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Mercedes-Benz A-Class


Volkswagen ARTEON

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

Volkswagen ARTEON

Some VW models, like the Golf, are household names. No doubt about it. But this? Well, it's probably not one of them. Or not yet.

This is the Arteon, the German's brand's flagship passenger vehicle. Put it this way, if VW's tag line is premium for the people, then this is the most premium. And the people? Well, they're the ones who might normally be shopping for a BMW, Mercedes or Audi.

The name, by the way, comes from the the Latin word for art, and it's a nod to the design focus that's been employed here. It comes in a shooting brake, or wagon, body shape, as well as this, the Liftback. And a quick spoiler alert, it looks pretty good, right?

But we'll get to all that. As well as the big question - can it mix it with the premium-brand big boys?

Read more about the

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.7L/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.


Volkswagen ARTEON7.9/10

The value, driving dynamics and appearance are on point for a premium play here. If you can forgo the badge snobbery attached to the German big three, then you'll find lots to like about Volkswagen's Arteon.

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.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

It's really all about the looks here, and while the Shooting Brake is particularly handsome, the regular Arteon looks premium and polished, too.

VW tells us injecting a bit of sportiness was a key aim here, both inside and outside, and that's particularly true of the R-Line model, which rides on bigger 20-inch alloys, compared to the 19s on the Elegance, with their own bespoke design.

The body styling is more aggressive, too, but both trims get lashings of chrome along the body work, and a sleek, swept-back style that looks more premium than overtly sporty.

In the cabin, though, you can see that this is an important car to VW. The touchpoints are almost all soft to the touch, and it's both understated and tech-saturated at the same time, including the swipe-to-adjust function for the stereo and climate, with new touch-sensitive sections added to the centre console and steering wheel.

It feels, dare we say it, premium. Which is likely exactly what VW was going for...

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.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

Interestingly, both body styles share near identical dimensions, with the Arteon stretching 4866mm in length, 1871 in width, and 1442mm in height (or 1447mm for the Shooting Brake).

Those numbers translate to a seriously spacious and practical cabin space, with an acreage of room for backseat riders. Sitting behind my own 175cm driving position, I had heaps of space between my knees and the seat in front, and even with the sloping roofline, plenty of headroom, too.

You'll find two cupholders in a pull-down divider that separates the back seat, and a bottle holder in each the four doors. Backseat riders also get their own air vents with temp controls, as well as USB connections, and phone or tablet pockets on the rear of each front seat.

Up front, the theme of space continues, with storage and cubbies sprinkled throughout the cabin, as well as USB-C connections for your phone or devices.

All that space means a sizeable boot area, too, with the Arteon serving up 563L with the rear seats in place, and 1557L with the back pews folded. The Shooting Brake ups those numbers - thought not any as much as you might think - to 565L and 1632L.

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.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

The Arteon carries an unsurprisingly premium price tag in the VW family, but it can still be cheaper than an entry-level equivalent from some of the German premium brands.

Or, in the words of VW, the Arteon "challenges the luxury car makers without becoming one ourselves."

And you do get a lot of stuff. In fact, a panoramic sunroof, and some metallic paints, are the only cost options here.

The range is offered in 140TSI Elegance ($61,740 Liftback, $63,740 Shooting Brake) and 206TSI R-Line trims ($68,740/$70,740), and the former is offered with VW's Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, along with a head-up display and a central 9.2-inch touchscreen that pairs wirelessly with your mobile phone.

Outside, you get 19-inch alloy wheels and full LED headlights and tail-lights. Inside, you'll find ambient interior lighting, multi-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-start ignition, as well as full leather interior trim with heated and ventilated front seats.

Also worth calling our here are the digital buttons on the dash or steering that control everything from the stereo to the climate, and work a bit like a mobile might, you can swipe left or right to control the volume or switch tracks, or change the temperature.

The R-Line model is the sportier-feeling option, and adds 'carbon' leather interior trim with bespoke bucket-style sports seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a more aggressive set of R-Line bodywork.

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.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

There are two drivetrains on offer here — the 140TSI with front-wheel drive in the Elegance, or the 206TSI with all-wheel drive in the R-Line.

The former's 2.0-litre turbo-petrol produces 140kW and 320Nm, which is enough for a sprint to 100km/h in around 7.9 seconds.

But the lust-worthy engine tune is definitely the R-Line, in which the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol ups the grunt to 206kW and 400Nm, and drops the sprint time to a brisk 5.5 seconds.

Both pair with VW's seven-speed DSG automatic.

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.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

Volkswagen says the Arteon Elegance will need 6.2L per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle, and will emit 142g/km of C02. The R-Line needs 7.7L/100km on the same cycle, with emissions pegged at 177g/km.

The Arteon is fitted with a 66-litre tank, and a PPF or petrol particulate filter, which strips some of the nasties out of the vehicle's emissions. But, VW says, it's “very important" that you only fill your Arteon with premium feel (95RON for the Elegance, 98RON for the R-Line) or you risk shortening the life of the PPF.

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.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

Full disclosure: we only spent time behind the wheel off the R-Line variant for this test, but even still, I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that it's the punchy powertrain you want.

Surely the very first hurdle any company hoping to play with the premium-brand big boys must clear is that of easy, effortless momentum? It's difficult to feel like you've made the premium choice when you're engine is straining and striving under acceleration, right?

And on this, the Arteon R-Line shines, with plenty of power underfoot whenever you need it, and a delivery style which means you rarely, if ever, fall into a hole waiting for the power to arrive.

For mine, the suspension might be a touch too firm for those seeking a truly wafting drive experience. For the record, it doesn't bother me — I always prefer to know what's happening underneath the tyres than be entirely removed from the experience — but a result of this sporty-feeling ride is the occasional registering of bigger bumps and road imperfections in the cabin.

The flip side of the firm(ish) ride is the ability for the Arteon - in R-Line guise - to swap personalities when you engage its sportier settings. Suddenly there's a snarl to the exhaust that's absent in its comfortable drive modes, and you're left with a vehicle that tempts you to head for a twisting back road to see what it's about.

But in the interests of science we instead headed for the freeway to put the Arteon's autonomous systems through their paces, with the brand promising Level 2 Autonomy on the highway.

While the technology still isn't perfect — some braking can occur when the vehicle's not entirely sure what's happening ahead of it — it's also pretty impressive, taking care of the steering, accelerating and braking for you, at least until you're reminded its time to put your hands back on the wheel.

It's also bloody big, the Arteon, with more space in the cabin - and especially the backseat - than you might be thinking. If you have kids, they'll be positively lost back there. But if you cart adults on the regular, then you'll hear no complaints.

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.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

Essentially, if VW makes it, the Arteon gets it. Think front, side, full-length curtain and driver's knee airbags, as well as VW's complete IQ.Drive safety suite, which includes a Fatigue Detection system, AEB with pedestrian detection, Park Assist, parking sensors, rear traffic assist, lane change assist, adaptive cruise control with lane guidance - which is essentially a level 2 autonomous system for highways - and an around view monitor.

The new model is yet to be crash-tested, but the last model scored a five-star rating in 2017.

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.


Volkswagen ARTEON7/10

The Arteon is covered by VW's five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and will require servicing every 12 months or 15,000kms. It will also get VW's capped price servicing offer.