The passenger quarters have increased shoulder, elbow and headroom, while the boot has grown by 29l to 370l. It’s not just about space but practicality too, and the loading aperture has grown 20cm in width.
Some of the driver aids from the E-and S-Class sedans have filtered down into Merc’s smallest model, including active brake assist which automatically applies the brakes when it senses an impending frontal collision with a car, cyclist or pedestrian. This is a standard feature across the range, as is active lane keeping assist which recognises inadvertent lane departures and warns the driver with steering wheel vibrations.
Optionally available are active blind spot assist and active steering, which will first warn drivers of unseen vehicles lurking in your periphery, and then pull the car back into its lane if they ignore the warning.
Also optional is the Distronic system which automatically maintains a safe distance from the vehicle in front, and reduces the strain on long journeys and in stop-and-go traffic.
The standard safety package comprises ABS brakes, stability control, front and side airbags, a tyre pressure warning system and hill-start assist.
The new A-Class initially reaches local showrooms in two versions: the A200 and the A250 Sport, respectively priced at R499,000 and R593,300, and including a six-year/ 100,000km maintenance plan.
Next year the range will be extended with the A180d turbodiesel and the high-performance A35 and A45 AMG derivatives.
The A200 is powered by a 1.3l turbocharged petrol four-cylinder with outputs of 120kW and 250Nm. Key claimed performance figures for this derivative are a 0-100km/h sprint in 8.0 seconds and a 225km/h top speed, with fuel consumption quoted at 5.6l per 100km.
The A250 gets moved along by a 2.0l petrol turbo with hot-hatch outputs of 165kW and 350Nm, for a factory-claimed 0-100 in 6.2 seconds a top whack of 250km/h, and a thirst of 6.5l/100km.
Both cars are front-wheel driven via a seven-speed dual-clutch 7G-DCT automatic gearbox operable by steering-mounted gearshift paddles.
Like its predecessors the new A-Class has a McPherson front suspension, with the more powerful A250 Sport equipped with adaptive damping in combination with larger wheels, and sophisticated four-link rear suspension (the A200 has a more traditional torsion beam at the rear).
The adaptive damping enables the driver to choose between a softer or firmer ride at the flick of a switch.
The rear axle is mounted on a subframe isolated from the bodyshell by rubber bushings so that fewer vibrations are transferred from the suspension to the body.
Both derivatives are equipped as standard with Dynamic Select, where the driver can change between Comfort, Sport, Eco or Individual driving modes which affect the responses of the steering, throttle and gearshifts, as well as the adaptive damping where fitted.