Road test: Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The A-Class looks great, handles beautifully and should prove very safe.
What is it?
The newly facelifted Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which is priced from £21,065, is a premium quality, five-door sporty hatchback with performance traits to match its dynamic styling.
How safe is it?
Safety specifications are comprehensive, with the likes of Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Attention Assist as standard, along with seven airbags and a wide range of preventative systems.
Who should buy one?
Although aimed at a young audience, it is generally people in their 40s who can realistically consider the car: it’s not cheap but it is great fun.
Road test by Maxine Ashford published 21 November 2015
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
While the immediate changes to the facelifted third generation A-Class are not instantly noticeable the new model can be identified by its diamond grille, revised tail lights, angular front bumper and new rear bumper with integrated exhaust pipes.
There are four trim levels – SE, Sport, AMG Line and AMG – along with a choice of engines, transmissions and either front or four-wheel-drive options.
Over the years since its launch back in 1997 it has become a stylish and very desirable hatchback with dynamic handling, sure-footed road-holding and all the bells and whistles you could wish for. Although the official split between diesel and petrol sales is almost identical, it is the highly economical diesel engines that scoop most of the headlines and it was the A 200 d 4MATIC with its 136PS (134bhp) and 221lb ft of torque that we spent most time assessing.
The precise steering made light work of testing corners and the grounded stance along with responsive braking were noticeable on tight hairpin bends. There was ample power on tap when needed and rapid acceleration was always an option if overtaking was necessary. The paddle shifts are fun when you want to take a little more control over the gear changes.
The ride was good and the Dynamic Select system allows you to choose from four modes – Individual, Comfort, Eco and Sport – with the latter certainly sharpening up the car’s handling and responses.
Of course, petrolheads will be drawn to the exhilarating and blisteringly quick A 45 AMG 4MATIC with its 0-62mph sprint time of just 4.2 seconds and although this car will prove a source of endless fun, you can expect regular trips to the petrol station thanks to combined economy figures that rather generously show 40.9mpg – we saw just under 26mpg on our run.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
The cabin is fairly spacious for a hatchback, although in reality there is only room for two people in the back seats and they will want the front seats pushed forward in order to sit comfortably. Headroom is good for such a sleekly designed car and the boot can accommodate 341 litres of luggage which can be increased to 1,157 litres with the split-folding seats dropped flat. However, both the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 models, which are seen as close rivals, offer more standard storage room.
Seats are adjusted electrically and there is plenty of flexibility to position the steering wheel too in order to find the perfect driving position. The all-round visibility is good and the instrumentation clear and precise.
Seven airbags, acceleration skid control, collision prevention assist as well as driver alert systems are just a few of the features included as standard on the A-Class. An optional pack costing £1,495 introduces lane-keeping assist, Distronic Plus, blind spot monitoring and a PRE SAFE anticipatory system. The driver benefits from good all-round visibility and the pre-facelift car scored five stars in Euro NCAP testing in 2012.
Equipment levels are high across the range. Even the entry level SE grade has 16-inch alloys, speed-sensitive power steering, a multi-function leather sports steering wheel, sports seats, a central display screen (size dependant on trim choice), ambient lighting, a six-speaker sound system with CD, a reversing camera and sat nav. In fact, according to Mercedes, new customers now receive an extra £1,100 worth of standard equipment for a price rise of £350.
Prices for the A-Class start from £21,065 for the A180 petrol model in SE spec with a six-speed manual transmission and rise to a whopping £39,995 for the range-topping A 45 AMG petrol with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Carbon dioxide emissions start from as low as 89g/km with the best fuel economy of a combined 80.7mpg offered by the A180 d 1.4-litre manual version. (The ‘d’ suffix replaces CDI on the outgoing diesel models).
WE SAY The A-Class looks great, handles beautifully and should prove very safe.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds
Economy: 74.3mpg combined
Tax: Band A (£0 first year)
Figures for the Mercedes-Benz A 200 d 4MATIC Sport