Mercedes A 200
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!