Mercedes-Benz has managed to flog over three million A-Class hatchbacks since the original launched in 1997, but the three-pointed star hadn’t quite managed to tap the full sales potential of its baby car. Subsequent spinoffs such as the CLA, CLA Shooting Brake and GLA addressed that to an extent by targeting saloon, wagon and crossover shoppers in the lower rungs of the premium segment, but there’s clearly more potential there, and the A-Class Sedan has been conceived to fill that gap.
Although it shares its drivetrains and core architecture with the A-Class hatch, the Sedan differs from the B-pillar rearwards. The sedan rides on the same 2,729mm wheelbase, but the addition of the boot adds 130mm to overall length. The sedan also stands 6mm taller than the five-door, but the tapered roof means there’s 10mm less headroom in the rear seats. On the plus side, the sedan offers 420 litres of luggage space, which is 50 litres more than its hatchback sibling.
The addition of the boot optimises the A-Class sedan’s aero efficiency to the extent that Mercedes claims it has the lowest drag of any production car on the market. Although it has the same ultra-low drag coefficient (0.22) as the CLA, the ‘A’ sedan has a smaller frontal area, making it even slipperier through the air.
Although local spec levels and a GCC launch date are yet to be announced, it’s likely we’ll get two variants here, mirroring the A-Class hatchback line-up, which comprises the A250 and high-performance AMG A45. The former is propelled by a 2.0-litre turbo unit that pumps out 221bhp and 350Nm, while the latter gets a brutal 375bhp/475Nm motor. That said, Mercedes hasn’t as yet revealed an AMG A45 Sedan, but it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
The A-Class comes standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but where entry models in Europe and other markets are fitted with a basic torsion-beam rear axle, the A250 we’ll get in our region is equipped with a more sophisticated multilink rear end. However, at the car’s international launch in Seattle the only version available for us to drive was an A220 4Matic (which won’t be sold here), propelled by a 2.0-litre turbo serving up 188bhp and 300Nm.
The overriding impression on first acquaintance is of how upmarket the A-Class looks and feels for an entrant at the tiddler end of the premium segment. The cabin is immaculately trimmed and artfully laid out, with the highlight being a fully digitised instrument cluster — with twin high-definition LCD screens — that mimics the setup you’d find in the E-Class and S-Class.
And contrary to Merc’s usual philosophy of debuting its latest tech in top-end models before trickling it down to lesser offerings, the A-Class dispenses with tradition by being the first model to score the new Mercedes-Benz User Xperience (MBUX) infotainment/personal driving assistant system. It’s essentially Merc’s take on systems such as Alexa and can be activated by voice command.
You can even say something like: “Hey Mercedes, tell me a joke”, and MBUX should theoretically come back with a gag. Or you can say, “I’m cold”, and the heating comes on. That’s the theory, anyway, because in practice the system often failed to comprehend what I, or my co-driver, instructed it to do. At other times, it piped up without any prompts from either of us. Perhaps it was just our accents. Given that it shares most of its hardware with the A-Class hatchback, it’s no surprise the sedan drives quite similarly. The A220 4Matic we were piloting was equipped with the multilink rear end — rather than the torsion-beam setup that comes in base models — yet ride quality was less than cossetting over sharp imperfections in the tarmac.
That said, the test cars at the launch were equipped with 19-inch rims wrapped in low-profile rubber, which obviously didn’t help. Chances are the ride would be quite acceptable with 17- or 18-inch wheels.
The 2.0-litre motor in the A220 4Matic we drove was decently lively, and the more potent A250 we’ll get here should be an even peppier performer. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission isn’t the most responsive or intuitive though, and occasionally gets caught flat-footed when you want an instant burst of acceleration.
The key takeaway from our initial drive is that the A-Class sedan feels a much classier, more tech-laden proposition than rivals such as the Audi A3 sedan and BMW 1 Series hatchback. It’s a polished, grown-up car, despite what its dimensions might have you believe.