The least expensive A-Class in Singapore – the Mercedes-Benz A 200 Progressive delivers on the promise of upper-crust features in a normal-class body, but at an upper-crust price
In 1997, Mercedes-Benz launched its first small hatchback, the A-Class.
That’s pretty much it really, the world went on its merry way. It wasn’t a particularly momentous event like the debut of the BMW 3 Series, or even the first ‘baby Benz’, the C-Class, both of which went on to have much more sales success than the A-Class ever did.
But this could be the A-Class than changes things. The third-gen W177 was pronounced as ‘pretty dang good’ at its international debut, while its local launch saw a huge amount of buyer interest and the sort of handphone-saluting usually only seen at supercar events.
It seems the semi-forgotten child of the Mercedes range (the really forgotten child is the B-Class, and that’s not nearly as boring as it used to be either) has done a Cinderella overnight.
A glance at the new car is enough to show you why, really.
The sloping front end is a bold move on a hatchback: It doesn’t have the length to guarantee the approach works like it does on the elegant CLS, but the effect is still gratifying, even if the Progressive model variant here isn’t as dressed up as the AMG Line one is.
In other words, the A-Class looks like a Mercedes-Benz small car, not just a hatch that happened to be built by Mercedes, as the previous one did.
Flip out ‘cargo mode’ latches for carrying boxier items flush upright against the backrest.
What’s nicer is that the design doesn’t impinge on practicality at all, as there’s more boot space and passenger room too: 370-litres, which is a 29-litre increase, but importantly the loading aperture isn’t modelled after a Tetris piece, while the seats fold down 40/20/40.
The real magic is up front, though.
In the PC enthusiast world, the disease of RGB LEDs (that is red-green-blue light-emitting diodes – basically colour change lights) is in full plague mode.
To naysayers it’s a pointless, fancy light show, and the interior lighting of the A-Class could appear to be very much the same with its ambient, colour change LED light strips, light up air vents and hidden backdrop fills.
Pointless? Maybe, but it is pretty, and it does slap home the point to all onlookers that this is a rather tech-filled, luxury permeated cabin.
If you do somehow miss the lights, there’s no missing the large ‘HD’ cockpit with its dual 10.25-inch screens, the centrepiece of Mercedes’ new human-machine interface, dubbed MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience).
As covered in our international test drive, news story, and video online, MBUX allows you four ways of interacting with the machine – touchscreen, touchpad, steering wheel scroll pad, and voice.
‘Hi Mercedes’ is the activation word (though you can’t change it, which results in it interrupting you if you talk about the brand to your co-driver) and it’s useful for navigating, changing the light colours, and other tasks.
You can watch our walkthrough of MBUX below.
It’s the best iteration of in-car voice control for now, but BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA), which is due in Singapore with the new 3 Series next year -see this system in action in our video here – is more adroit at human speech, and can do more things.
MBUX also makes suggestions and customisations depending on how and where you drive, as well as preferred functions and settings, all of which is is managed via themes and profiles, like a computer. As an adaptive system, we didn’t have enough time to see if it really does make your life easier, though.
But overall, the A-Class’ interior is a place worth spending time in, it’s gone from ho-hum boring to a polished, futuristic lounge space that has all its tech-trickery on proud display.
Matching that is the improvement in drive manners. The A 200 has a perky 162hp from its new power unit, and it’s the first we’re seeing of this 1.33-litre turbo inline four that will no doubt also be found in the forthcoming new CLA, GLA, and everything else compact-Mercedes.
It’s not the smoothest of powerplants, but in this category and capacity most engines sound like vacuum cleaners anyway.
There is a surprising amount of top end, so the A 200 is capable of a surprising turn of speed, especially since the handling now has far more poise and grace – it’s actually fun to wrangle the agile little Merc through some twisty tarmac.
It’s still a small hatch in town manners, where you’ll notice the really rough bumps, there is some wind and tyre noise, but overall the comfort level is still better than a janky crossover’s.
We expected a little more refinement from the new A, especially given the price tag. It’s far better than it used to be, but you’re paying top-dollar here, and the A-Class still can’t touch the Volkswagen Golf for ultimate all-roundedness.
For context, the Mercedes-AMG A 35 is tremendously flexible and quick, and far more refined, while the current CLA ‘coupe’ drove far less impressively than this car does and it still sold like cheap Mao Shan Wang in early July.
Still, there’s no getting around the fact that the Merc is spendy, even for a luxury small hatch, as we pointed out in our launch piece. The A 200 Progressive is the least expensive A-Class, and it’s already $153k with COE, the A 200 AMG is $157k, and the A 250 AMG Line is an eye-watering $173k with COE.
Whether or not that price is worth shelling out for is for stuff beyond our reckoning, like fashion and being on-trend. In technology, style and cabin-coolness though, the A-Class is now really the Mercedes of hatchbacks.
Mercedes-Benz A 200 Progressive
|Engine||1,332cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||163hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||250Nm at 1620rpm|
|VES Band / CO2||B / 128g/km|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|
|Price||S$152,888 with COE|
Verdict: A significantly high-tech, high-class hatch experience, but with a price to match