We go dashing through the snow in the next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class to see how it's shaping up.
Bigger, smarter and more refinement and comfort, the A-Class demonstrated in our early ride that Mercedes-Benz has taken on board the criticism of the outgoing car. We’ll only know for certain when we finally drive it, but the A-Class looks like it’s going to be a tougher rival than ever for premium and mainstream hatchbacks.
"We’ve just done a calculation and we’ve driven over 12 million kilometres in the new A-Class,” says Jochen Eck, Senior Manager Vehicle Testing Compact Cars. We’re adding to that now, sitting alongside Eck as he works towards his ‘holy date’. Not Christmas, but instead the day when the A-Class is signed off for production. That’ll be early in 2018. We’ll see the new A-Class officially at the Geneva Motor Show in March, before then Mercedes-Benz drip-feeding its compact model’s new interior tech at the Las Vegas CES event this January.
What’s clear outside despite the swirling disguise is the new A-Class is bigger. There’s a 30mm stretch in the wheelbase, the car is 16mm wider overall and riding on track widths that are 14mm wider front and rear. The overall length grows by 120mm.
• New Mercedes A-Class: latest news
Eck admits that the growth’s benefits are numerous. Dynamically it’s a more stable platform as a result, allowing greater comfort, while the space increase inside is obvious. "I spend a lot of time sitting in the back, so you’re lucky I’m tall,” admits Eck.
That rear seat sits some 10mm lower than the outgoing A-Class, allowing enough head and legroom to allow me, at 5ft 11in, to sit comfortably behind 6ft Eck’s driving position. There’s greater shoulder room, but three across the back will remain a squeeze.
Up front the greater space is evident, too, helped by the dual-screen dashboard design which will be fitted across the entire line-up. The boot space grows by some 39 litres and now offers a capacity of 380 litres to match the load bay of the Audi A3. That more capacious boot is accessed by a larger hatchback opening, while the rear seats offer a 40/20/split fold function.
What’s clear, even in these prototype models we’re riding in, is the improved quality, as Mercedes-Benz guns for Audi in the interior stakes. There’s been a huge emphasis on the ride comfort, too, after Mercedes-Benz was stung by criticism of the outgoing car’s suspension.
Eck admits that the A-Class is all new, though the axle concept is carried over. That means a MacPherson strut front set-up and a five-point multi-link axle on the rear, fitted to Mercedes-Benz’s latest development of its MFA (Modular Front Architecture) platform. To that Mercedes-Benz has also added a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle for use on less powerful editions.