A Different Kinda So Extra
Mercedes-Benz has blurred lines yet again with their entry-level A-range. For a while, we thought their CLA was a sedan, marketed as a coupe. Then again we were right. But the second CLA launched (we absolutely love that one), hot on the tails of that, came the A Class with a tail.
The new A Class Saloon firmly casts-in-stone, the CLA’s place as a four-doored coupe… so now it can go ahead to be all the coupe it wants to be. The A Class Saloon on the other hand is built to be a (slightly) more practical car.
We love how Mercedes has been paying more attention to the finer details of their newer cars. The A Class now features a sleeker and lower slung front end, and is flanked by aggressively-slanted headlamps, complete with LED DRLs.
Being built to be more practical, the slope in the roofline happens much later, compared to the CLA, creating better headspace for those seated at the rear. Like the CLA, the rear wheels have been pushed away from the passenger cabin, prioritising accommodation.
Perhaps, a stubby boot does make the Saloon’s neatly cut lines seem to end a little too abruptly; and those mASSive 18” alloys visually makes the car a little toy-like. We do however like the tail light treatment.
If there is one major improvement Mercedes-Benz has made for their compact series of cars, is with their interiors. Quality has certainly improved by leaps and bounds. Everything feels a little more delicate, even the way the doors close, while panel fit is superb. New jet engine-inspired air-conditioning vents, which are also found on the beautifully-penned CLS look their place within the Saloon’s dash.
In removing clutter, the instrument panel does not come with a hood. Instead, you get a neat integrated panel, which holds two 10.25” screens, one whcih functions as the driver’s instrument display, while the other fronts the infotainment unit, featuring Mercedes-Benz’s new voice-activated MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User eXperience). The new flat haptic feedback-enabled scribble pad is a welcome addition, allowing you to navigate the more complex infotainment interface.
Carryovers from larger “Mercs” like its “oh-great-silver-steering-of-many-many-buttons”, complete with two touchpad-buttons, enables you to keep your hands where they are supposed to be while you drive.
Little touches like its 64-colour ambient lighting, offers variety for the benefit of your own personalisation; while up to six available interior themes of trim from the local dealership, are there to spoil you a little.
While it is a small car, legroom at the rear is easily more than acceptable, and the seats are comfortable enough for you to clock in some decent mileage.
A 420 litre boot (50 litres more than the hatchback) adds more practicality to the equation. However, due to the Saloon’s short rear overhang, it is 40 litres less generous than the one in the CLA.
An all-new M 282 series 1.3 litre delivers 163hp, and 250Nm from between 1,620-4,000rpm. The new engine features a 0.2mm thick inner bore mirror coat which helps to reduce piston drag, helping to deliver improved fuel economy. At a combined 18.2km/l, it is impressive. Paired to a quick-shuffling 7G-DCT transmission, driving the front wheels, the Saloon reaches 100km/h in a respectable 8.1 seconds.
The only complaint I have, is that the right-sized engine does get a little buzzy right around mid-range, but overall, I do like how responsive it is.
While it might not be sporty in appearance like the CLA, the Saloon does handle astoundingly well. A light front end, means that the baby Merc happily obliges your directional-changing inputs. Its suspension, while intended to deliver a comfortable ride, does not come across as soggy, and does a good job of propping up the car as you pitch it into turns.
There is an option for what they call a Lowered Comfort Suspension, which will set you back another $1,200 which will moderately reduce some roll around the bends, but we would not advise it; as experienced in the B Class, we’d likely see this car bottom out over humps.
With the recent introduction of the new CLA Shooting Brake, the entry Mercedes-Benz range is now complete.
The Saloon variant is a practical car. While it admittingly looks odd from some angles, since function does likely take a bigger portion of the car’s design brief, versus the purpose of the very pretty CLA, it does cost $20k less.
Their new offering goes up against the popular Audi A3 Sedan, which offers more proportionate styling, and indirectly against the likes of BMW’s new 1 Series hatch.