the brand says you can expect 380 litres of luggage space in the boot.

It's a relatively compact hot hatch, but the rear seat space is surprisingly generous, with enough leg and headroom to keep even those taller than my 175cm happy – it means the Cupra Leon strikes a pretty good balance between potency and everyday practicality.

There are the usual assortment of cupholders and bottle storage, as well as USB charge points for all riders, and ISOFIX attachments in each window seat in the back.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.

We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.


Cupra Leon7/10

There are four Leon models set for Australia, including the  V, the VZ, the VZe and the top-spec VZx, with prices spanning $43,990, $52,590, $59,990 and $60,990 (all before on-road costs) respectively.

The V opens proceedings with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a seven-speed DSG, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Outside, expect LED lighting all around, auto headlights and some sporty kit like a roof spoiler.

Inside, there's a 10.25-inch cluster, a 10.0-inch screen with navigation, wireless (and wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging and ambient interior lighting.

The seats are sporty, but wrapped in cloth, the steering wheel is dressed in leather and heated, and there's keyless entry and start.

The range then steps up to the Leon VZ, which adds bigger 180kW and 370Nm outputs, and 19-inch alloys. Next, there's the VZe, which is all about the clever, electrified powertrain (but more on that in a moment).

Finally, there's the top-spec VZx, which gets the pick of the performance kit, including 19-inch "Performance Sport" alloys, side skirts and a quad-exit exhaust.

The brand's petrol-blue colour scheme dresses the VZx cabin, including the (heated in the front) leather bucket seats, a sportier steering wheel, and there's a better Beats Sound System with nine speakers and a subwoofer.

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz A-Class7/10

Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).

Drive goes to the front wheels only via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.


Cupra Leon8/10

The entry-level Cupra Leon V is equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine good for 140kW/320Nm. Stepping up to the VZ ups the grunt to 180kW/370Nm. Then there's the top-spec VZx, which delivers 221kW and 400Nm. All pair with a seven-speed wet clutch DSG and front-wheel drive.

The truly interesting model, though, is the VZe PHEV, which combines a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine with an 85kW/300Nm front-mounted electric motor to deliver a combined 180kW/400Nm. It has a six-speed DCT.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.

Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.

Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.


Cupra Leon7/10

Cupra in Australia is yet to confirm official fuel figures for the Leon range, but internationally the standout is the VZe, which pairs its potent powertrain with fuel efficiency of 1.1-1.3L/100km – though that's measured in a unique way that's difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.

For context, the most powerful engine delivers 6.7L/100km, and you'd expect the PHEV to comfortably beat that.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz A-Class8/10

Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.

The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.

Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.

Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.

Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.

With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.

Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.

Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.

Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).

Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.


Cupra Leon8/10

Full disclosure, my time behind the wheel of the Cupra Leon has so far been limited to a series of flying laps at Sydney Motorsport Park (a very long, very fast racetrack), so if you’re looking for answers on how easily the hot hatch will slip into your daily life, I can’t help you.

If, however, you’re wondering whether the Leon will paint a smile on your face when you’re in the mood to be a little generous with the accelerator, then I can help.

Because the answer is yes.

Slip into the very good sports seats of the Leon, and engage its maximum attack Cupra drive mode, and little hatch feels almost like it is flexing, ready for action.

The only Leon available to sample was the full-noise 221kW version, and it doesn’t disappoint, delivering ever bit the noisy, enthusiastic experience you might expect from a car only slightly less powerful than a VW Golf R.

But what you might not expect is the slightly old-school way it delivers that experience, with the Leon feeling a little light and flighty at speeds, like it wants to move around a little under high-speed braking, and like it wants to keep you on your toes.

While the Cupra Ateca feels super-planted at speed, the smaller, lighter Leon feels more like you're an integral part of what's going on outside the windows, and very much like you're driving it, rather than the other way around – up to and including the small breaks in power delivery, seemingly as it struggles for traction as it knocks off its 5.7s run to 100km/h

If that sounds like a bad thing, it’s not — it only adds to the theatrics and the engaging nature of this new hot hatch.

The steering is confidence-inspiring, the soundtrack solid, and it’s the kind of car you could have a lot of fun with at a track day or on a winding alpine road.

But could you live with it, day to day? For that you’ll have to wait until we can get a longer, more detailed drive on public roads.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz A-Class10/10

Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.

If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.

The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.


Cupra Leon7/10

All Leons get the same safety kit, which is an admirable move from the Cupra brand.

The high-tech stuff includes adaptive cruise control, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, Lane Assist (which keeps you in the lane markings), Travel Assist (which unlocks semi-autonomous driving on freeways), a reversing camera and a driver fatigue monitor.

The Cupra is yet to be ANCAP tested in Australia.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz A-Class7/10

Mercedes-Benz covers its passenger car range with a three year/unlimited km warranty, like the other two members of the German ‘Big Three’ (Audi and BMW) .

That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.

On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.

Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.

Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.


Cupra Leon7/10

The Leon range wears a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with three years of complementary servicing built into the purchase price, with five-year packs also available to purchase.