The latest addition to Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level A-Class line-up is a contemporary compact saloon – a car that harks back to the German car maker’s much-admired 190, the model that sired today’s C-Class saloon back in the early 1990s.
The A-Class saloon is good 130mm longer than its new, fourth-generation A-Class hatchback sibling, with which it shares it wheelbase, by way of an extended rear overhang and notchback style rear end. It has been conceived primarily for the US and Chinese markets - the latter of which is set to receive an even longer version of the new four-door.
Set to complement the CLA, which is planned to become a more sporting proposition when the second-generation model arrives next year, it is quite a convincing thing in the metal, with a distinctive front end that links it visually with the more familiar A-Class hatchback, favourable three-box proportions and a smart rear end with distinctively styled tail-lamps.
It’s quite versatile, too, thanks to sensibly shaped door apertures offering good access to the rear. Accommodation in the back seats isn't exactly plentiful, but there’s enough room for two adults to sit comfortably when the front seats are set to accommodate similar-sized occupants.
At 420 litres, the boot offers 45 litres more space than that of the A-Class hatch, and it has a relatively low load lip to ease the loading of heavy items. For even greater load capacity, the rear seats split and fold in a 40/20/40 configuration.
What changes has Mercedes made for the A-Class saloon?
We sampled the standard-wheelbase version, which will initially be produced in Mexico and is planned to go on sale in the UK in early 2019 with the choice of two front-wheel-drive models: the £27,875 A180d Sport and the £28,095 A200 Sport. Neither of those was available to drive at the launch, but the US-spec, four-wheel-drive A220 4Matic proves the new saloon is a worthy rival to the likes of the Audi A3 saloon, although at this stage it is not planned for sale in the UK.
Its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, with 188bhp and 221lb ft of torque, delivers spirited performance, pulling cleanly and keenly, with a linear power delivery, although the exhaust note is somewhat undistinguished in the upper reaches of the rev range.
The optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox – an in-house built unit that is an alternative to the standard six-speed manual – is not always smooth around town, where it is sometimes a bit clunky on downshifts in automatic mode. However, it works well out on the open road, where upshifts are quite crisp and relatively fast under load.