Mercedes A-Class – Review
by Liam Bird
It used to be easy. Years ago if you were in the market for a hatchback it was simple. If you were working class you bought either an Astra or an Escort; if your collar was white rather than blue, you bought a Golf. Upon retirement your choices were either a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla. There were no such things as super-minis, and the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes simply didn’t do hatches.
Slowly, though, the more – how shall I put this – aspirational car makers began to realise that even those with the deeper pockets were beginning to downsize. And besides; “a hatchback is just so much easier to manoeuvre in the Waitrose car-park darling”.
Audi brought us the A3 and the ahead-of-its time A2. BMW stuck to its rear-wheel drive guns with the 1 Series and even Volvo, the last bastion of safety first and solidity surprised us with the equally good C30. Premium Hatches were born. Mercedes Benz’s first attempt however wasn’t quite what it should have been. The first A-Class famously fell foul of the elk test and it toppled over in Sweden. It wasn’t very handsome either.
Time though, moves on. The A2 is no-longer, the A3 and the 1 series have been subjected to more than just a nip and a tuck, the C30 has been replaced by the even better V40, and in order to take on all of them Mercedes Benz has just launched a rather handsome all-new A-Class.
Lower, wider and altogether less MPV looking than the car it replaces, the new A-Class is a far more sporting and youthful-looking car. Attractive you could say. Its slippery shape – the drag co-efficient is just 0.27 – draws more than its fair share of compliments and even if it’s rounded rear looks a little heavy, up front a wide grille and a clamshell bonnet that flows into some heavily-sculpted doors make it unmistakably a Mercedes Benz.
“Minimise body roll”
Pull open one of the A-Class’s chunky feeling doors and you’re greeted by an interior that’s equally stylish, and for some familiar. Buyers downsizing from bigger Benzs will recognise the column mounted gear selector, as per an S-Class, the steering wheel as per the CLS, and, in the case of my heavily specced test car, the cruise control stalk and silvered dials with inset smaller gauges as well. The bank vault-like build quality is just the same too. Those lucky enough to own an SLS will also feel at home: the jet engine inspired facia-vents are a direct carry over; they look great, all five of them, as do the seats. In optional black leather the high-backed chairs at first appear almost too firm, but time spent within in then reveals they turn out to be perfectly comfortable.
What might not be so familiar to Mercedes aficionados however is how hard the A-Class’s ride feels. What might work on a precisely laid autobahn doesn’t quite translate so well when driven on a broken British road surface. The stiff suspension set-up may minimise body roll and lend itself to brisk cornering, but it’s simply too hard for all but the smoothest of surfaces.
It also contributes to higher than expected interior noise levels too. Inside, the A-class can feel quite loud, especially around the mirrors and thick A-pillars that frame the view ahead. That said, I’m willing to attribute some of the rumble to our car’s winter tyres – though that’s a small price to pay for the extra grip security they offered during my wintry week-long loan.
It won’t just be those with a degree in rocket science that realise, being a Mercedes, the A-Class isn’t cheap. The 200 CDI BlueEfficiency Sport starts at £24,720 before options. Get busy ticking boxes and price goes skywards very quickly. Luxuries such as Nappa leather, a panoramic sunroof and countless other discreet goodies meant another £13,000 had been lavished on the one I drove. However, in a world though where quality counts and a quality badge counts for even more, you can’t help feeling the A- Class will be a hit.
Mercedes Benz A 200 CDI BlueEfficiency SPORT
Engine: 1796cc 4Cyl Turbo-diesel
Transmission: 7G-DCT 7 speed auto, front wheel drive
Power: 136bhp @3600 – 4,400 rpm
Torque: 221 lbft @ 1600- 3000rpm
Max Speed: 130mph
CO2: 114g/km MPG: 65.7 combined