From £25,8008
New entry-level version of the A-Class includes a manual gearbox in the range for the first time
Mark Tisshaw
25 February 2019

What is it?

This is the cheapest – or rather least expensive – version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class you can now buy, bringing with it a couple of significant firsts: the A180-spec version of the 1.3-litre petrol engine and a manual gearbox, all wrapped up in the entry-level SE spec. 

The gearbox in particular is most definitely welcome, for one of the big criticisms of several early versions of this fourth-generation A-Class has been the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the sole choice thus far, and the hesitancy it can display.

The A180 engine is a detuned version of the 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo found in the A200, producing a still healthy 134bhp and 148lb ft in this state of tune. The manual 'box it drives the front wheels through is a six-speeder. You can also now get the gearbox on the A200 as well as the A180, with more set to follow, including on diesel versions, as Mercedes fleshes out the new A-Class range.

What's it like?

We’ve tried the auto’ in several petrol and diesel versions, and found a hesitancy in it, particularly at step-off and low speeds, as well as a wider lack of intuitiveness when you’re looking for a quick burst of acceleration. It’s probably the one major black mark about what is otherwise an excellent well-rounded family hatchback.


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So it’s a relief that the manual makes the car so much more drivable across so much more of the rev range. A good transmission will just slip into the background experience of driving, and give you an unconscious enjoyment when doing so, and this gearbox does just that.

The shift is slick, the integration with the engine seamless and the low-speed hesitancy of the auto’ all gone. It’s the transmission we’d now recommend when speccing your A-Class.

There’s plenty to recommend about this engine, too. It feels in no way a poor relation in the range, with more urgency and a wider band of use than its diminutive capacity suggests. It's as much performance as you'll tend to need in everyday driving, without ever getting your pulse racing.

The engine and gearbox can’t of course solve some of the choppiness of the low-speed ride, even on 16in alloys and tyres with plenty of sidewall (205/60) that SE trim brings. Shame, as the A-Class oozes sophistication almost everywhere else, from its precise and agile handling, pleasing steering feel and, of course, that interior. Multi-link rear-end-equipped versions of the A-Class higher up the range (this one gets a torsion beam) handle with even greater agility, and do ride a bit better across all speeds, too.

This is an interior that, even in this entry-level SE trim, feels a bit special in the class. You still get two colour screens, one for the driver’s information, and another for infotainment that’s packed with features including navigation and voice recognition software as standard. There’s a real richness to the materials and design, too, and the driving position and general control layout is excellent; you’re not left with any big blank gaps where buttons should be.

SE trim also brings with it some active safety assistance systems, such as braking and lane-keeping. In fact, there was not a single option fitted to our test car, making it a true representation of the A-Class in its purest form, and jolly impressive it is with it. There’s nothing to hide here.

Should I buy one?

In many ways, this latest version of the A-Class is the one we’d recommend. Keen drivers will find more to their dynamic liking with the more potent and higher-tech AMG Line models higher up the range, but the price will be close to starting with a three by that point.

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There’s little compromise to be had here though when you factor in the cost saving, and both the A180-spec engine and manual gearbox connected to it are worthy recommendations on their own. 

And in SE trim, this A-Class is not only the least expensive A-Class but the least expensive Mercedes-Benz, and you’re asked to sacrifice very little from a well rounded car for that privilege. 

Mercedes-Benz A180 specification

Where Oxfordshire, UK Price £23,075 On sale Now Engine 4cyls, in line, 1332cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 134bhp at 5500rpm Torque 148lb ft at 1460rpm Gearbox 6-speed manual Kerb weight 1350kg Top speed 132mph 0-62mph 9.2sec Fuel economy 47.1mpg CO2, tax band 127g/km, 26% Rivals Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3

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25 February 2019

A torsion beam and pvc upholstery, lovely.


25 February 2019
typos1 wrote:

A torsion beam and pvc upholstery, lovely.

Maybe so, but I'd bet to the vast majortiy of buyers that means nothing, but the lure of that badge does, and at that price/kit level you can see why Ford/Vauxhall etc are battling an ever decreasing market share.  

25 February 2019

My wife switched from a 1 Series to a GLA and while she found the GLA not as sharp to drive, was a nicer car overall (and rates it higher than the sublime 320d MSport she ran). 

For every punter put off by a torsion beam another 100 will be enticed by the interior and I don't agree that it's just the badge - I'm not a huge fan of her car but it feels solid and it's a very pleasant way to start home of an evening

25 February 2019

Mercaudi...yeah baby yeah.

25 February 2019

An Astra that's been hit with an ugly stick.

25 February 2019
rhwilton wrote:

An Astra that's been hit with an ugly stick.

Mercedes is now a brand that makes everything from very good (and good-looking) to very poor (and ugly) cars. The previous generation A-class belongs to the very poor (and ugly) and this improved version remains just as ugly.

Whichever Mercedes design studio it comes from, it is as if the designers were simply asked to use the 3-pointed-star grille. Otherwise it lacks the overall coherence of the C E & S, in fact it embodies very few (or very degenerate) Mercedes DNA  

I can nolonger think of Mercedes as anything other than a money making machine for its shareholders, and its diverse models have little but the grille and company logo as their common reference points.

25 February 2019

but I think these look great. 

25 February 2019

Nope you're not alone. I think the car pictured is particularly full but the Sport and AMG models look great and to be honest the interior is the most important but and it looks brilliant no matter what the model.

26 February 2019

@Shrub- Certainly not alone. :-)

25 February 2019

"’re not left with any big blank gaps where buttons should be". But what goes on in the big black areas surrounding the two screens?


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