ROAD TEST

MERCEDES-BENZ A-CLASS SALOON

September 10, 2019 – Published in Design & Decor Autumn 2019 issue

Aero to the max

Words Malcolm J. Naudi

This time last year, I was out and about with the fourth-generation five-door Mercedes-Benz A-Class that was newly introduced to the local market. In early August, local representatives Kind’s – Auto Sales invited me to test the four-door saloon version, a world first for the German luxury carmaker in this segment.


This is the seventh model in the Mercedes-Benz compact range and brings it to four the models with a saloon version – along with the C-, E- and S-Class. Although SUVs increase in popularity locally, the Maltese still love their three-box saloons and I have no doubt that the A-Class saloon will be seen in big numbers along our highways and byways before too long.


What’s more, the A-Class saloon is the world’s most aerodynamic production car, with a coefficient of drag (Cd) of just 0.22, thanks to the favourable set-up of its long rear. The previous record was held by the Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé but the A-Class’s smaller frontal area of 2.19 m2 enables it to better its larger sibling.


In other headline news, the A-Class saloon has received a safety upgrade and can now drive semi-autonomously in certain driving situations thanks to driving assistance systems with co-operative driver support. This provides one of the highest levels of active safety in its segment, with functions adopted from the S-Class.


Thanks to improved camera and radar systems, the vehicle keeps a close eye on the traffic situation, allowing it to see up to 500 m ahead and uses map and navigation data for assistance functions. For a full rundown of the safety attributes of the A-Class I suggest you look up my comprehensive September 2018 test report on www.designdecormagazine.com.


It was a similarly torrid day this year to when I drove the five-door A-Class last year, when the temperature hovered around 42°C; this year it peaked at 39.5°C. The Polar white A-Class 180d AMG Line is sleek, athletic looking (especially in AMG trim) and has a neat, inconspicuous rear end.


The engine is the same as in the model I drove last year: a 1.5-litre four-cylinder in-line diesel with a maximum power output of 116 bhp and (more importantly for Malta) 260 Nm of torque (pulling power – to get away quickly from the lights). This is mated to a 7G-Tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox with a manual override via paddles behind the multi-function steering wheel, which has a flat bottom, so it does not touch your legs. CO2 emissions are 108-114 g/km and fuel consumption in the combined cycle is 4.3-4.1 litres/100 km.


Performance is thoroughly competent in local conditions – not just the acceleration and manoeuvring but also the stopping ability. I felt fully in control at all times. Apart from this engine and transmission, there is a comprehensive choice of both petrol and diesel engines mated to both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, some with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.


Standard equipment on the entry level model with the diesel engine option (with a starting price of €36,090) includes the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), with learning capabilities thanks to AI (artificial intelligence). Various functions are accessed through the touchscreen, the optional touchpad on the centre console and touch control buttons on either side of the steering wheel.


Other standard features are: remote central locking (with keyless start), automatic climate control, the Mirror Package, Active Brake Assist, Active Lane Assist, light and rain sensors, Dynamic Select, the Style Line and the light and sight package.


Additional equipment on the model on test, which takes the price up to €47,500, includes the Polar white exterior paint, AMG Line trim on both the interior and exterior of the vehicle, a smartphone integration package, DAB Digital Radio, the Night Package, Media Display, Touchpad, a panoramic sliding sunroof, an all-digital instrument display, extended MBUX functions (the system can be accessed through voice control using the keyword “Hey Mercedes!”), customisable ambient lighting, access to the car without having to press the key fob (with the key in your pocket, you approach the car and simply open the door), LED headlamps and the parking package with a reversing camera and sensors all round.


Standard financing with monthly instalments of €643 for 60 months including a five-year service plan, following a €14,250 deposit, is also available.


The A-Class saloon is 130 mm longer (at 4,549 mm) than the five-door and 6 mm higher (at 1,446 mm). Both the width and the wheelbase are identical at 1,796 mm and 2,729 mm, respectively. The luggage boot contains 410 litres (420 litres on petrol models).


My test route took me into mixed driving conditions as the car fitted in to my routine for the day. I took a circular route from the Kind’s showroom in Lija, heading towards Mosta, then towards Burmarrad via the roundabout that leads to Mgarr.


Before long I discovered the joys of in-car DAB radio, with the multitude of stations available, from news to music of all genres. Traffic down in Burmarrad was heavy and progress towards the roundabout at the beginning of the St Paul’s Bay bypass was slow.


Once I headed towards the Coast Road, I could appreciate the car’s potential more, although I was surprised how quickly it hit 120 km/h just in the short stretch past the lights in Qawra and I quickly had to slow down (oh for a stretch of Autostrada to let this baby stretch its legs).


I then went to Sliema for a meeting and, although I opted to use a car park, still spent about 10 minutes hunting for a slot. My memories from the automatic parking capabilities of the A-Class were revived. Two-pedal driving is so easy, minimising stress, although I liked taking over occasionally using the manual pedals behind the steering wheel.


It was with some reluctance that I returned to Kind’s in the afternoon. To sum up, the A-Class saloon has a distinctive character and all the appointments one would wish of a luxury car. This model will undoubtedly lend itself to a cabrio version before too long and I am convinced that in this body style it will widen the appeal of the A-Class with a certain segment of the local population who may wish to downsize while still driving around with a three-pointed star on their front grill.

Visit the Auto Sales showroom in Lija to book a test drive, or book online by visiting: www.autosales.com.mt

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