Mercedes A 200

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - Contents -

I re­mem­ber the launch of the orig­i­nal Mercedes A-Class. We were at the Frankfurt Mo­tor Show back in 1997, and there was a great fan­fare and this funny-look­ing lit­tle tall car ap­peared. I wasn’t re­ally im­pressed, writes John Ox­ley. Fast-for­ward to 2013, and there’s a new A-Class. And this time I AM im­pressed. A lot!

There was a lot of con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the first A- Class, not least of which was that it fell over dur­ing a se­vere swerve – dubbed the “elk test”. Nev­er­the­less, it sold in vast quan­ti­ties, though mainly to people for whom cars were just trans­port!

We can tell you one thing with­out any fear of ar­gu­ment. The new A- Class def­i­nitely WON’T fall over eas­ily, be­cause it’s as lithe and ag­ile as any other hatch on the mar­ket, and a lot bet­ter than most.

As far as looks are con­cerned, the new A- Class is the most hand­some small car on the mar­ket. The de­sign­ers have man­aged to give it a long nose, with­out los­ing the pro­por­tions. It looks mod­ern, ag­gres­sive, even in A 200 guise as tested here, and it looks def­i­nitely sporty, some­thing most big­ger Mercedes-Benz’s haven’t looked for quite a while – al­though that’s def­i­nitely chang­ing with the lat­est crop.

In fact, giv­ing it the same look as its big­ger sib­lings has en­sured those who buy an A- Class won’t feel short-changed as you could, for ex­am­ple, in a 1 Se­ries BMW, which looks a lot like a lit­tle tall car, and not a lot like the big­ger Beemers.

You also won’t feel short- changed for space in the Merc, ei­ther, for it’s got all the room you’d ex­pect from a mid-sized hatch­back, with enough head­room and legroom in the back for three adults – though they might be a bit cozy.

As far as the in­te­rior is con­cerned, it’s ev­ery­thing you’d ex­pect from Mercedes. Qual­ity abounds in the fix­tures and fit­tings, with soft-touch ma­te­ri­als, and lots of hand stitch­ing to make it look re­ally classy. Then there’s the styling of the in­te­rior. This is no fuddy-duddy granny­mo­bile – the dash­board has been de­signed on a mod­u­lar theme that is bang up-to- date.

Dom­i­nat­ing the cen­tre of the dash is a large LCD panel for the sat-nav/ re­vers­ing cam­era/ ra­dio sta­tions/ iPod mu­sic – it shows all that and more, depend­ing on what you want. And it stands out from the dash, mak­ing it eas­ier to see. The sat­nav is a $ 3,190 op­tion, and in­cludes the Co­mand voice con­trol pack­age.

The large noz­zle-like air vents stand out too, thanks to their bright chromed fin­ish, while the leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel is the real com­mand cen­tre, with satel­lite con­trols for the Blue­tooth phone, mu­sic, sta­tion se­lect, and to switch on the voice com­mand mod­ule.

The in­stru­ment panel is clean and neat, with two main di­als and in­set ones for fuel and wa­ter tem­per­a­ture, and there’s a panel be­tween the di­als which dis­plays out­side tem­per­a­ture and time, as well as var­i­ous func­tions of the trip com­puter.

As to be ex­pected, the A 200 is well­specced. Our favourite stan­dard fea­ture is the ac­tive cruise con­trol unit, which you set at the speed you want, and which will slow down if you catch up with an­other ve­hi­cle with­out you hav­ing to brake, then will keep the same speed as the car in front in traf­fic – or you can over­take, you just press the ac­cel­er­a­tor and whoosh past.

It’s got full Blue­tooth fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing IPod/ IPhone in­te­gra­tion ( so easy) as well as a six- disc CD changer, an elec­tri­cal­ly­op­er­ated park­ing brake, cli­mate con­trolled air­con, elec­tric win­dows all round, read­ing lights front and rear, stop/ start eco func­tion, frontal col­li­sion warn­ing – it re­ally is a mini Merc limo!

At the same time it’s re­mark­ably fru­gal. De­spite that “200” nomen­cla­ture, this car is in fact pow­ered by a 115kW/ 250Nm tur­bocharged 1.6-litre mo­tor. As such it’s not a ball of fire, but nei­ther is it slug­gish, with a zero to 100km/ h sprint time of 8.3 secs, and max­i­mum torque avail­able from as low as 1,250rpm right in a flat plateau to 4,000rpm for great drive­abil­ity!

In sum­mary, as the world moves to­wards down­siz­ing, Mercedes has moved with the world. At one stage I thought the C- Class would be as small as a “real” Mercedes would get – but the A- Class has changed those per­cep­tions, and the re­al­ity, too!

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