Lower, wider and potentially sexier is Mercedes new A-class
Before the A-class, Mercedes was known for large cars. Now smaller cars are key as Frederic Manby discovered in Slovenia.
MERCEDES is about to shake up the market with its new A-class. The old one sold 2.1m. Here is its successor, a sleek car which makes the original look the frumpysensible shopping/school car it always was. It is lower, longer, wider and you may think sexier. It arrives in Britain in December.
Prices start at £18,945 for the A180 with a 1595cc 120bhp petrol engine with six speed gearbox. It records 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, 51mpg and 129g/km of CO2. This is the only base-trim model sold in Britain. Prices then jump to £20,125 for the SE version. Like all the range it carries the BlueEFFICIENCY name and stop-start ignition.
There are three petrol engines and three diesels at launch, all of them turbocharged and all available (not in every trim level) with seven-speed automatic gearboxes for an additional £1,450. The shift lever is column mounted and easy to use. The cheapest automatic is the A180 petrol SE at £21,575. It records 52.3mpg and 127gkm CO2.
The A200 petrol with 154 bhp from the 1595cc engine and the 208 bhp A250 with a 1991cc engine (automatic only) complete the petrol models.
The star of the diesel engines is the A180 CDI. Its 1461cc engine produces 107.5 bhp, 74.3mpg and 98g/km CO2, so no annual road tax or London congestion zone payment. It costs from £21,200 in SE trim. The other diesels at launch are the 1796cc 134 bhp A200 CDI. The automatic diesels at launch have this engine. Coming next year is the A220 CDI.
The engines all meet 2016 emission targets with advanced injection, timing and combustion systems.
Standard items include the radar controlled rear collision prevention system which gives emergency braking if you do not hit the pedal hard enough. There is Bluetooth, a 5.8 inch information screen and the pre-wiring for the neat Becker plug-in navigation system – or Mercedes’s pukka full-house navigation at much greater cost.
The SE (A180 petrol and diesel) has 16 inch alloy wheels, sports seats with jazzier fabrics and Comfort suspension. The Sport (A180 and A200 petrol and diesel models) adds 17 inch wheels, cruise control, visible exhaust pipes and trim and kit upgrades.
The AMG Sport (A200 petrol and diesels, A220 CDI and A250) adds AMG styling and 18 inch wheels, sports suspension, perforated disc brakes and a dynamic handling kit. The “Engineered
Dieter Zetsche has ambitions to wrest control of the ‘compact’ premium sector from BMW.
by AMG” models (A250 and the A220 CDI) bring AMG suspension, a rortier engine note, adjustable stability control in the slip, bi-xenon headlamps and daylight LED, privacy glass, red brake callipers, a glossier grille and other cosmetics. From £28,775 it is the most expensive model.
The company chief, Dieter Zetsche, has ambitions to wrest control of the “compact” premium sector from BMW (and Audi should you regard its A3 as premier material). The latest front- wheel-drive B-class Mercedes preceded the A-class with the new platform and in the next few years it will also make coupe and SUV models, plus another unspecified body.
It enters a world of smart phones – which can be integrated to send spoken emails while on the move.
UK showrooms have the car in December and I’d expect a strong order log. For around £21,000 I can buy a pukka, proper Mercedes (made in Germany – or Hungary for some markets) which costs the same as, say, a fully specified Ford Focus and will have a much better trade-in value – and that 98g/km CO2 economy.
Behind the wheel the seats feel low because the dashboard top is high – or vice versa. All the interior brightwork is galvanised in silver chrome – so is cool to the touch, not warm like plastic. Minor storage is well thought out with a handy lidded box on the transmission tunnel but the gloves box does not lock.
There is an electric parking brake – its control rather lost under the fascia and only auto-releasing with automatic gears. The manual release with manual gears is a safety precaution in case your foot slipped off the clutch when holding it at a junction.
There is leather as an option or as a cheaper vegetarian option the very convincing ARTICO synthetic. The optional sunroof’s tilt function closes an inch at higher speed to reduce drag and wind noise but still give a semblance of fresh air. The fit and finish is sound and attractive. The rear chairs fold to make a flat floor without the need to remove headrests.
A-LISTER: The dash includes a 5.8 inch information screen while the latest design makes the original car look frumpy and sensible.