We can immediately feel a big step ahead in design even getting into the cabin, the layout is dominated by the vertical dashboard on top of which there is the new trend of tablet-like navi and board computer display, which in this case stands out completely like if it was floating away from the panel.
This unit is also equipped with the very nice looking sport seats with integrated headrests and half leather trim, panoramic sliding sunroof and few other optional for the wellbeing of the occupants. The first glance is satisfying by all means, the quality of the plastics at first appears and feels as it should, in a German premium compact. However, the quality lies in the details and here this car inexorably falls and loses on every front.
All buttons are randomly float, upper dashboard is covered with what feels as the cheapest soft-touch plastic, whereas the lower dash is mostly made of hard plastics that rattle and squeak on every single pothole. The worst may be the loud rattle coming from the roof happening on every single road imperfection when the glass is fully open.
Gizmos like the rear view camera and the self-parking (aka park assist) partially make it up with the otherwise very cheap city drive experience. Partially also because of the dreadful 7 speed double clutch gearbox which has been fully developed by Mercedes. It isn’t smooth, it isn’t good for parking passing from drive to reverse, it isn’t fast when asking for some sporty emotion, neither upshift nor down.
Then comes the combination of this DTC transmission with the 1.5 diesel Renault engine. Because if the gearbox alone wasn’t bad enough, the match between it and the engine has not comparison, since if you try with little gas at low speed, let’s say for example looking for a parking, the drive is so rough it seems to ride a retarded horse. With all due respect to retarded horses. In fact when the A-Class was first launched the 180 CDI trim was equipped with a 1.8 Mercedes-Benz diesel engine, which wasn’t output wise any better than the Renault unit, both strong of 109hp and 260Nm of torque, but at least if was damn smooth even at low revs. Not a smooth move Mercedes.
Things do not get better on open roads since the car moves but simple feels underpowered. I do not want to know what would feel the A160 CDI good for only 90hp on a body, which probably rounds one and a half ton with just a healthy driver in it. Therefore, the power does not feel enough but it certainly is for the front wheel drive setting to let the car understeer on almost all hill corner. At any speed. Well here as well we should look at it with a different eye, instead we should really look at this car down under just to realise that almost all suspension linkage are made out of pressed iron, maybe not what we expect from a car of this class and price. Especially when we consider that it’s immediate opponents, but also cheaper-image brands of this class often offer elements made out of aluminum, better to lower unsprung masses or said in other words, just better for the ride.
It is undeniable that with this new cool A-Class, Mercedes wanted the public to almost forget about the first generation disputable style and uncertain driving dynamics. The first generation was also the first FWD-slap to the RWD-traditionalist MB owners but a lot of water has passed under the bridge, the Brand has opened its doors to new lower-budget Customers that are less conscious about MB heritage and more focused about the brand and image of its vehicles. At least these new Customers are now rewarded by a good-looking car.
At least for me, it does look good.
Despite its look, the first series A-Class was very innovative and unique. Therefore, I want to start from here and feel if this new one still has these prerogatives.
It is also available with total traction but the base still is front wheel driven. By some engines. Yes, the 2.0 turbo engine found in the A45 AMG is absolutely remarkable and 100% AMG Mercedes. However we can’t say the same of the unit that moves this A180 CDI, which is neither remarkable nor Mercedes made. Well it is a 1.5 liters 4 cylinders diesel engine that outputs 109hp and it’s made by Renault. And, without any prejudice, this engine can be found in a Dacia, for example. So you either can read it as a recrimination to Mercedes or as a compliment to Dacia. You choose.
We just have to say and admit that this fact will not probably bother a single one of the Customers that will buy this car, since possibly none of them will probably even open the hood. This is common with nowadays almost perfect cars of whichever brand.
So, if we want to be radicals and traditionalists, well we have to consider it as another good face slap to the Brand’s heritage. But, we are open minded and very curious to test this car just for how it feels and let us feel.
Therefore, if we try to rationally order our feelings we’d say that this car is never in its own place, not in the city where the ride ain’t smooth, not on B-roads where it understeers and the gearbox is slow and not even on the motorways where the engine just isn’t strong enough.
So we learned a lesson, a lesson which we didn’t learn since we knew it.
A good look (and an image brand) sells times better than mere quality. Ouch.