2018 Mercedes-Benz A180 City Edition review

WHAT IS IT

The third-gen A-Class is about to make way for an all-new model, so Mercedes-Benz has launched this special edition A180 hatchback with added visual spice and a tempting driveaway price to help clear the decks. It’s called the City Edition, and while it’s ostensibly a prettier version of the same old car, there’s some merit to its value proposition if you’re ready to buy a small, premium hatch right now.

WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT

Merc’s compelling driveaway pricing for the City Edition only runs to the end of February, so now is the time to drive it. For the next little while the A180 City Edition should be the best value way into the segment.


MAIN RIVALS

Audi A3 1.0 TFSI, BMW 118i, Infiniti Q30

THE WHEELS VERDICT

Merc’s honest A180 hatchback is still an endearing little runabout even after all these years, and though the City Edition’s upgrades make no material difference to the A180’s core attributes, the added kerbside allure at its sharpened driveaway price succeed in lifting the A180’s appeal.


PLUS: Sporty performance, generous equipment, value
MINUS: Adaptive dampers unavailable, outmoded interior

THE WHEELS REVIEW

GRABBING on to the low rungs of a prestige manufacturer’s model ladder sometimes means buying a disproportionately expensive badge with little substance attached to it.

Mercedes-Benz sought to undo that stereotype with the third-gen A-Class at its launch back in 2013, and subsequent updates have kept even the base A180’s feature set plump when compared to its rivals.

Now, there’s an all-new fourth-generation A-Class due later this year that promises to push the segment status quo further, but shoppers in the market canvassing showrooms for the best buy before then need not stress. The three-pointed star’s outgoing hatch is still worth a look-in, particularly in limited A-Class City Edition guise.


The City Edition is available in both A180 and A200 configurations, and it’s the entry-level A180 we’re focusing on here. The A180 City Edition is effectively a regular A180 with a showbag of visual enhancements thrown at it, but until the end of Feb it’s priced at $39,990 driveaway, meaning it’s challenging the basic Audi A3 1.0 TFSI to be the cheapest of its ilk once on-road costs are considered.

Elevating the City Edition above normal A180s are 18-inch AMG alloy wheels in black (up from standard 17s), LED headlights with daytime running lights and blue welcome light, LED taillights and reversing light, a gloss black front grille and beltline trim strip, tinted privacy glass from the B-pillar back, and black side-mirror caps. Inside, the standard sports seats are trimmed in black/red or black/green fabric and leatherette.


Equipment is otherwise lineball with the regular A180, which is to say quite generous. As standard it boasts a reversing camera, keyless ignition, digital radio, Apple and Android smartphone integration, shift paddles, parking assistance, and blind spot monitoring – many of which are absent from competitors like the A3 mentioned above. You can find out more about how the A180 City Edition and A3 stack up, here

Power comes from a 1.6-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder petrol engine producing 90kW and 200Nm, with peak torque available across a thick wedge of its rev-range starting from a low 1250rpm. The engine is coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which isn’t the snappiest off the mark or the swiftest between gears, but does smoothly deliver torque once up and running. Together the powertrain achieves claimed economy of 5.8L/100km.


Depending on where you look – centre console phone buttons and GPS graphics, mostly – the A-Class is starting to show its age, but this generation still sits with the best premium hatches to drive. Its boosted engine offers decent performance, especially against its rivals, and there’s an inherent sporty flavour to its agile handling, brisk steering and strong road-holding that will satisfy keen drivers.

The A-Class range received a relatively comprehensive Series II update in 2016, which added adaptive dampers to the rest of the line-up. Sadly that upgrade skipped over the A180, and dynamic suspension is still unavailable in the City Edition. Thus, the A180 on its bigger 18s does have a somewhat agitated ride even with its sophisticated independent rear suspension. Its cabin is also on the noisy side and boot space is relatively limited at 341 litres.


That said, the A180 City Edition is a likeable companion for urban-dwelling singles and couples. Its high-end looks give away nothing of its cheap and cheerful sub-$40k on-road price, which is backed up by a strong warranty and capped-price servicing program for the first three years.

Mercedes-Benz expects to sell out of all A180 City Editions before the driveaway deal ends on Feb 28. Should any remain after that time the City Edition option pack will cost $1925 above the regular A180’s retail price of $38,700, with on-road costs on top of that.


Buyers who simply must have the latest and greatest would be better served by waiting for the new model to show up later this year, but if a luxury badge is the most coveted thing on your shopping list and you’re in the market right now, the A180 City Edition is a solid way to get it without spending more than you have to.

SPECS

Model: Mercedes-Benz A180 City Edition
Engine: 1595cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 90kW @ 5000rpm
Max torque: 200Nm @ 1250-4000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch
Weight: 1395kg
0-100km/h: 8.6s
Fuel economy: 5.8L/100km
Price: $39,990 driveaway
On sale: Now

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.