2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a 21st-century hatch

Whether it's the headlights or the infotainment, the A-Class is loaded with cutting-edge tech.


While the US won't be getting the hatchback variant of the A-Class, its debut nevertheless gives us an idea of what's to come Stateside.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 2019 A-Class hatchback today. Destined for European markets, the A-Class piles on the tech. Sure, there's a new body and interior in the mix, but buyers don't just want a car that looks good, not in 2018. It needs to complement their lives in a way that leather seats and fancy vents can't fulfill on their own.

Lookin' good

The A-Class' exterior is a continuation of what we've already seen from Mercedes' new design language -- specifically, the 2019 CLS-Class, which debuted at the LA Auto Show. The headlights adopt a sharper-edged polygonal shape. Out back, the taillights are a bit smoother, but they're also smaller than before. It's not necessarily a remarkable hatchback in that its shape is pretty traditional, but it'll be interesting to see how this body adapts to the sedan form that will come to the US later on.

The interior is a different story. Borrowing design cues from the top-tier S-Class, the A-Class feels far more premium than it did before -- high praise for what is technically an entry-level model. The screens on the dashboard can be optioned one of three ways -- a pair of 7-inch displays, a pair of 10.25-inch displays or one of each. Buyers can select from 64 different colors of ambient light, and like every other new Mercedes, there's a centrally mounted touchpad that helps users navigate the infotainment system.

I'm really digging these new headlights -- the slimmer the lights, the better, as far as I'm concerned.


MBUX: New infotainment with an AI assistant

Speaking of infotainment, Mercedes-Benz is introducing a brand-new system with the A-Class. MBUX, which is short for Mercedes-Benz User Experience but sounds like a bad frequent-flier program, attempts to address all the problems with its previous Comand system in one go, and it actually achieves that.

Touch-based input has made its way to the infotainment screen, so buyers need not rely solely on the hit-or-miss touchpad on the center console. There's also a new digital assistant that works similarly to Cortana or Alexa -- just say "Hey, Mercedes" followed by your request, and the system will use its natural language processing to figure out what you want and make it happen.

MBUX also brings new connected features. Vehicle-to-X communication capabilities allow the system to receive messages about bad roads or emergency vehicles driving past. More traditional services are included, too, like vehicle location, local gas prices and over-the-air updates. We took it for a spin at CES and really enjoyed it, so we're hoping that when it comes to the US, we'll continue to enjoy it. Then again, it's not Comand, so it's a step in the right direction no matter what -- Comand went a little heavy on the menus, while MBUX attempts to make things a bit more straightforward.

Even more tech

If MBUX isn't enough, the A-Class comes with even more technology to help keep you safe. Automatic emergency braking is standard, which can help mitigate or even prevent certain kinds of collisions. It can apply the brakes if it detects an imminent rear-end collision, too, to prevent you from slamming into the car ahead and introducing even more complication to an already annoying situation.

The navigation system can connect to the car's adaptive cruise control, too. This allows the car to slow down automatically when the road gets twisty. The A-Class also packs common safety systems like lane-keep assist and forward collision warning.

The headlights can be optioned to include 18 individual LEDs that can selectively highlight certain parts of the road in order to increase visibility. Halogen lamps are standard, but LED running lights are included, in case you don't want to drop the coin on fancy peepers.

Under the hood

Three different engines will be available on the European A-Class. The A200 sports a 163-horsepower, 1.4-liter inline-4 gas engine, and buyers can choose between a proper six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The A180d packs a diesel I4 good for 116 horsepower. At the top of the lineup (for now, until the AMG variant debuts) is the A250, which relies on a 224-horsepower, 2.0-liter I4 and the same seven-speed DCT as the other trims.

Odds are, when the A-Class arrives in the US, it'll wield an engine closest to the A250. Right now, the base CLA250 in the US rocks 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque -- if I were to place my chips anywhere, it'd be on this engine or a variant of it. The aforementioned 2.0-liter engine is new, though, so there's a chance it could head Stateside with the A-Class sedan.

Front-wheel drive is standard, but buyers can opt for all-wheel drive if so desired.

Order books for the A-Class open in March, and deliveries in Europe are slated for this coming summer. As for the US... well, we're just going to have to hold tight until Mercedes-Benz gives us additional information.