Long gone are the days when the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is remembered as the car that flipped during the traditional ‘elk test’.
Fifteen years later and the third generation was launched to the European media in the picturesque surroundings of Slovenia.
The car has been creating a lot of buzz since it’s unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show this year and you can’t help but have noticed it’s subtle advertising of the ‘New Generation’ in the lead up to it.
So arriving at Ljubljana airport and about thirty of the compact cars greeted us ready to be driven around the rolling hills and seaside roads of the Eastern European country.
Looking like the Mercedes-Benz designers have wiped the slate clean, the new car is longer, wider and 160mm lower than its predecessor. It gives it a radically different appeal and side on there are splashes of the BMW 1 Series. The A-Class looks like a beast waiting to be unleashed. The angular lines, long front with it’s large grille, panoramic roof and the added mean looking dual exhausts on the Sport version make it a car to be reckoned with.
The interior, like all the manufacturer models is well thought out, sophisticated and screams class. The carbon fibre effect dash mixed with the chrome effect aircraft engine looking vents and the black centre console give it an extra wow factor.
With leather throughout and red stitching, the sports seats in ARTICO and breathable DINAMICA micro-fibre are the most comfortable ones I’ve ever sat in. Adjusting using a ‘seat’ looking display on the door and you can fiddle around to your heart’s content, to find a position to suit your driving style. One slight irritation is the seat-belt. As soon as you clip it in it pretensioners pull you tight into the seat, which makes you feel like you’re having the wind knocked out of your sails.
For any of those with an iPhone, you can integrate it into the A-Class using the Drive Kit Plus that links up to the 17.8cm screen. Using a Mercedes-Benz app, you will be able to access music, social media and your messaging through the centre armrest. Like me, for those not wanting to join the Apple brigade, an Android version will become available.
There are various petrol and diesel options for the A-Class, with five different model lines.
The basic A 180 offers a petrol variant producing 121bhp, while the SE and Sport have an A 180 122bhp, with the latter having a second choice of petrol engine with the A 200 156bhp. The AMG Sport is offered for the A 200 and the 211bhp A 250. Finally, the Engineered by AMG is available for petrol buyers on the A 250.
The diesel sector with the A 180 CDI has a first for the marque. The model emits below 100g/km on it’s emissions with just 98g/km of CO2 and the diesel option is also available on the AMG Sport A 220 CDI.
Driving the A 200 Sport model and the 1.6-litre engine was fun to drive on the tight, twisty roads, although it did feel at times like it needed more power. The car seemed sturdy, dynamically sound and any hint of being offline and the Lane Assist would gently vibrate the steering wheel to remind you to keep between the lines.
Safety comes as standard, like it’s Volvo rival the V40 and various lights on the dash read like a who’s who of standard equipment. The Collision Prevention Assist brings up a warning light to reduce the risk of nose-to-tail collisions, which is also ideal if you like to tailgate when you’re driving. A little coffee mug symbol signals you to take a break, working in conjunction with the Attention Assist to monitor your driving behaviour and get you stopping at a coffee stop sharpish. A blind spot indicator flashes up in the angular mirrors to warn you of overtaking traffic.
The A 250 Sport model uses a 7G-DCT Dual clutch transmission and putting it into sport mode and the A-Class behaves how a car should. Despite the gear selector being a stork on the steering wheel, you can use the paddle-shifts to really eek out every bit of acceleration before changing up.
Near the Croatian border and the steering was responsive on the country roads, with the sporty suspension aiding handling greatly. Even around town it made the car more enjoyable and with acceleration of 0-100km/h in just 6.6 seconds, it made sure at the lights it was turning a few Slovenian heads. So what amount of money would need to be parted to buy the A-Class? Prices start from £18,945 for the A 180, working all the way up to £25,970 for the A 200 CDI.
This new generation model definitely scores points for looks and appeal, it isn’t that expensive and buying into the German marque is something you wouldn’t regret doing. It’s in a class of it’s own.