Mercedes-Benz A-Class | International Fleetworld

14 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Mercedes-Benz A-Class | International Fleetworld
Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

New A-Class gives BMW and Audi#8217;s compact cars a very credible rival, says Alex Grant.

SECTOR Lower medium#160; PRICE #8364;23,978 #8211; #8364;36,860#160; FUEL 3.8 #8211; 6.4l/100km#160; CO2 98 #8211; 148g/km

Radically different to its predecessor, this isn#8217;t only one of the most important Mercedes-Benz models of recent years, it#8217;s one of the most important fleet launches of 2012. It#8217;s the car charged with putting the three-pointed star back on the map

in what#8217;s become a crowded premium C-segment, so it has to be good.

The first generation A-Class promised a lot when it launched in 1997. Shorter than a Ford Ka, but with more rear passenger space than a C-Class, all except the driver#8217;s seat could be removed to turn it into a compact van.

Audi had taken a different approach. The A3, launched only a year beforehand, was exactly the stylish, sporty small car young executives moving out of volume brands were interested in. So much so that BMW, Volvo and Lexus have all launched rival products in the meantime.

Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, had two small MPVs at the small end of its range.

New A-Class is aimed at rectifying that. It has adopted a similar profile to its rivals, with optional AMG styling and the ability to make this the fastest or the most fuel-efficient A-Class ever made, which adds up to a much broader appeal than the outgoing car.

Mercedes-Benz doesn#8217;t expect to alienate existing A-Class owners. B-Class sales have grown dramatically in some markets since this was introduced, and the 70,000 global orders for the new A-Class suggests those who saw it as an affordable entry point have stuck with it, joined by a large influx of newcomers.

The range is similar to its rivals, including the aggressively-styled AMG Sport#160;version shown on most adverts for the car. The non-AMG trims are subtler and less eye-catching, but it#8217;s a neatly proportioned car with a low roofline which looks sporty on all except the steel wheels and hubcaps of the entry-level model.

Drivers seeking the most efficient Mercedes-Benz on sale don#8217;t have to make much of a style sacrifice. The A180 CDI is powered by Renault#8217;s 1.5-litre diesel engine, as found in the Megane, and it#8217;s a really good fit. Power delivery is progressive rather than peaky, gear changes are firm and positive and if anything it#8217;s less rattly than the manufacturer#8217;s own units offered higher up the range.

But it#8217;s only the manual version which gets the Renault engine, the automatic uses a 1.8-litre Mercedes-Benz unit.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The A180 CDI and A200 CDI are expected to be the most popular engine choices in Europe, and both are offered with the AMG Sport styling pack. Size up to larger wheels, though, and the A180 loses its double-digit CO2 emissions, ranging up to 108g/km for the largest wheels. For some, it#8217;ll be a small price to pay for the better looks.

Interior styling is as strong as the creased bodywork, feeling very much in line with the manufacturer#8217;s sports cars. All trims get tombstone-shaped sports seats varied only in the size of their bolsters, and the back seats don#8217;t feel cramped even with#160;the low roofline. The biggest difference between entry and top-level models is the aluminium accents, optional carbon fibre style inlays and red pinstriping, which can make cheaper models feel a bit gloomy compared to their better-equipped siblings.

This is an entirely successful overhaul of the A-Class nameplate, which loses little of the concept car#8217;s head-turning shape.

It#8217;s keenly priced, efficient, great to drive and no less practical than its key rivals. Mercedes-Benz had to get this big-selling sector right, and the new A-Class is very, very good.

New A-Class has the style, driving experience and running costs to be a real success. It#8217;s a huge departure from the outgoing car, but it#8217;s exactly what Mercedes-Benz needed.

Added by Alex Grant

Motoring Editor, International Fleet World

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