Mercedes-Benz tonight (Friday) took the covers off its new A-Class hatchback – with Britain on track to be the biggest global market for the car.
The German car giant sold 43,000 of the outgoing version of the up-market car here last year making it one of the firm’s best-selling UK models – and now it hopes to exceed such success with the new higher-tech version given its world premiere in Holland.
At its global launch in Amsterdam, Mercedes-Benz said their compact new A-Class – expected to be priced from £22,000 – is ‘even more sophisticated’ and brings ‘new levels of luxury and technology’ to the family-car market, including autonomous self-driving technology.
Big in Britain: Mercedes’ new A-Class will be available from June 2018 and is set to become a favourite in the UK
It’s the first Merc to feature as standard easy-to-use touchscreen which includes the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – or MBUX system – which uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality software to provide in-car assistance to the driver and learn his or her habits.
This includes the new ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice recognition system – similar to Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa – which allows the driver to speak and interact with their car to control elements within the vehicle such as temperature settings and music choice.
The navigation display is just as clever, overlaying navigation data on top of real images from the vehicle’s cameras to ensure you never take a wrong turn again.
The new A-Class is the fourth generation of the up-market hatchback in just over two decades, the first two of which featured distinctive high-sided wedge-shaped styling, with the new and outgoing model, on sale since 2012, more akin to a traditional hatchback.
Available in three trim levels – SE, Sport, and the highest AMG Line – it described its interior styling as ‘modern avent-garde’ with the electronic dashboard displays prominent under a large swathe of glass.
More than half are expected to be automatics and in the top trim.
The navigation display uses augmented reality technology which overlays navigation data with real images from the vehicle’s cameras, making navigation easier and more effective
The vast majority of models sold in the UK are expected to be the most expensive top specification AMG line
Seven in ten of the Mercedes model bought by Britons last year were diesel. The A-Class was the 10th most purchased car of 2017 with 43,000 being registered last year
And proving that the fuel type is far from dead, 70 per cent of models bought by Britons in 2017 were diesels.
All new A-Class cars will come as standard with two seven inch dashboard touchscreens (with one or two 10.25-inch screens as options) housed under one sheet of glass to creating a widescreen cockpit display, automatic braking assist and automatic lane keeping.
2018 Mercedes A-Class: Will it fit in my garage?
First deliveries: June
Price: From around £22,000 to £42,000 depending on spec
(Exact prices on March 5)
Luggage space: 370 litres (up 29 litres)
For around £1,700, drivers also have the option of the hi-tech autonomous driving assistance package which adds semi-autonomous driving modes in certain situations.
This includes slowing down automatically at bends, junctions and roundabouts, braking if it spots crossing traffic or pedestrians, slowing down and accelerating in moving traffic or approaching jams, and steering autonomously.
If the driver presses the indicator for two seconds on a multi-lane highway, the car can overtake automatically and then return to its lane. And to ensure safety, if the driver takes his or her hands off the wheel for 30 seconds, they will be warned to put them back on – similar to the setting for Tesla’s AutoPilot system.
There are two engine options at launch – one petrol and one diesel.
The A200 has a new 1.4-litre four cylinder 163 horse-power petrol engine linked to a seven-speed automatic gearbox that can accelerate from rest to 62mph in eight seconds and up to a top speed of 140mph while managing 53.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 120g/km.
Mercedes said Britain is the biggest global market for the compact family hatchback – it even sells more in the UK than it does in Germany
Two engines will be available from launch – one petrol and one diesel
Prices will range from around £22,000 to £42,000 depending on engine and spec
The A180d is powered by a 1.5-litre 150hp four cylinder diesel with more torque.
Using the same automatic transmissions as the petrol, it takes over two seconds longer to hit 62mph and has a lesser top speed of 125mph.
But what you lose in pace you gain in efficiency – the diesel can manage a claimed 68.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 108g/km.
Manual versions will follow later in 2018 along with a more potent A250 model powered by a 165hp 2.0-litre petrol.
First deliveries are due in the UK in June.
As Prime Minister Theresa May returns from China to continue negotiating terms for Britain’s Brexit deal for withdrawal from the European Union, the importance of the lucrative UK export market to powerful German car-makers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen, reinforces the leverage the UK has over the EU with car-makers there desperate to avoid crippling tariffs which could hit their UK sales and dent their profits, leading to potential job cuts in Germany and elsewhere.
When the original A-Class scored an F in safety tests…
The original A-Class revolutionised the hatchback market in 1997 with its distinctive wedge shape and flat floor which allowed more space.
However, it got off to a difficult start when it failed the so-called ‘elk test’ or ‘moose test’ carried out by journalists by flipping over when doing tight evasive turns around cones designed to simulate avoiding the large animal if it or a child strayed onto the road.
The failure – shown in dramatic photographs, led Mercedes to introduce electronic stability controls to counter the problem.
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING