In 2012, Mercedes-Benz decided to turn the A-class from a high-roof hatchback (with a sandwich-floor layout designed for electrification) into a much lower, wider, and longer compact car with decidedly sporting aspirations. At the time, the move seemed slightly counterintuitive. But it has proved to be the correct decision: The current A-class has become a huge global success, it has spawned an entire family of models including the CLA and the GLA, and it has rejuvenated the brand’s image considerably among younger clientele.
Now Mercedes is launching the second generation of “the new A-class,” which actually is the fourth generation overall. It is slightly bigger and even sportier than the outgoing model. And, for the first time, it will be offered in the United States as a four-door sedan—in addition to the CLA “four-door coupe.” We were offered the chance to drive the new A-class hatch in Europe, and even though this version won’t be sold in the U.S. (but it will be in Canada), it offers valuable insight into what we can expect once the sedan launches here.
Outside, the model has lost a bit of the predecessor’s cheekiness, and the new A-class looks a lot more serious. The aggressive upward kink on the flanks is gone, and the car now features a distinct wedge shape, with a front end that closely resembles that of the larger CLS.
Photos of the U.S.-market A-class sedan have not yet been released, but we can safely assume it will be visually aligned with the China-market A-class sedan, which was revealed there in April. That version has a slightly longer wheelbase than ours will, though.
While the A-class is pleasant to look at outside, it’s even better inside. The sporty, aggressively styled seats make a great first impression, but it is the dashboard that steals the show. Even low-spec models have two seven-inch TFT screens, with one in place of traditional gauges and one in the center of the dash. The cars we drove had the top-of-the-line configuration consisting of two 10.3-inch displays, which probably is the most futuristic-looking instrumentation currently available in a compact car.
Maybe even in any car, as Mercedes-Benz has brazenly decided to walk away from the usual top-down approach and has fitted its best and most recent infotainment system called MBUX in its entry-level offering. The A-class, in that way, beats the S-class.
One of the most novel elements is the way the driver can communicate with the car. Use the voice-recognition system (which can be activated by saying “Hey, Mercedes”) to make almost any car-related request, and the A-class has an informative answer—or a cheeky one. Try saying, “I love you,” or asking, “What do you think of BMW?” and you’ll get some interesting replies.
There is more, such as the backlit dashboard and air vents, which look as if they were taken straight out of an S-class coupe. And while other compact cars studiously avoid wood decor in order to not be seen as stodgy, the A-class can be specified with beautiful, opulent wood trim—at least in Europe—and it doesn’t look a bit old-fashioned.