BIG changes are going on in car-making. Once upon a time, manufacturers would spend zillions on developing a new model that was better to drive than its rivals, but now the biggest bucks go on technology.
Gadgets and gizmos are what sell cars today and if you want something bristling with the latest tech, then the new Mercedes A-class is definitely your sort of car.
You probably won’t even notice the smart new look – all slim lights and smooth panels – and you probably won’t care about the new mechanical bits and pieces. No, what will set your heart racing is your first sight of the cabin.
It really is game-changing for the hatchback sector. From the novel shape of the dashboard to the two free-standing digital screens, this immediately makes everything else look old-fashioned.
Mind you, this isn’t design for design’s sake, as it all works beautifully. The digital screens can be fully customised, and you can control everything in all manner of ways, including voice control, just like you would with an Amazon Echo (aka Alexa).
Best of all, although this is the cheapest Merc, it includes all the self-driving tech from the company’s most expensive saloon, the S-Class. So, on the motorway, it can automatically steer to keep in its lane and even change lanes when you indicate, Tesla-style.
Also, in a world first, the Advanced Navigation system superimposes navigation instructions — like what turning to take off a roundabout — on a live view of the road in front of the car, taken from a camera in the windscreen and displayed on one of the dashtop screens.
Then, there are the neat pieces of design that can’t help but put a warm glow in the heart of any owner — partly by putting a warm glow throughout the cabin. You can have no less than 64 colours of ambient lighting to choose from.
Don’t let all this make you think that Mercedes has forgotten to make a decent car to house all this tech, though. On the contrary, this new A-class is a huge improvement on the old model.
There’s plenty of room in the front and – unlike the outgoing car – in the back, too. The boot is also bigger and very easy to access. All in all, the new A-class will make a perfectly practical small family car.
This is all good news, of course, but you might be expecting me to say it’s a letdown behind the wheel. However, the new A-class turns out to be much better to drive than its predecessor, too. Along a twisty road, there’s no shortage of grip and the steering lets you position the car just where you want it. The suspension gives a much more comfortable ride and the car is really quiet on the motorway.
Overall, it’s not quite as good as, say, a Volkswagen Golf, but to be second best to to the Golf is no criticism. Whatever you want from a car, you’ll find that the A-class is more than good enough.
Of course, just being the cheapest way into a new Mercedes will attract many people, but happily this new model feels like a proper Mercedes. What will clinch the deal, though, is that clever tech, and we think that anyone who sits inside will love it – as long as they’re no technophobe.
For more information on the new Mercedes A-Class, read the full
Mercedes-Benz A-Class rivals
Price: £18,235 – £27,805 but save £2,391 on average at
Audi A3 Sportback
Price: £21,810 – £35,770 but save £2,448 on average at