Vehicle award ceremonies are there to rate vehicles based on their merits and give the buying public an idea of how the different OEM offerings stack up against one another. The Mercedes-Benz A-Class was an entrant in an established car awards event in 2019 and went on to snatch the events Car of The Year award. We spent a week behind the wheel of the German hatch to see it whether it lived up to its accolade.

Mercedes-Benz had serious intentwhen introducing the current A-Class hatchback. It had a completely new design – a major improvement on the outgoing model. This was an intentional move, meant to bring the baby Benz in line with the brand’s new design language.

Dressed in new apparel from front to rear, the A-Class looks sharper, sleeker and dare we say, more premium. With a solid face-beat, it now features a new grille flanked by a set of narrow and sportier lamps. It has a face that’s difficult to find fault with – a job well done from Mercedes Benz’s design department. The noteworthy effort is evident in rest of the vehicle’s design, with the rear also receiving a fresh blueprint.

Well, looks can’t be the only reason the vehicle was deemed worthy of an award right? Correct – because what’s inside that cabin will leave you equally impressed. Mercedes-Benz left no stone unturned here, a completely new interior awaits, one that will leave you pleasantly surprised.

A generous serving of tech and gadgetry stirs up excitement here. The cabin carries an air of contemporary design and layout, with the new steering wheel design featuring Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX system. The system offers its users a sizeable touch infotainment screen, mounted alongside the equally big instrument display screen. A larger touchpad with writing functionality is part of the package. The 10.25-inch dual screens are this interior’s main attraction,offering users a high level of configuration based on individual preference.

Everything comes to light after dark in this space, with captivating luminescent light beaming from different angles, including the turbine-like air vents on the dash. What’s satisfyingis that the lighting can be adjusted to any hue on the colour spectrum, depending on your mood. Overall, the A-Class cabin is a pleasant space to be in, designed in a way that gives one the feeling of openness and minimalism.

The new naming system can be somewhat confusing, wit many OEMS naming new models with numerical values which do not correspond with the vehicles engine size. One would assume that the A200 has a 2.0l engine, but its rather a scaled-down 1.3l turbo engine. Don’t be misled by small displacement, as do many of these scaled-down turbo engines, the A200 punches above its weight and offers respectable performance. 120kW and 250Nm is what it brings to the table – more than enough for the hatch to move with a sturdy spring in its step. A consumption of 4.8l/100km was the result of our most outstanding driving in the Mercedes-Benz.

The only flaw in the A-Class’s polished image is its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. When placed on the spot it was always hesitant and indecisive – not sure which of the seven gears was appropriate for the action required. On pull-off, a noticeable lurch forward is a constant feature as the clutch merges the engine and first gear.

Overall the A-Class is a comprehensive package, oozing premium, slickness, performance and economy all in one tight bundle. It’s easy to see why it was voted as Car of the Year by the local motoring committee. Starting at R540 000,you’ll spend a smidge more for the A-Class over its closest rivals, which are priced at R529 000 and R501 000 respectively, for the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.

By Gugu Masuku