The A-Class may have started life as a mini MPV but those days are long forgotten writes Hannah Gordon
What is it? Its 3rd time lucky for Mercedes-Benz with their 3rd generation A Class, and they’ve finally got it right, gone is the mini MPV design that was about as exciting as a poke in the eye and in its place is a sleek and funky hatchback. This car can finally go into combat with the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 in what is a highly competitive hatchback market.
Who is it aimed at? The A200 AMG Sport is one of the sportiest A Classes you can buy, immediately after parking yourself on the leather seats you realise your mum probably wouldn’t want to ever borrow it, the whole feel of the inside and the lack of interior space aims itself at the younger market.
Styling? The A200 is completely unrecognisable from its boxy roots back in 1997, the styling has been radically improved. The front is typically very bullish with oversized grill and an unmistakable Mercedes-Benz badge taking pride of place, The scoops and grills could easily ingest passing wildlife and really add to the sporty looking exterior. The sweeping lines guide your focus to a gorgeous rear end and twin exhausts peeping out beneath the rear bumper. The test car had a night package which included privacy glass, black grill and wing mirrors, dark 18” alloys, Bi Xenons and LED running lights. In my opinion the night package is well worth adding as an option. With the A class Mercedes-Benz have made a very desirable looking hatchback.
Under the bonnet? Mercedes Benz have given the consumer plenty of options regarding what powers the A Class. This car came with a 2.1 litre 4 cylinder turbo diesel engine paired up with a 7 speed Dual clutch automatic, the engine has 136 bhp and a reserved top speed of 130mph. It goes through the gears smoothly and also has the option of manual change using the paddles on the steering wheel. The engine for me lacks a bit of punch and for a sporty car the background rumble of the diesel just doesn’t fit the image.
What about inside? The cabin of the A200 is excellent, details such as the silver dials and carbon look dash set the scene for the sporty ride to commence. The perfect seating position can be obtained a number of ways with adjustments on the seats and steering column. The dials are bright and easily read and the dash quality feels very good. The interior can feel a little claustrophobic, the windows are small and the doors have a high line, visibility isn’t great especially out of the rear window.
There is however plenty of storage spaces especially if you opt for the automatic gearbox which is changed through a stalk on the steering column.There are however a few problems, the cruise control selector is situated so close to the indicator that I kept engaging it accidentally, the climate control is tucked away and can be hard to see what you’re are pressing and the iPad style multimedia screen looks like an after thought that has been attached in a hurry.
On the road? Driving this car is when it really starts to put a grin on your face, the test car featured the AMG kit which does include a 15mm ride drop and stiffer suspension, the test car also had 18” alloys which when all put together makes driving on the troublesome UK countryside roads a bit of a rough ride. Pot holes and road imperfections are easily felt through cabin, but take this car around a few bends and you’ll see that it handles very well. It feels planted through corners and the steering does give you enough confidence not to back off. Being front wheel drive its not as direct as the BMW 1 series but it certainly has come on leaps and bounds since the generation 1 that had dangerous amounts of body roll. Driving on motorways is effortless although road noise from the low profile tyres can become an annoyance.
Safety?The A Class has a top score of 5 stars in the NCAP safety ratings, it also features the pop up bonnet feature to protect pedestrians and a light that warns you when you are getting to close to the car in front.
What about Options? Mercedes-Benz have offered an enormous amount of options with the A Class, and if you’re not careful the options could really mount up financially. The options that I would definitely go for is the Night Package that aesthetically improves the exterior of the car and an upgraded sound and multimedia package. The standard stereo isn’t particularly good, especially when aiming this vehicle at the younger market.
Will it break the bank? According to Mercedes Benz figures the 2.1litre diesel emits just 118 g/km of CO2 and can do mid 60’s MPG. The automatic actually gives you better economy with higher MPG than the manual version.
Verdict? The new and vastly improved Mercedes-Benz A class has come through as a breath of fresh air. Having driven the generation 1 and 2 A classes the improvements are gigantic. Placing itself firmly in the competitive hatchback market, Mercedes Benz had to produce something worthy of rivalling the Audi A3 and BMW 1 series, and in part they have. Having driven this car for a couple of days Ive really got to enjoy it, the cabin quality and ambience inside make it a great place to plunder the miles. The ride and handling are stiff but it makes you really want to push the car, whilst driving on motorways you can easily relax in the knowledge that you’ve purchased a quality car.
But, I wouldn’t recommend the A Class as a family car, the boot is too small, the rear seats and angle of the door make it difficult to get in and out of and the ride is too harsh. Instead this is a trendy hatchback for the young generation.
Why you’ll buy one? Looks great, Mercedes quality, handling
Why you won’t Boot space, noisy diesel, hard suspension
Audi A3 Sportback – from £18,575
BMW 1-Series – from £18,305
Mercedes-Benz A200 CDI AMG Sport
Engine: 2143cc, 136bhp @3,200, 300NM @1400 rpm
Max speed: 130 mph
0-60 mph: 9.3 seconds
Emissions: 116 g/km
Model price range:£18,945 – £24,520
No of Doors: 5 doors
Euro NCAP : Not yet tested
Fuel type: Diesel
Fuel Economy (combined cycle): (62.8mpg)
Boot Capacity Seats down (Seats up): 341 litres (1,157 litres)
Car Seats: 2 Isofix fittings in the rear
Length mm: 4292
Width mm: 1780
Height mm: 1433
Wheelbase mm: 2699
20th January, 2015