The Mercedes-Benz A-Class winning the top award of AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year provided the best possible excuse to take it for a spin. Even walking toward the classy little hatchback was thrilling. Shiny and sleek, it looked ready to go.

I sat at the wheel for a while, contemplating the car’s beautiful interior and getting familiar with the gadgetry. Clearly designed for modern drivers, the emphasis is on the intuitive, with swipe-style controls on the steering wheel and on the console. Anyone familiar with smart phones and iPads would be instantly comfortable here. And if not? Well, there is always voice control.

“Hey, Mercedes!”

Mysteriously, magically, the car responds: “How can I help you?”

“Open the sunroof blind!”

And Mercedes does so. It can also switch settings on the air conditioning, change radio stations, make and receive calls and navigate routes. I’m told that another trick of this artificial intelligence is the car’s ability to learn your lifestyle. Once you confirm your particular profile, it will adjust the seat, wheel and mirror settings automatically. And once it understands your routine, it will anticipate your needs such as making a phone call, or checking that your chosen route to a regular destination is the fastest for the conditions.

The business of actually driving this machine is also a treat. The A-Class has personality and attitude; it’s fun to drive and the engine feels bigger than a 1.3-litre (perhaps because it’s ‘direct-injected’ and turbo-charged...). For a small car, it’s surprisingly roomy, really comfortable and I know it’s super-safe because it would never have won the big award without all the latest safety features ticked off.

“Hey Mercedes!”

“How can I help you?”

“Can you arrange for me to keep you?”

Other winners at the 2018 AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year Awards were:

Best in Class
Suzuki Swift Sport

Best in Class
Small/Compact Car
Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Best in Class
Medium/Large Car
Holden Commodore

Best in Class
Luxury Car
BMW 5 Series - M5

Best in Class
Hyundai Kona EV

Best in Class
Small SUV
Volvo XC40

Best in Class
Medium SUV
Subaru Forester

Best in Class
Large SUV
Mazda CX-8

Best in Class
Luxury SUV
Jaguar F-Pace

Best in Class

Volkswagen Amarok

Best in Class
Mazda MX-5

Safest Car
Toyota Corolla

People's Choice 2018
Suzuki Swift Sport

AA Driven NZ Car of
the Year 2018
Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Reported by Kathryn Webster for our AA Directions Autumn 2019 issue

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