Mercedes-Benz A180 BE Review

Mercedes Benz A Class Review

Mercedes-Benz has been rather late to the party when it comes to an actual competitor in the C-segment. I’m not talking about the wedge of cheese that was the first A-Class, but rather a real driving competitor in the segment that is one of the biggest cash cows for Audi and BMW. Not that the previous A-Class didn’t sell, but a driver’s car it certainly wasn’t; you sat up high, had quite a bit of space, and it was easy to move around in the city… so people who didn’t give two hoots about driving bought it in droves. Meet the Mercedes-Benz A180...

Mercedes Benz A180 BE Auto review by John Beale

Exterior looks

To appeal to the masses a C-segment hatch needs to look good, and the A does that very well. From the front and side the low slung hatch look is sporty and aggressive, but from the rear it all doesn’t come together too well in my view. Not since the FJ Cruiser have I driven a car that turns heads like this car. That alone will be enough for most people to consider this car, and that is part of the problem with the Mercedes-Benz A180 BE Auto.

The Drive

The Mercedes-Benz A180 BE is the entry-level unit, delivering 90kW and 200NM from a 4cylinder turbocharged 1.6litre engine. It’s a bit too unrefined and up against the top of the rev range sounds terribly high pitched. The figures aren't really impressive from a 1.6Turbo, but it does an ok job of moving the A around. The 0 - 100km/h time clocks in at 10 seconds. A 7speed DCT gearbox (with steering wheel paddles) puts the drive through the front wheels.

Gearbox and fuel economy

The gearbox is probably my least favourite part of the car, being way too lazy in normal mode, and too revvy in sport. It just never seems to be in the right gear when you really want to push on, and when in eco mode, it leaves you without any torque. I achieved just over 9.2l/100km, far from the 5.8l/100km claimed.

Ride and Handling

Since the launch, the ride has been the other mechanical bit that’s been under much criticism from international press. Thanks to the 16inch runflats with a lot of rubber, the ride wasn’t too harsh. That said, over bad roads it still thumps and crashes too loudly. When you push on there’s very little communication from the Servotronic steering, and it’s hard to read what the chassis and suspension is going to do next. Drive in a more relaxed fashion and you wouldn’t notice any of this, and I doubt 80% of drivers will.

Safety Features

Brakes and other safety equipment are class leading, with everything from ABS, 7 Airbags, stability and traction control as well as hill-hold and attention assist, which warns you if you’re getting tired behind the wheel.

Interior and Features

Get in and the Mercedes-Benz A180 interior is beautiful to look at. Front seats look and feel like something from SEGA arcade games, but do cut rear seat leg space in the kneecaps. On the positive side the silver air vents are straight from the SLS supercar, and the dash is clad in hand-stitched leather. Everything is easy to operate, with quality feel to the materials. The only two things that look and feel out of place is the aftermarket looking multimedia interface screen strapped to the dash, and controller which is too far back on the centre armrest to use without dislocating your shoulder. The options I would definitely fit are the panoramic sunroof (which helps looks and interior ambiance), leather seats, aux plug in for sound system and Bi-Xenon headlamps. Skip on the shoddy Harmon Kardon or COMAND system as well as pointless reverse camera.

Mercedes-Benz A180 – Conclusion

For 80% of future A-Class owners, the same people who didn’t give a hoot about driving the last A-Class, there will be nothing wrong with the car because it looks so damn good. Also, as a replacement to the previous A, it’s light-years ahead. That said, it’s neither terribly comfortable nor sporty, so it misses the mark on trying to be something in the middle.

Value for money considered, the Mercedes-Benz A180 does beat BMW and Audi on standard kit, but my well-specced A180 BE Auto came in at R351 000, which is rather expensive for the “base spec” drivetrain. Keep the options down and you have a beautiful hatch for a fairly reasonable price. If you enjoy a spirited drive, you’ll have to fork out more cash for the A250 or the 1 Series.

Mercedes-Benz A180 Price

Mercedes-Benz A180 90kW/200NM – R273 718 Looking for even more information? Read David Taylor's review on the new Merc A-Class.