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Mercedes-Benz A-Class


Mercedes-Benz A35

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

Mercedes-Benz A35

If you want a Mercedes-AMG A45 sedan, you’re dead out of luck - there isn’t going to be one. Your alternatives are the sleeker, more style-focused CLA 45 four-door ‘coupe’, or the A45 hatch, which is more often associated with boy racer types… with deep pockets.

Or you could buy this car - the Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic sedan. A lot of pundits have questioned the two-prong AMG strategy in the hatchback range, with the A35 slotting between the already-pretty-hot A250 4Matic and A45 S.

In the sedan line-up, however, there’s a different approach, with the Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic topping the range. So is it a fitting flagship for the small sedan line-up? It certainly has the tech, safety and equipment levels to live up to buyers’ expectations. 

And as a rival to the likes of the Audi S3 sedan, BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe and its own sibling, the Mercedes-AMG CLA35, does it offer a compelling alternative?

Let’s go through it, criteria by criteria.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/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.


Mercedes-Benz A358/10

The Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan is a genuinely fun small car. To me it’s a more mature offering than the A35 hatch, while not being quite as pretentious as a CLA35. Therefore I like it on principle.

Would I personally choose it over an Audi S3? Probably not - but there are plenty of objective reasons why you would.

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.


Mercedes-Benz A358/10

This is the first AMG A-Class sedan ever, so that’s an interesting design decision. I wasn’t sure whether Mercedes needed a CLA ‘Coupe’ and an A-Class sedan to sit alongside one another, but there are distinct differences in terms of the look and intent of the two compact models.

The A sedan carries over the A-Class hatchback’s aggressive styling, with sharp, angular headlights, a strong presence courtesy of its black exterior highlights (including AMG flics on the front bumper and black side skirts, rear spoiler and rear diffuser for this test vehicle). The black 19-inch black-finish rims fitted to our test car are also optional, with silver being the standard finish.

It has a stumpy little boot with a broad stance thanks to its triangulated tail-lights and horizontal reflectors, while the twin exhaust pipes with black tips are rather pleasant to look at, too.

It’s a very attractive sedan, with nothing clumsy about its proportions at all. Is it gorgeous enough to make you think twice about the Audi A3/S3/RS3 as the ruler of the pretty little sedan? Maybe… it’s not quite there for me, although it’s close. But it is certainly a distinct design, one that Merc fans will undoubtedly adore.

The dimensions of the A35 sedan aren’t what a lot of people would actually consider “small”. It’s 4549mm long (on a 2729mm wheelbase), 1796mm wide and 1446mm tall. For context, that’s longer, wider and taller than the substantial Mazda3 small sedan, if not quite as big as the a Corolla sedan.

And if you’re wondering about how that compares to a CLA, that car has the same wheelbase but is 4688mm long, 1830mm wide and 1439mm tall. That’s bigger than a C-Class. Gosh, how confusing. 

What does it all mean when it comes to interior space? Check out the interior images and details below to see for yourself.

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.


Mercedes-Benz A357/10

I admit, I thought I’d get a bit more in the cabin of the A35 sedan. There’s no electric steering wheel adjustment, no heated steering wheel, and the fact adaptive cruise control is optional (it’s standard on some $25K cars!) is a bit rude, too.

That isn’t to say that it’s not an eye-catching space, one that will hit hard on the bling-o-meter, and will definitely impress anyone who isn’t familiar with Mercedes’ recent cabin design traits.

The twin screens are dazzling - crisp and beautiful to behold, and with graphics that are extremely high resolution. The menus have been designed to be simple, but honestly, it’s a bit confusing until you’re initiated.

Also, I found the media screen to be very glitchy. On multiple occasions it would not respond to touch, and once it even reset itself. I also had several problems connecting to Apple CarPlay. Note: I was using a Mercedes-Benz USB-C adaptor to USB-Lightning cable with an iPhone XS, and I think maybe the adaptor had a part to play in the problems I encountered.

The touchscreen is just one way to interact with the media controls, as there’s a touchpad between the front seats, and the driver has a thumb-controller on the steering wheel to jump between screens. And there’s voice control as well, with the MBUX system’s ‘Hey, Mercedes’ recognition allowing you to ask for things to be adjusted. 

Furthering the wow-factor up front are beautifully designed air vents that light up blue when you turn the temperature down or red when you up the heat. There’s configurable ambient lighting for the cabin, which makes the A35 a bit of a showstopper at night, and our car had the no-cost optional red and black Lugano leather trim, which is either going to be your thing, or not. 

The space for adults up front is decently accommodating, with good headroom and width, plus nice soft touch points where there should be, and there are bottle holders in the doors. There are three USB-C points up front, a pair of cup holders between the seats, and a wireless (Qi) phone charging bay.

The steering wheel is a nice shape and easy to hold, though I’m still not convinced by the little digital displays for the drive-mode dials - they’re toy-like teeny-weeny screens and look a bit pixelated compared to the other displays in the cabin.

Rear seat space is not as good as you might hope or expect, given the size of the car. As a 182cm (6.0ft) man with the driver’s seat set for me, my knees were hard against the seat in front, my toes were squashed and my head was just brushing the headliner, too.

That mightn’t be a problem for you - maybe your only rear seat riders will be short, or young. There are dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and three top-tether restraints for baby seats, if that’s the case.

And they’ll be well catered for, with a pair of USB-C ports, as well as directional air-vents, mesh map pockets, and bottle holders in the doors as well as a fold-down armrest with pop out cup holders.

Boot space will likely matter to you if you’re buying a sedan over the hatchback model, and you’ll find an additional 60 litres of boot space here over the five-door model, with 430L of cargo capacity.

That should, in theory, be large enough to fit all three of the CarsGuide cases (124L, 95L, 36L), but the shape of the cargo hold meant I only managed to fit the smallest case with the middle or largest case, but not all three together. Soft luggage could help.

There’s no spare wheel under the boot floor, as the A35 has a tyre repair kit

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.


Mercedes-Benz A358/10

The Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic sedan has a list price of $72,500, which is the manufacturer’s recommended list price (MRLP, also known as MSRP). That’s the price before on-road costs and extras.

What cars does the A35 compete with? The most obvious rival is one from within, the Mercedes-AMG CLA35, which is $85,500. Then there’s the Audi S3 sedan ($65,800) or RS3 sedan ($86,500). Or the BMW M235i Gran Coupe, which is actually its closest competitor on price, at $72,990. 

You might have made your mind up about wanting the three-pointed-star badge though, so what do you get for your cash when it comes to the A35 sedan?

The standard equipment includes: 19-inch wheels, AMG body kit and 'Night Package' (blacked-out exterior trim), Lugano leather seat trim, heated and electric adjust front seats, keyless entry and push-button start, adaptive AMG Ride Control suspension, AMG drive modes, ambient lighting and a panoramic sunroof.

The cabin is equipped with a pair of 10.25-inch screens - one controlling media via the brand’s MBUX system and featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the other a configurable display for driver info. There’s sat nav, five USB-C ports, wireless phone charging, and a nine-speaker sound system.

Other features include an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED headlights and daytime running lights, semi-autonomous parking, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and a number of active safety items beyond that. See the safety section below for more info.

Our car had a couple of options, including: black-finish 19-inch alloy wheels ($790); the 'Driving Assistance Package' - incorporating adaptive cruise control with front and rear cross-traffic alert, active lane-change assist, and 'Route-Based Speed Adaptation' - more on that below ($1890); the 'Vision Package' - with 'Multibeam LED' headlights and selective adaptive high beam assist, and a 360-degree surround view camera ($990); and the 'AMG Aerodynamics Package' - with front flics, side skirt trims, rear spoiler and rear diffuser ($2490).

All told, the as-tested price for this car was $78,660 plus on-roads.

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.


Mercedes-Benz A359/10

You could look at this one of two ways: 1) this is the least powerful AMG on sale today; 2) this is a seriously powerful small car.

If you’re glass-half-full-biased like me, you’ll see the engine specs and park yourself in the latter camp. 

There’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol motor which isn’t short on horsepower: it has 225kW of power and 400Nm of torque - those were class-killing power outputs not too long ago. 

The grunt numbers give the AMG A35 sedan a claimed 0-100km/h time of just 4.8 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 250km/h. Five years ago these power figures and performance numbers would have pegged the A35 in A45 territory - this is a seriously powerful little jigger.

The engine is teamed to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and the A35 runs Benz’s 4Matic all-wheel drive system, which is front-biased but can shuffle torque 50:50 if needed. 

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.


Mercedes-Benz A357/10

The combined cycle fuel consumption figure - that’s what the brand says the car will use over a mix of driving - is 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres.

I saw a little higher than that over my 650km of driving, which was heavily biased towards highway testing, but also included a few traffic snarls and a couple of stints of performance testing. I saw 8.4L/100km, which is okay, but I expected better given 80 per cent of my time in the car was in easy-going open road driving.

The fuel tank capacity for the A35 sedan is 51 litres, and you’ll need to fill it with 98 RON premium unleaded petrol. 

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.


Mercedes-Benz A358/10

On paper this seems like the ideal option for those who know they’ll never really be able to take advantage of the outputs of an A45 or CLA45’s ludicrous power and torque figures.

In practice? It mostly lives up to that notion - though just like an A45 or CLA45, you’re going to enjoy it a lot more when you’re giving it the beans. 

Driving with intent, the engine and transmission work together amazingly well. The transmission itself is thoughtful and smart shifting, swapping cogs exactly when you think it should - while you have paddle shifters available to use, in most cases you’re not going to need them.

The engine itself is an absolute weapon. There’s lots and lots of pulling power, it’s linear in the way it delivers its power, and there’s a little bit of pop and crackle from the exhaust - personally, I would like even more. I guess that’s where an A45 or CLA45 comes into its own.

The steering is superb for an all-wheel drive car, too. It’s direct and accurate, and while you can feel the electronics shuffling the power and torque between front and rear axles it’s a really nicely balanced and very easy car to drive fast – at times even faster than you really should be. 

In Sport mode and Sport Plus mode the suspension and steering are tightened up, with taut responses but the suspension is never crunchy or uncomfortable. Braking performance is very good, too.

In Comfort mode though, I struggled to come to terms with the A35 a little. In my mind, it lived up to the notion of a sporty sedan a lot more readily than it did that of a compact luxury sedan. It just feels like it’s meant to be on a twisty road, not dealing with daily drudgery in commuting.

One not-very-luxurious element was the road noise intrusion, which was the worst of any new car I can recall experiencing. That might seem a dramatic claim, but the booming tyre roar on coarse chip road surfaces, including major Sydney freeways, was verging on unbearable. I measured it on my smartphone, and 78 decibels was the maximum readout.

And while very impressive under pressure, the powertrain is somewhat doughy in less demanding situations. There’s some lag to contend with, and a little bit of lunging from the transmission, too. However, it was during downshifts that I found the transmission’s behaviour most questionable, with some shift-shunts when slowing to a halt in urban driving. 

One unexpected finding was the 'Route-Based Speed Adaptation' system’s behaviour, which was active in the car I was driving. The tech uses the car’s mapped position to guide its adaptive cruise control behaviour. In theory it’s a very smart idea - the car will slow itself down if it predicts you’re about to approach a tight bend and you’ve got it set at the speed limit. Or if you’re approaching a roundabout, it’ll think ahead, too.

But during my time in the car, I had an issue that I found could be potentially dangerous. Having set the speed at 80km/h in a relatively new tunnel in Sydney’s west (the WestConnex M4, opened July, 2019), the system couldn’t place the car’s location, which meant the car believed it was still on surface streets. 

On multiple occasions the car slowed dramatically thinking I needed to turn a corner that didn’t exist on the road I was driving on. My instant thought was: “What if the person behind me wasn’t looking at the road ahead?” I’ve seen enough drivers with their eyes aimed at the phone in their lap and not the road ahead, to know this is a distinct possibility.

There’s also a risk from tailgating trucks, which seem to be more prevalent in Sydney’s west than anywhere else on the planet. It’s a potential risk, even if the Benz has clever tech that can flash the tail-lights if the car’s systems predict there’s a chance of being rear-ended.

Mercedes-Benz’s Aussie team let me know that the map software wasn’t up to date, which is why the car didn’t understand the situation. It’s technology you can disable by simply delving into the menus on the MBUX system, but I’d recommend you try it out to see if you’re comfortable with it.

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.


Mercedes-Benz A358/10

The A-Class range was awarded the full five-star ANCAP crash test rating based on 2018 criteria, and the scoring measures have progressed since then. According to ANCAP, the rating applies to all Mercedes Benz A-Class variants, though the Mercedes-AMG A35 (hatch and sedan) and A45 (hatch) are not shown on the scorecard.

However, the entire A-Class range comes with auto emergency braking (AEB) that operates between 7-200km/h and has pedestrian and cyclist detection (7-50km/h), active lane keep assist (LKAS, 0-250km/h) and lane departure warning (LDW), traffic sign recognition (TSR), and blind spot monitoring (BSM) and rear cross traffic alert (RCTA) with auto-braking. There’s also driver fatigue monitoring, cruise control with speed limiter, and speed sign recognition.

But despite being the top-of-the-range A-Class sedan, you still have to pay extra for the safety of front cross traffic alert with braking, and the brand’s Distronic adaptive cruise control system. Those are part of the Driving Assistance Package ($1890), which also incorporates active blind spot assist, active lane change assist, a system called Evasive Steering Assist (which sharpens up the steering to be more direct if a crash threat is predicted), and the aforementioned Route-Based Speed Adaptation.

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.


Mercedes-Benz A359/10

Mercedes-Benz Australia recently joined Korean luxury brand Genesis in meeting the market with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan for all of its models, including AMG variants.

Service intervals for the A35 sedan are set every 12 months/25,000km - yes, that’s a generous maintenance schedule, as most cars require servicing every 15,000km. 

Buyers can opt to pre-pay servicing costs and roll it into their finance package, and there’s a level of discount applied if you do that. 

For a three-year/75,000km service plan, you’ll pay $2150, saving you $500 over pay-as-you-go capped price servicing. There’s also a four-year/100,000km plan ($2950) or a five-year/125,000km plan ($4000). That’s surprisingly decent for a luxury car, though keep in mind it doesn’t include wiper inserts or brake pads/discs.

Buyers get roadside assistance included for the duration of the new-car warranty, too.