- Better to drive
- Small enhancements have helped the looks
- More efficient engines
- Still not quite as good to drive as the class leaders
- Expensive to buy
- Small boot
When Mercedes launched the ‘new look’ A-Class back in 2013, there was something missing, it felt as it had been rushed so that the German maker would have a rival to go up against the 1-Series and the Audi A3. This facelifted version has had some serious ‘tweakerage’, although minor to the casual observer, the real work has focused on the dynamics and improvements to the engine line-up. The A-Class has now a lot going for it but is it good enough to outclass the BMW 1-Series. Read on to find out…
On The Road
The first generation A-Class was found wanting when it came to performance, it wasn’t quite on the level of the 1-Series and even Audi’s A1 felt better to drive. The good news is that the refreshed version is much better. The engineers hard work seems to have paid off as the cars feels livelier throughout the range. Two petrol engines are available on the range. The A180 and the A200 use the 1.6-litre unit while the A250 and the A 250 4MATIC use the 2.0-litre power plant. Performance figures at a glance are respectable, the A180 will get from zero to 62mph in 8.9 seconds and has a top speed of 125mph whereas the A200 will complete the benchmark in 8.1 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 139mph. The A250 and the A 250 4MATIC will reach 62mph in 6.5 and 6.4 seconds respectively. And both have a top speed of 149mph.
Diesel fans have a choice of three turbo charged units. This includes the A 180 d, the A200d and finally the A 220d . The A180 produces 109 bhp from the 1.5-litre engine and will reach 62mph from a standing start in 11.3 seconds. The A200d has a power output of 136bhp coming from its 2.1-litre unit while the 220d is a higher-powered version of the 2.1 engine producing 177bhp. The A200d will get from zero to 62mph in 9.3 seconds while the 220d will complete the same sprint in 7.5 seconds and both engines will propel the A-Class to a top speed of 130mph and 139mph respectively.
The refreshed version of the A-Class is a massive improvement on the original car. However, it is still not as dynamic as the BMW 1 Series although it is on a par with Audi’s A3. The new Dynamic Select system allows you to choose between four driving modes including Comfort, Sport, Eco and Individual. The system is standard from Sport trim upwards and is mated to the seven-speed dual clutch auto ‘box. It really does make a massive difference to the dynamics of the car. As you would expect, the modes for the Dynamic select system make the car behave exactly the way they ought to. The four settings modify the engine, transmission, steering and aircon. Pootling around town is best served using the Eco mode while Sport, is of course best kept for the twisty lanes. The A-Class is much more enjoyable, it feels more nimble and bodyroll is minimal when ‘pushing on’ – the steering is well weighted when using the Sport mode but a little more feeling would be nice. On the AMG Line trim, the suspension can be ordered with adaptive damping giving the A-Class better handling.
The diesel engines are very quiet whereas the low powered petrol was much more audible in the cabin. Our pick for refinement is the 200d or the 220d - these units are very quiet, even when at speed. Road and tyre noise are good while the cabin is pleasant place to spend time in. There is a decent level of bolstering from the front seats while space in the rear is reasonable without being overly spacious. The coupe-esque lines are largely to blame for premium on space but then we all know looks usually win if they are up against practicality.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
The entry-level trim, SE has been enhanced with highlights including 16-inch alloys, seven airbags, speed-sensitive power steering, Artico upholstery, multi-function leather Sports steering wheel, sports seats with integrated headrests, ambient lighting, attention assist, radio/CD with six speakers, a seven-inch entertainment display, telephone keypad, Bluetooth, Mercedes connect me, USB port, pre-wiring for Garmin navigation system, reversing camera and storage package. According to Mercedes, the standard car receives at least £1,100-worth of extra equipment as standard when compared to the outgoing entry-level model.
Move up to Sport and additional kit includes 17-inch alloys, Dynamic Select, eight-inch display screen, climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors and rear reading lights.
While the flagship AMG Line adds 18-inch alloys, AMG body styling, ventilated front brake discs, sports Direct Steer system, lowered suspension, carbon fibre-look trim and aluminium pedals.
Space & Practicality
You may be surprised to know that with the seats in place the Mercedes A Class has a similar amount of space to an Audi A3 – that’s 341 litres to you and me, however, the boot aperture makes loading and unloading awkward if the objects are on the big size. Fold the rear seats flat and the load space expands to 1,157 litres.
Getting back to those looks, the coupe-esque lines make it more difficult for those of a taller persuasion to clamber in to the back – a Golf or an A3 are much easier for rear most passengers to enter and exit.
The A-Class starting price is a tad expensive but then you could say the same for both the Audi A3 and the BMW 1 Series. You may still be looking at small cars but this is the luxury end, and your wallet won’t let you forget it. The cleanest engine on the new A Class range is the 180 d as it emits a lowly 98g/km of CO2 while it has a claimed economy of 80mpg.
Quality & Reliability
Mercedes is renowned for quality and of course reliability. The styling is smart and the materials feel of a good quality, however, there are one or two controls that feels less so such as the rotary controls and the indicator stalks. There is still work to do on this side as the Volvo V40 still takes class honours when it comes to the quality finish of its interior.
Safety & Security
Mercedes’ A-Class is loaded with safety systems and is certainly one of the safest cars in its class. The refreshed model comes with collision prevention assist plus now featuring autonomous partial braking and a drowsiness detection system which works from speeds of 37 to 124mph giving the driver a five-stage bar displa to show how alert they are. That’s not it, there’s plenty more. Mercedes has also given the new A-Class seven airbags, active bonnet, acceleration skid control, ESP, brake assist, ABS are all standard fitment. If you want even more safety kit then Pre-Safe, distronic Plus, lane keeping assist and blind spot assist can all be offered as additional extras.
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