Bi­jou Benz gets the boot

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ASH WESTERMAN

PER­HAPS it’s a re­flec­tion of the hu­man con­di­tion, rather than an is­sue spe­cific to the Chi­nese, but as wealth and the stan­dard of liv­ing have in­creased in the world’s most pop­u­lous coun­try, so has sta­tus anx­i­ety. For the bur­geon­ing up­per-mid­dle class, pre­mium brands rule, and make it a sedan, please – a boot brings a level of ca­chet those shop­pingtrol­ley hatches just can’t match.

Other coun­tries aren’t im­mune – us in­cluded – all of which helped shape the busi­ness case for Mercedes-benz to break with tra­di­tion and pro­duce the fourth gen­er­a­tion of its pre­mium com­pact as both hatch and sedan.

It’s easy to see the ap­peal when viewed in the metal. The booted A-class has a youth­ful pert­ness that’s lack­ing in the slightly dour C-class. The over­hangs are tightly drawn, and there’s a right­ness about its size and pro­por­tions that makes you won­der if you ac­tu­ally could do without the added prac­ti­cal­ity of the hatch.

In re­al­ity, the hatch’s ad­van­tage amounts to a re­mov­able par­cel shelf and the ex­tra load height that al­lows, be­cause oth­er­wise, the sedan doesn’t give much away in pure ca­pac­ity. The claimed fig­ure is 420 litres (ob­vi­ously a stack more with the rear seats folded), ac­cessed via a 950mm-wide open­ing.

Like­wise, rear-seat pack­ag­ing will be fine for most young fam­i­lies. I needed to make a con­certed ef­fort to duck my head when fold­ing my six-foot frame in be­hind a driver’s seat set for my po­si­tion, but once in, I was snug but not cramped.

As we de­tailed in our first lo­cal drive of the A200 hatch, (Wheels Septem­ber, ) three sus­pen­sion set-ups are of­fered, and this will likely be repli­cated for the sedan. Our drive was in an all-wheel drive (4Matic) A220 with an in­de­pen­dent rear end, so not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Aussie spec. Our A200 sedan will come with a tor­sion-beam rear end (and pas­sive dampers) un­less cus­tomers opt for an AMG Ex­clu­sive pack (circa-$3200) that in­cludes IRS with adap­tive dampers.

We’re keen to see how the vari­a­tions work on Aussie roads, as the pas­sive-damper IRS set-up tended to be a bit edgy and re­ac­tive on the US roads we drove, with this broader de­meanour ex­ac­er­bated by road noise from the (op­tional) Pirelli P Zero 225/40R19s.

On the up­side, there’s a level of body con­trol and front-end in­ci­sive­ness that will keep keen driv­ers in­volved, even if the steer­ing is not espe­cially feel-rich.

But wait for po­ten­tial buy­ers to get an eye­ful of the in­te­rior glitz, with those vast twin screens, tur­bine vents and mood light­ing. Stand well back and watch ju­nior sedan se­duc­tion in full force.

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