The A-Class may have started out as a mini MPV but those days are long forgotten writes Hannah Gordon.
What is it?
It’s 3rd time lucky for Mercedes-Benz with their 3rd generation A Class, and they’ve finally got it right. Gone is the mini MPV design that was about as exciting as a poke in the eye and in its place is a sleek and funky hatchback. This car can finally go into combat with the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 in what is a highly competitive hatchback market.
Who is it aimed at?
The A200 AMG Sport is one of the sportiest A Classes you can buy. After parking yourself on the leather seats you realise why your mum probably wouldn’t want to borrow it – the whole feel of the inside and the lack of interior space is so obviously aimed at the younger ie single driver market.
The A200 is completely unrecognisable from its boxy roots back in 1997, the styling has been radically improved. The front is typically very bullish with oversized grill and an unmistakable Mercedes-Benz badge taking pride of place, The scoops and grills really add to the sporty looking exterior.
The sweeping lines culminate in a gorgeous rear end with twin exhausts peeping out beneath the rear bumper. The test car had the night package fitted which included privacy glass, black grill and wing mirrors, dark 18” alloys, Bi Xenons and LED running lights. I recommend this option.
Mercedes-Benz have made a very desirable looking hatchback here.
Under the bonnet?
The car I drove came with a 2.1 litre 4 cylinder turbo diesel engine paired up with a 7 speed Dual clutch automatic, the engine with 136 bhp and a reserved top speed of 130mph.
It goes through the gears smoothly and also has the option of a manual change using the paddles on the steering wheel. But the engine lacks a bit of punch I felt and, for a sporty car, the background rumble of the diesel just doesn’t fit the image for me.
What about inside?
The cabin of the A200 is excellent, details such as the silver dials and carbon look dash create the natural environment for a sporty ride. The perfect seating position can be obtained in a number of ways with adjustments to the seats and steering column. The dials are bright and easily read and the dash quality feels very good. The interior can feel a little claustrophobic because the windows seem/are small and yet the doors have a high line. Visibility isn’t great, especially out of the rear window.
There is plenty of storage spaces especially if you opt for the automatic gearbox which is changed through a stalk on the steering column.
However I had a few criticisms here. The cruise control selector is situated so close to the indicator that I kept engaging it accidentally; the climate control is tucked away and can be hard to see what you’re are pressing and the iPad style multimedia screen looks like an afterthought that has been attached in a hurry.
On the road?
Driving this car is when it really starts to put a grin on your face. The test car featured the AMG kit which includes a 15mm ride drop and stiffer suspension. When added to 18” alloys this can make driving on UK countryside roads a bit of a rough ride.
Potholes and road imperfections are easily felt through the cabin, but take this car around a few bends and you’ll see that it handles very well. It feels firmly planted through corners and the steering gives you the confidence not to back off.
Being front wheel drive, it’s not as direct as the BMW 1 series but it certainly has come on leaps and bounds since the Generation 1 that was prone to dangerous body roll. Driving on motorways is effortless although the road noise from the low profile tyres can become an annoyance.
The A Class has a top score of 5 stars in the NCAP safety ratings. It also features the pop up bonnet to protect pedestrians and a light that warns you when you are getting too close to the car in front.
Mercedes-Benz has offered an enormous amount of options with the A Class. If you’re not careful the options could really mount up. The options I would definitely go for are the Night Package that aesthetically improves the exterior of the car and an upgraded sound and multimedia package. The standard stereo isn’t particularly good when aiming this vehicle at the younger market.
Will it break the bank?
Not as I see things. According to Mercedes Benz the 2.1 litre diesel emits just 118 g/km of CO2 and can do mid 60’s MPG. The automatic gives you better economy and a higher MPG than the manual version.
The new and vastly improved Mercedes-Benz A class is a breath of fresh air. Having driven the generation 1 and 2 A classes the improvements are gigantic.
Placing itself firmly in the competitive hatchback market, Mercedes Benz had to produce something worthy of rivalling the Audi A3 and BMW 1 series, and in part they have. Having driven this car for a couple of days I’ve really got to enjoy it, the cabin quality and ambience inside make it a great place to plunder the miles.
The ride and handling are stiff but it makes you really want to push the car. You can relax in the knowledge that you’ve purchased a quality car. But this shouldn’t be thought of as a family car, the boot is too small, the rear seats and angle of the door make it difficult to get in and out of and the ride is too harsh. Instead this is a trendy hatchback for young drivers with an eye for practicality, economy and style.
Why you’ll buy one? It looks great; comes with Mercedes quality; excellent handling
Why you won’t? Boot space, noisy diesel, hard suspension/road noise
Audi A3 Sportback – from £18,575
BMW 1-Series - from £18,305
Mercedes-Benz A200 CDI AMG Sport
Engine: 2143cc, 136bhp
3,200, 300NM 1400 rpm
Max speed: 130 mph
0-60 mph: 9.3 seconds
Emissions: 116 g/km
Model price range: £18,945 – £24,520
No of Doors: 5 doors
Euro NCAP : Not yet tested
Fuel type: Diesel
Fuel Economy (combined cycle): (62.8mpg)
Boot Capacity Seats down (Seats up): 341 litres (1,157 litres)
Car Seats: 2 Isofix fittings in the rear
Length mm: 4292
Width mm: 1780
Height mm: 1433
Wheelbase mm: 2699
For more information check out the Mercedes-Benz Retail Group website.
This is a Car Review for women written by wheelsforwomen.co.uk; a website offering honest, informative and jargon-free car reviews, news and features. Even better, all reviews are written by women for women.