Depending on their lifecycle, the E and S Class have notably always received the lion share of new advancements in technology for Mercedes-Benz. It makes sense right? They are essentially the flagships for the brand and are aimed at the upper end of the affluent public. But now it seems that with the all-new A-Class, Mercedes-Benz has ‘virtually’ made a 180-degree flip, introducing their latest technical advancements (namely MBUX) at the sector that’s best suited to understand it – namely the youth! We grabbed the keys to this new 5-door hatch to see what it was all about.
This is the 4th Generation A-Class and Mercedes-Benz has certainly upped the ante. It’s more dynamic in looks and comes with a very understanding mind. It’s bigger overall on the exterior and this, in turn, allows for a more roomier interior – essentially passengers have extra shoulder and breathing space. Multibeam LED’s light the way ahead while the split light design at the rear means that the ‘bug bearer’ small access to the 370L of boot space issue has been resolved. The A 200’s contemporary styling sure has a younger more hip audience in its crosshairs and the added AMG body kit option that came with my ride seemed to underline this fact.
Step over the threshold and aside from the minimalistic feel, (thanks to the full width ‘wing’ dash, jet thruster air vents, and lack of driver’s side cowl cover) you are greeted with an absolute plethora of new gadgetry. From the instrument cluster and infotainment system to the newly developed centre console pad, the A-Class is emersed in the digital age. I was advised to think of it as three separate areas, each with a modern device moniker, Smartphone meets Tablet meets Computer – I simply nodded sagely.
Despite my generally slow uptake on things, the new tech is surprisingly easy to understand and navigate around. The extensive, long ‘floating’ screen that takes up nigh-on half of the dashboard, is actually two 10.25-inch digital displays. The instrument cluster (speed and revs for us old people) now displays quite literally, everything you need to know. It’s sharp and informative and can be explored and personalised with your right thumb on the steering wheel freshly designed steering. The infotainment side is the overriding brains behind the organisation and along with the usual sound and entertainment apps etc, it has a new comfort ‘seats kinetics’ mode for the two front seats that can be set to short, medium or long-term drives. It’s hard to explain, but it constantly adjusts the seat settings a fraction, sort of fidgets, which means that you’re not sitting in the same position all the time and therefore provides less driver fatigue. Plus there is a new Navigation system which is fully immersive, 3D and so very detailed – it even shows the building’s neons! This screens data can be controlled via touch-screen (with pinch, swipe and zoom), using your left thumb on the steering wheel, via a new flat touchpad on the centre console and with voice activation. This brings me on to MBUX.
Mercedes-Benz User eXperience (MBUX) is the new intelligent voice control system that (with natural speech recognition) provides next level connection to your A 200. The theory is, that the car will learn from you, your habits, your regular routes etc and offer up suggestions that will make your life easier. Seating, warmth, directions, communication, vehicle data, fuel requirements… the list goes on and on. Humans are essentially creatures of habit and over time your vehicle will know more about you than you do – that’s a scary thought. Unfortunately, the reality between MBUX and I was somewhat different. My A 200 understood me clearly and did what it could to fulfil my requests, but lacked a fair amount of features. I can see where it’s heading and that’s a great thing but for the moment, let’s leave it at ‘the system has room to grow’.
Something that needs zero improvements though, is the engine. In bygone years (when I just received my licence), the 1.3 litre engine was hardly a force to be reckoned with. Power numbers were barely hitting a half-century and the torque wasn’t really worth ‘talking’ about. You essentially got to 100kph in your own good time and CO2 gasses may have been off the scale but they weren’t even invented in real-world terms. The A 200’s new 1.3L however, is something totally different altogether. Power is noted to be 120kW and torque is an awesome 250 Nm. Top speed is believed to be 225km/h and it’s frisky off the mark. It sips fuel at a rate of 5.7L/100km and emits the evil CO2’s at just 130g/km. All this adds up to a lovely powertrain that made the A 200 a joy to drive. Things have certainly changed in 30 or so years.
Admittedly, my youth seems an age ago but from what I can remember, new technology and innovations were things to embrace and adopt. The MBUX and advanced hardware mix in the A 200 open up a world of new possibilities that are easy to understand and even easier to use. As with all leaps forward, there are certain current limitations but these will obviously reduce with each iteration. In the meantime, this all-new A 200 is a good-looking, sporty hatch, that offers a great ride and a smart mind that’s easy to connect with – even at my age.