Stuttgart - After a prolonged teaser campaign, Mercedes has finally done the full monty on its new A-Class hatchback.

Now in its fourth generation (or second generation as a conventional hatchback that doesn’t look like a shopping trolley) the redesigned A-Class takes its exterior design inspiration from the new CLS, but the biggest generational shift takes place inside, where it ushers in an all-new - and somewhat radical - screen layout that completely does away with the traditional instrument cowl.

Although it mimics the latest E-Class in placing two adjacent screens (instrument cluster + infotaiment) in front of the driver, this time it’s a ‘free-floating’ unit that’s only connected to the dashboard at the bottom.

The dual-screen system will be standard on all models, but three different sizes will be available depending on the customer’s budget: 17.8cm x 2 for base models, a 17.8cm + 26cm combo for those wanting a bigger infotainment screen and a range-topping 26cm x 2 format. The latter two feature bonded glass technology for a smoother appearance.

The touchscreen forms part of the new touch-control concept that also consists of a centre console mounted touchpad and touch control buttons on the steering wheel.

Mercedes design chief Gorden Wagener believes that this new interface format has the potential to usher in a new design era. 

The highly advanced multimedia system it houses is dubbed MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), and it uses artificial intelligence to adapt to the driver’s preferences. Other highlights include maximum-resolution 3D graphics, a navigation display with augmented reality technology and an advanced new voice control system, featuring natural speed recognition and activated with the code phrase “Hey Mercedes”. 

See how it works:

Furthermore, a new range of ‘Mercedes me’ connect services includes Car-to-X (vehicle to vehicle) communication and the A-Class inherits many of the latest driver assistance technologies from the S-Class, allowing the hatch to drive semi-autonomously in some situations.

Another hand-me-down from its bigger brothers is the optional Multicontour climate-controlled front seats with massage function.

Mercedes has also moved the cabin upmarket in the way it looks and feels, with numerous high-end material choices - including open-pore wood trim - and a snazzy new ambient lighting system with 64 different colours. This optional feature combines direct and indirect lighting in an attempt to mimic the night-time illumination of an historic building.

Interior space is said to have grown too, while boot capacity swells by 29 litres to 370 litres with the rear seats in place. 

The initial A-Class range offers three new engines:

- A200: 1.4-litre turbopetrol, 120kW and 250Nm

- A250: 2-litre turbopetrol, 165kW and 350Nm

- A180d: 1.5-litre turbodiesel, 85kW and 260Nm

All three motors are mated to Merc’s 7G-DCT dual-clutch gearbox, although later this year the A200 will also become available with a six-speed manual transmission.

And yes, there are more engines on the way, including a new A45 AMG and - if rumours are to be believed - a tamer A35 AMG alternative.

As before power goes to the front wheels, but customers can specify 4Matic all-wheel-drive.

With all the investment in new technologies though, Mercedes has skimped on the suspension, with only the A250 sporting a fully independent rear axle - the others make do with an old fashioned torsion beam. Buyers can however opt for adaptive damping control.

IOL Motoring