LONG AND SHORT OF LIMOS

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - Joshua Dowl­ing

VALUE

It might be the size of a Toy­ota Corolla but the new A-Class hatch comes with a Mercedes price: $52,500 drive-away be­fore op­tions or metal­lic paint are added. Stan­dard fare in­cludes a sen­sor key with push but­ton start, leather seats, cabin mood light­ing, wire­less phone charg­ing, Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto, dig­i­tal ra­dio and built-in nav­i­ga­tion, and the awe­some high-res­o­lu­tion wide-screen dash dis­play sim­i­lar to those in the E-Class and SClass lim­ou­sines. Su­per bright LED head­lights with au­to­matic blank­ing of on­com­ing traf­fic, a panorama sun­roof and 360-de­gree view cam­era are bun­dled in a $2490 op­tion pack. Rear pri­vacy glass, 18-inch five-spoke al­loys, sports grille and black mir­ror caps add $1490. Ser­vice in­ter­vals are 12 months/25,000km. Rou­tine main­te­nance over three years is high at $2480, the first ser­vice steep enough at $496 and the next two an eye-wa­ter­ing $992. War­ranty is three years/un­lim­ited km.

COM­FORT

From the driver’s seat you could be for­given for think­ing you were sit­ting in a $200,000 car. Ad­justable steer­ing and seat­ing po­si­tions will ac­com­mo­date driv­ers of most shapes and sizes. It’s larger in­side than the sleek looks sug­gest. One half of the gi­ant wide-screen — in­fo­tain­ment, left of the in­stru­ment clus­ter — is now a high res­o­lu­tion touch­screen for added con­ve­nience. You could be for­given for think­ing you were in the com­pany’s flag­ship limo. Mercedes’ new cabin con­trol mo­d­ule is a small touch­pad with a hump on which to rest your wrist. Un­for­tu­nately, as with other touch­pads in cars, it’s fid­dly to use even with some prac­tice. Mercedes’ pre­vi­ous in­fo­tain­ment con­troller — a large dial — was bet­ter in my opin­ion. Small “tiles” on the steer­ing wheel act as a touch or swipe pad but are only marginally bet­ter than the cen­tre con­sole touch­pad. An­noy­ingly, the “favourites” dis­play win­dow for ra­dio sta­tions — ac­cessed via con­trols on the steer­ing wheel and the eas­i­est way to skip sta­tions given the fussy touch­pad — needs to be re­set each time the car starts. On the plus side the wire­less phone charg­ing works well, even when the de­vice is in a case. And an awe­some 10-speaker pre­mium au­dio — in­clud­ing a sub­woofer — is stan­dard.

SAFETY

Mercedes has loaded the A200 with al­most ev­ery­thing. Nine airbags pro­tect oc­cu­pants should the worst hap­pen but there’s plenty to pre­vent a biff in the first place. Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing at city and high­way speeds is stan­dard, ac­com­pa­nied by blind zone warn­ing, lane-keep­ing as­sis­tance and speed sign recog­ni­tion, which works sur­pris­ingly well. A rear cam­era and front and rear park­ing sen­sors are stan­dard but rear cross-traf­fic alert and rear AEB are not.

DRIV­ING

The A200 has plenty of zip for a rel­a­tively small 1.3-litre four-cylin­der turbo but it’s a chal­lenge to get close to the claimed fuel-rat­ing la­bel fig­ure. We av­er­aged a still re­spectable 8L9L/100km. It in­sists on 95 RON pre­mium un­leaded. The twin-clutch auto is smoother than be­fore, al­though not quite as in­tu­itive as the same type of trans­mis­sion in the lat­est VW Golf. The turn­ing cir­cle is in­cred­i­bly tight, handy for U-turns in nar­row streets. And the steer­ing it­self is light and pre­cise once on the move. The new A-Class cor­ners with con­fi­dence, whether in round­abouts or a wind­ing road, but the run-flat tyres make the sus­pen­sion feel a but stiff over bumps. For ex­am­ple, it doesn’t ab­sorb speed bumps with the same com­fort as a car with con­ven­tional tyres.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES BMW 1 SE­RIES, FROM $39,990

BMW’s sporty hatch­back has had a facelift re­cently. Prices start at $10,000 less than the Mercedes but the equiv­a­lent BMW is closer in price, at $46,990. In­te­rior is dated com­pared to the Benz but it’s a bet­ter drive.

AUDI A3, FROM $36,200

The Audi A3 is more un­der­stated than the BMW and the Benz but it has a more prac­ti­cal and con­ven­tional in­te­rior. The equiv­a­lent A3 starts from $46,400. The sus­pen­sion is a bit more sup­ple than the BMW and the Benz.

VW GOLF, FROM $26,490

The cheap­est grade might be half the price of the Mercedes but for $50,000 you can get a high per­for­mance Golf with the works.

SHORT CUT — BENZ A200

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