WHAT IS IT?
The sedan version of Mercedes-Benz’s all-new fourth-generation A-Class, due in Australian in the second quarter of next year.
WHY ARE WE DRIVING IT?
The international launch was held in Seattle, USA, and gave us a chance to try the A220 (a spec we won’t see in Oz) but which was still instructive in terms of packaging, interior; transmission, dynamics and NVH.
Read next: 2019 Mercedes-Benz A200 review
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Given the cars we drove were fitted with an engine spec we won’t get in Australia, and the suspension was a blend of IRS with passive dampers which we won’t see on the A200 which kicks off the sedan line-up in Australia, it’s not possible to deliver a definitive verdict. But what we can say is the A-Class sedan delivers a persuasive blend of crisp styling, intelligent packaging, class-leading safety; real interior wow factor, and solid driving dynamics. The (small) question marks which remain will be answered when we drive Australian-spec cars in the second quarter of next year.
PLUS: Exterior and Interior design; aerodynamics; safety; technology; twin 10.25-inch screens
MINUS: tyre noise on 19s; numb steering; MBUX voice recognition not always on point; torsion-beam rear end
THE WHEELS REVIEW
PERHAPS it’s a reflection of the human condition, rather than an issue specific to the Chinese, but as wealth and the standard of living have increased in the world’s most populous country, so has status anxiety. For the burgeoning upper-middle class, premium brands rule, and make it a sedan, please – a boot brings a level of cachet those shopping-trolley hatches just can’t match.
Other countries aren’t immune – Australia included – all of which helped shape the business case for Mercedes-Benz to break with tradition and produce the fourth generation of its premium compact as both hatch and sedan.
It’s easy to see the appeal when viewed in the metal. The booted A-Class has a youthful pertness that’s lacking in the slightly dour C-Class. The overhangs are tightly drawn, and there’s a rightness about its size and proportions that makes you wonder if you actually could do without the added practicality of the hatch.
In reality, the hatch’s advantage amounts to a removable parcel shelf and the extra load height that allows, because otherwise, the sedan doesn’t give much away in pure capacity. The claimed figure is 420 litres (obviously a stack more with the rear seats folded), accessed via a 950mm-wide opening.
Likewise, rear-seat packaging will be fine for most young families. I needed to make a concerted effort to duck my head when folding my six-foot frame in behind a driver’s seat set for my position, but once in, I was snug but not cramped.
As we detailed in our first local drive of the A200 hatch, (Wheels September) three suspension set-ups are offered, and this will likely be replicated for the sedan. Our drive was in an all-wheel drive (4Matic) A220 with an independent rear end, so not representative of Aussie spec. Our A200 sedan will come with a torsion-beam rear end (and passive dampers) unless customers opt for an AMG Exclusive pack (circa-$3200) that includes IRS with adaptive dampers.
We’re keen to see how the variations work on Aussie roads, as the passive-damper IRS set-up tended to be a bit edgy and reactive on the US roads we drove, with this broader demeanour exacerbated by road noise from the (optional) Pirelli P Zero 225/4019s.
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On the upside, there’s a level of body control and front-end incisiveness that will keep keen drivers involved, even if the steering is not especially feel-rich.
But wait for potential buyers to get an eyeful of the interior glitz, with those vast twin screens, turbine vents and mood lighting. Stand well back and watch junior sedan seduction in full force.
Model: Mercedes-Benz A200 Sedan
Engine: 1332cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 120kW @ 5800rpm
Max torque: 250Nm @ 1600rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Kerb weight: 1375kg
0-100km/h: 8.0sec (claimed)
Price: $49,000 (estimated)
On sale: Q2 2019