Mercedes A-class

Act one ends in three-act drama

Autocar - - CONTENTS - MARK TIS­SHAW

WHY WE’RE RUN­NING IT

To see if Merc’s Golf ri­val has come of age – and to try to pick the ‘per­fect’ spec

By the time you read this, A-class num­ber one of three in this se­ries of back-to-back tests will have re­turned to its maker. This A180d is to be re­placed by a petrolpow­ered A200, mean­ing the diesel leg of this tril­ogy is over and the first set of con­clu­sions can be drawn.

What’s worth not­ing straight from the off is just how rel­e­vant a diesel en­gine of any type re­mains if you do big miles. When you’re do­ing just shy of 2000 miles a month, as we were av­er­ag­ing in our short stint in the car, diesel makes the best sense of all.

Our av­er­age econ­omy fig­ure has slipped from the 60mpg around which it had hov­ered in the early days. The weather has cooled and the num­ber of shorter jour­neys has in­creased, but we’re still might­ily im­pressed by a 55mpg av­er­age.

That will make for in­ter­est­ing com­par­i­son num­ber one as we switch from our 1.5-litre four-cylin­der diesel to a down­sized 1.3-litre tur­bocharged petrol in the A200. Just what will our wal­lets make of the switch? From pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence, down­sized petrols are some of the least im­pres­sive for real-world econ­omy. We’ll have the cal­cu­la­tor out over the next cou­ple of months and let you know.

One thing I won’t miss about this A-class is the trans­mis­sion. The seven-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic gear­box’s step-off is the sin­gle worst thing about the car. There is sim­ply no go when you ask for it with your right foot, no mat­ter how gen­tle or hard you are on the pedal. It takes a good sec­ond for drive to ap­pear, which is as unim­pres­sive as it is baf­fling: just how did Mercedes sign off the car like this?

It’s a shame, be­cause for the most part the trans­mis­sion makes for an easy-go­ing coun­ter­part to the A180d once you’re on the move. It kicks down with min­i­mal fuss when re­quired and of­fers im­pres­sive driv­abil­ity in the 30-50mph ac­cel­er­a­tion bursts that are a part of ev­ery­day driv­ing.

The seven-speed dual clutch auto also ap­pears in the A200, so it will be in­trigu­ing to see whether the is­sue is one re­lated to the trans­mis­sion it­self or one caused by its in­te­gra­tion with the diesel en­gine.

The next big dif­fer­ence be­tween this A180d and the in­com­ing A200 is the rear sus­pen­sion. Both the A180d and A200 use the tor­sion beam rear sus­pen­sion op­tion – un­less you spec your A200 in AMG Line trim, which our car will in­clude to add an ex­tra el­e­ment to this story.

On the stan­dard sus­pen­sion set-up and with 17in al­loys in this mid-range Sport trim, the A180d rides well but not with class-lead­ing sta­tus. There is greater so­phis­ti­ca­tion in the way a Volk­swa­gen Golf or Ford Fo­cus rides. The A180d’s body con­trol comes un­stuck over higher fre­quency sur­faces and can set the cabin shak­ing. In­trigu­ingly, there were a cou­ple of big dis­senters among the Au­to­car staff on the way the A180d rides on this stan­dard set-up.

The fi­nal big change we’ll be notic­ing is with the MBUX in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. Our A180d has the dual 7in screens, one cen­trally for the in­fo­tain­ment and an­other for the driver’s in­stru­ments.

Oth­ers who have ex­pe­ri­enced the larger 10.25in op­tions in other A-classes have smirked at how small it is, yet I’ve never had an is­sue with the graph­ics, leg­i­bil­ity, size or func­tion­al­ity. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing if big­ger does mean bet­ter when we up­grade one of the two screens on the A200.

Diesel A-class has av­er­aged 55mpg

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