The A-Class Saloon offers an interesting proposition to buyers who'd like a compact four-door Mercedes but have no need to stretch up to a C-Class. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at what's on offer.
You'd have thought that the market for really compact premium brand saloons might be a little bigger than it is. Normal 'D'-segment premium brand four-door models like the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class have, after all, become fairly expensive in recent times, with prices starting at well over £30,000. Think £35,000 in fact, to get what you probably want. If in contrast, you could get much the same thing for around £28,000 fully kitted-out, that'd have to be an interesting proposition for middle managers. Wouldn't it? Audi thought so, launching its A3 saloon in 2015. But BMW didn't respond at all and Mercedes fielded only its CLA four-door Coupe - which wasn't quite the same thing. Now though, Mercedes has done the job properly, taking the opportunity represented by the introduction of the fourth generation A-Class range to bring us a proper notchback four-door A-Class Saloon. Let's check it out.
The A-Class Saloon range is based around nine engines. In the petrol range, the entry-level A 180 variant is likely to be popular, featuring a 1.4-litre 136hp unit available with either 6-speed manual or 7G-DCT dual-clutch auto transmission. This same engine's offered in the A 200 with 163hp, which manages rest to 62mph (in the manual model) in 8.2s. Next up is the A 250, which uses a 2.0-litre petrol powerplant in a 224hp state of tune, manages rest to 62mph in 6.2s and is only offered with a 7G-DCT auto 'box. Mercedes also offers an A 250e petrol plug-in hybrid variant, which uses a 1.33-litre petrol engine mated to a 75kW electric motor linked to a 15.6kWh battery and offers 44 miles of WLTP-rated electrified driving range. There are three diesel alternatives, all offered only as automatics. The first is the A 180d, which puts out 116hp and uses the 7G-DCT auto gearbox. Next up is the A 200d which has a 2.0-litre 150hp engine. Beyond that lies the top A 220d, which tunes the same unit up to 190hp. The A 200d and A 220 use an 8G-DCT auto. At the top of the range are the two Mercedes-AMG 2.0-litre petrol turbo hot hatch variants. There's the A 35 4MATIC which offers a potent 306hp. And the A 45 S 4MATIC+, which has 421hp. What else do you need to know? Well the suspension is the usual torsion beam rear set-up on most models, but if you go for a variant with 4MATIC AWD, you'll get a more sophisticated multi-link rear set-up. The 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes system is standard, as usual enabling you to tweak steering feel and throttle response. At extra cost, adjustable damping can be added into it. Some of the autonomous driving capability from larger Mercedes models has been built into this one, meaning that, in certain situations, you're a-Class, if appropriately equipped, will effectively be able to drive itself on dual carriageways at cruising speeds.
Design and Build
This Saloon A-Class model is 130mm longer than its hatch stablemate, but sits on the same wheelbase. The long wheelbase version of this four-door is limited to the Chinese market. The standard wheelbase model for Europe gets a modular two-part rear bumper and what Mercedes calls a 'muscular and sensual' shoulder line. Inside up-front, it is of course exactly the same as in an A-Class hatch. The usual instrument binnacle cowl has been completely dispensed with, so the wing-shaped main body of the dashboard can extend from one front door to the other with no visual discontinuity. A virtual instrument screen (of either 7-inches or 10.25-inches in size) replaces the usual dials and can be joined with a centre-dash infotainment display (again either 7-inches or 10.25-inches in size) to create one continuous monitor, much as you get in larger Mercedes models. Obviously, this saloon variant differs from the hatch versions more in the rear. The roofline isn't so swept back as to limit headroom, while the wide-opening doors allow easy access. Mercedes claims there's class-leading headroom in the back. It'll still be tight for three adults though. The boot, which offers 420-litres of space, is 50-litres bigger than that of the hatch, though has a narrower opening.
Market and Model
You'll pay around £1,500 more for this Saloon body style. That means a starting price of around £28,000 for either the A200 petrol model or the A180d diesel, assuming you go for base 'Sport' form; there's a £1,200 premium for more dynamic 'AMG Line' spec. The 'Sport' models feature twin seven-inch displays including a central touchscreen with MBUX multimedia system with 'Hey Mercedes' voice activation. There's also comfort suspension, a DAB radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, 'Artico' and Fleron fabric upholstery, automatic two-zone climate control, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Speed Limit Assist and a Keyless-Go starting function. 'AMG Line' customers will benefit from 18-inch AMG alloy wheels, an AMG body styling kit, 'Artico' and Dinamica microfibre upholstery and a three-spoke sports steering wheel. This fourth generation A-Class is well connected. Navigation functions, for example, can be based on traffic feedback from so-called 'Car-to-X communication' where information gets fed in from other similarly-equipped road users. As usual, there's a dowloadable 'Mercedes Me' app that connects you into your car and can tell you things like local fuel prices or the availability of parking spaces at your destination.
Cost of Ownership
Let's get to the WLTP figures. The economy champion of course, is the A 180d variant, which in base trim manual form exhales just 120g/km of CO2, while only drinking a gallon of fuel on the combined cycle every 62.8 miles. With respectable performance figures, it's a tempting package - albeit one that in its standard form, forgoes the big wheels and aggressive bodykits of more dynamic-looking versions. If you plan on adding the extra features, then economy will obviously take a hit. The A 200d manages up to 58.9mpg in manual form and 134g/km. And the A220d auto returns up to 57.7mpg and 129g/km. As for the petrol engines, well the A 180 and A 200 in manual form both manage up to 47.9mpg on the combined cycle and 134g/km of CO2, figures that change to 47.1mpg and 135g/km if you go for auto transmission. The auto-only A 250 2.0-litre petrol variant manages 41.5mpg and 155g/km. The A 250e plug-in hybrid manages 256.8mpg and 25g/km of CO2. The warranty may be an industry standard 3 years but is for unlimited miles, handy to know if you spend a lot of time on the road. Just remember that a mid-range diesel is the sensible option for high resale figures. With that in mind, something like a mid-spec A180d model might well represent the sweet spot of the range. On the other hand, an 4MATIC petrol variant with every option thrown at it will lose a lot more of its value over the years.
You can see how this Saloon A-Class variant might carve out a useful niche for itself. You get smart looks, a decently-sized boot and a class-leadingly sophisticated cabin that no rival model can match. Running cost efficiency is top-notch and, despite the front-driven format, there's pretty much all the warm feel of quality that comes with any model bearing the famous Three-Pointed Star. In short, if you can't quite stretch to a C-Class, then this might be a tempting option.