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Driven: Merc makes room for A-Class sedan and CLA

New-gen CLA to move upmarket as A-Class sedan arrives as Mercedes’ small four-door

28 Jun 2019

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific (MBAP) will give its just-launched A-Class four-door free air in the luxury small-sedan segment by nudging its incoming second-generation CLA much closer to mid-sizer territory.


Speaking last week, MBAP media relations and product communications manager Ryan Lewis said increasing the new CLA’s specification levels – and price, expectedly – will make room for the brand’s first A-Class sedan.


“CLA has kind of moved into a different spot, and so A-Class sedan is – in some ways – the alternative to the outgoing CLA,” he said.


“The simple answer is that the new CLA is repositioned, it’s significantly bigger than the old one.


“With the Australian spec with AMG Line as standard, the new CLA is slightly longer than C-Class, which gives you an idea of the size of it.


“Same platform, MFA2, but CLA is a different sort of offering with a high level of spec … quite a bit more equipment.”


Revealed earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the CLA measures 4688mm in length, 1830mm in width and 1439mm in height – 139mm longer, 34mm wider and 5mm taller than the A-Class sedan.


However, as both models share the same MFA2 platform, their wheelbases are identical at 2729mm.


For reference, the recently facelifted C-Class mid-size sedan measures 4686mm long, 1810mm wide and 1442mm tall with a 2840mm wheelbase.


In relation to the new A-Class hatchback launched last year, however, the sedan version is 130mm longer and 6mm higher, at 4549mm long, 1796mm wide and 1434mm tall.


As a result, boot capacity is up 50 litres over the five-door, to 420L with the rear seats in place.


When asked which version of the A-Class will be the most popular in Australia, Mr Lewis said the brand expects the five-door to outsell the sedan but would not be drawn on specifics.


“It (customers) will be similar to A-Class hatch, but not exactly the same,” he said. “Obviously, sedans are seen as more of a traditional body style, so it’s a slightly different set of customers.


“The expectations – in terms of performance – is that the hatch will continue to be more popular than the sedan.


“Obviously, there hasn’t been an A-Class sedan before, so we don’t know quite what sales will be like, but the expectation will be the hatch will sell in a greater percentage.”


Aside from the slight difference in size and body style, the A-Class sedan also gains more comfort-orientated front seats with adjustable headrests and restyled tail-light designs.


MBAP managing director and chief executive Horst von Sanden said both versions of the A-Class, as well as the CLA, will be made available in local showrooms to offer customers a choice that might not be available in competitor’s line-ups.


“It’s obviously a balance between giving existing customers a different choice than simply a substitution, so the real business case in those niches is in conquest,” he said.


“There are customers out there who simply don’t like hatches so much. If they can have a sedan, they’d prefer that – it’s a personal taste more than anything.


“In terms of benefits (or differentiation), it’s hard to build a sales pitch, some people like it more than others – some would never go into a hatch, others would never go into a sedan.”


As reported, the A-Class sedan’s launch range kicks off from $49,400 before on-road costs for the current top-spec A200, but it will expand in August with the $44,900 entry-level A180.


While both versions make use of a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the A180 outputs 100kW/200Nm, while the A200 ups the ante to 120kW/250Nm.


However, with only the front axle being driven, both aforementioned versions of the A-Class sedan will return a fuel economy rating of 5.7 litres per 100km that is also helped by a 0.22 drag coefficient, which Mercedes is touting as the slipperiest in the passenger-car segment.


Later this year, MBAP will also introduce an A250 (in front- and all-wheel-drive guises) and the AMG A35 sedan to round out the four-door range.


Both are motivated by 2.0-litre force-fed petrol engines, tuned to 165kW/350Nm in the former and 225kW/400Nm in the latter.


Like the rest of Benz’s new-generation small-car family, the A-Class sedan features the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, which can be controlled via a touchscreen, a touchpad, steering-wheel buttons or voice activation, the latter of which is activated with the phrase ‘Hey Mercedes’.


Splayed over a 10.25-inch display, the set-up supports natural language recognition, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, digital radio and a nine-speaker sound system.


New in the A-Class sedan, however, is the ‘Mercedes me Connect’ functionality, which can output vehicle statistics such as fuel levels, tyre pressure, location and brake pad conditions to a smartphone application.


However, the Mercedes me Connect service will also roll out to other MBUX-equipped models this month and will additionally enable remote locking and unlocking, climate-control adjustment and sat-nav destination inpout.


Owners using the app will also receive smartphone notifications for service updates and timing.


Standard equipment in the A-Class sedan includes a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, Artico upholstery, power-folding side mirrors, push-button start and four driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual).


Stepping up to the A200, buyers gain 18-inch wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips, lumbar adjustable driver’s seat, a folding rear armrest, wireless smartphone charging and high-beam assist.


Safety systems across the line-up include a reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring and front and rear parking sensors, as well as park and lane-keep assist.


No less than 11 option packages are available to A-Class sedan buyers, including a $7090 Edition 1 bundle which boosts styling and is highlighted by copper-coloured 19-inch AMG wheels, a $790 Keyless-Go Comfort pack that includes hands-free boot access, and the $2990 Exclusive pack which comprises extra in-cabin technologies.


2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan pricing*

A180 (a) $44,900
A200 (a) $49,400

*Excludes on-road costs

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