A mum of a friend of my sons, drives a 12 year old Mercedes A Class. She swears by it. She has four sons aged between 12 & 18 & trust me, that car takes a pounding. I know this because I have one son who attends the same school as three of her boys. My son plays rugby four times a week at school & the mess that he creates in any car I am driving has to be seen to be believed. Multiply that mess by three sons & you have 1. A very dirty car & 2. A non stop cycle of washing & drying.
Any car I am testing on a Saturday contains several old towels to protect the interior as I go to & from school rugby matches. I have just been driving Mercedes Benz new A Class & luckily or unluckily, my son has been injured, so there was no rugby this weekend, which has saved me the trouble of protecting the interior. The new A Class is nothing like the car it has replaced & it would not appeal to my sons friends mum, for it is now a premium five door hatchback rather than a mini MPV, launched two years ago by MB to compete in a market dominated by Audis A3 & BMW’s 1 Series.
As those of you who read my reviews regularly will know, I am somewhat shallow when it comes to cars, often preferring a cars looks over how it drives. When placed alongside the A3 & 1 Series the A Class is more attractive & its clear to see that MB spent a long time making sure that this was so, no doubt realising that like me, most premium hatchback buyers covet looks over practicality, otherwise the Mk 1 A Class would have been a runaway success. The detailing found on larger Mercedes is clearly evident in the new model. Nice touches included the headlights with LED strips, small windows, 18″ alloys , lowered suspension & creases in the doors, which all added a sporty feel to the cars exterior profile. Inside, my AMG model was gorgeous. The black leather rally-style seats with vents, were trimmed with red stitching & there was matching leather on the dash, punctuated by an almost 3D black plastic which really stood out.
The steering wheel is quite chunky & matching in black The fixed iPad style infotainment screen looked smart, also in black but my favourite detail was the five round air vents, which reminded me of the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank. The switch gear is a little confusing, with two stalks on the left controlling everything. I struggled to engage the rear wiper. Because the centre console is dominated by the five air vents & the heating controls have been squeezed in at the bottom, almost as an afterthought. Controlling the iPad screen is quite simple, via the now popular dial in the centre between the front seats. There’s also a hand foot brake that will confuse many, because you pull to disengage & push to engage.
Because the interior is black, my test car felt cramped inside, particularly in the back. There is plenty of room in the front but over six footers will struggle in the back & seat number five would only suit a child under 12. The boot offers 341 litres , 90 litres less than the Mk1. The rear seats do fold down pretty flat & this increase the luggage capacity to 1157 litres. There’s no spare wheel either.
The A200 CDI is powered by a 1796 cc engine, which will be the popular choice of SME’s. It offers company car drivers a respectable combination of fuel economy, 62.8 mpg on the combined, CO2 emissions 121g/km & power, 136 bhp, reaching 62 mph in 9.3 seconds. These figures closely mirror the BMW 118d, although the BMW has lower CO2 emissions of 118g/km. I drove 200 miles in the A Class on all types of roads & averaged 46.8 mpg. I did of course have everything turned on; air con, auto lights, iPad style infotainment display & bluetooth, which don’t aid fuel consumption as well as having to heat up the leather seats first thin in the morning.
The A Class does handle well & I really enjoyed the precise steering & feel that the car gave me on B roads. The suspension isn’t too hard & lets you feel the bends when you put your foot down. But the 18″alloy wheels do let the bumps in on our permanently pot holed roads. On the motorway the A Class cruised comfortably, but my test car was noisy, I’m guessing again, because of the alloys & tyres. This problem was solved by turning my music up, but it wasn’t good for my quieter pod casts nor my Bluetooth phone conversations.
For a basic price of £24,520, with a large shed full of goodies, I felt my test car to be good value for money. Chuck in all the extras that MB added, which raised the price to £29,875 & it becomes too expensive. SME’s will take a more basic specced car of that I’m sure & with the range being advertised on contract hire from under £250 a month for the A200 CDI, it will tempt many to change their German car of choice.
Did I like the A Class ? Yes. Would I have one ? Yes. Mercedes have certainly achieved good things with a completely new car & I’m sure that they will sell their quota of 2013 A Class, mostly to fleet customers . It’s not as polished as either the A3 or the 1 Series, but it is new & it has the three pointed Mercedes logo on it, which won’t do it any harm at all. It also offers an intangible, the feel good factor, something one could not have felt with the original A Class & in my opinion, is lacking from the A3. It should give the 1 Series a run for it’s money. Even my sons friends aged 12, who commented ‘nice car’ were sold on it. They are the MB customers of the future & the new A Class will go some way to attracting a younger profile to the brand than it’s had before. By the way, for any rugby aficionados reading this, my sons friends surname is O’Driscoll & rugby kind of runs in their family.
Keith Wood says that Brian O’Driscoll is the greatest ever Irish rugby player & I’m not going to argue with him. A Six Nations 4/5.