Sally- Ann Mullin tests the new Mercedes- Benz A- Class and finds the brand has brought its A-game

Fashion Quarterly - - Drive -

What if a ma­chine could read your mind and al­ter its fea­tures to cater to your wants and needs? Sound al­lur­ing? The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has got it cov­ered.

Two words — “Hey Mercedes” — are all it takes to di­rect your voice­ac­ti­vated A-Class to write and send a text, change to your favourite ra­dio sta­tion or Spo­tify playlist, or cal­cu­late the fastest route home. Not feel­ing the still-crisp spring weather? Just holler at your girl. A sim­ple, “Hey Mercedes, I’m cold” will turn up the heat.

Of all the tech fea­tures and op­tions this car has to of­fer, this Lin­gua­tronic voice con­trol in­trigues me the most. It feels im­pres­sive and mod­ern — more S-class than A-Class. Mak­ing light work of my New Zealand ac­cent, it’s able to learn the nu­ances of my voice from just a few ut­ter­ances and re­ally lis­tens to my com­mands.

The new A-Class is a lit­tle big­ger, a lit­tle more pre­mium and a whole lot smarter than be­fore, with just enough of the S-class magic to make this en­trylevel model a great buy. There’s a lot go­ing on in the cabin de­sign-wise, with sev­eral fin­ishes on the dash, multi-coloured disco lights on the doors and avi­a­tion-es­que speak­ers — but it works. The car I’m driv­ing is also fit­ted with new in­tu­itive seats that move to cra­dle your body in dif­fer­ent ways for short-, mid- and longdis­tance jour­neys.

The A200 is the first of three en­gine vari­a­tions to hit the New Zealand mar­ket. As one of the first in the coun­try to drive it (lucky me), I can con­firm it’s fuel-ef­fi­cient, sounds great and han­dles well. I have to ad­mit, though, the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is the main draw­card for me. It’s high-spec, with an el­e­gant frame­less 10.25-inch touch­screen that’s also eas­ily op­er­ated from the steer­ing wheel and touch­pad. The nav­i­ga­tion, cli­mate con­trol and more are a cinch to use, and the car is de­signed to eas­ily and smoothly sync with your smart­phone, with no need for pin codes for con­nec­tiv­ity. You can also charge said phone via the wire­less pad in the con­sole, which is noth­ing new but pretty im­pres­sive in an A-Class.

The heads-up dis­play viewed in the wind­screen al­lows you to see how fast you’re go­ing and what the lo­cal speed limit is, mean­ing it’s safety first as you don’t need to take your eyes off the road to glance down at your dash. In fact, there’s all sorts of tech geared to keep you safe, in­clud­ing ac­tive brake as­sist, and driv­ing aids like lane and dis­tance con­trol.

This new-gen­er­a­tion pre­mium hatch cer­tainly is A grade, and that’s A-OK with me.

FQ ed­i­tor Sal­lyAnn Mullin with the MercedesBenz A-Class A200 hatch.

Beauty and brains:the A-Class has the look — and the tech to back it up.

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