Mercedes Benz’s foray into the hatchback market has not been a successful one to date. Their first attempt was, to say the least, a disaster on all fronts; unattractive, undesirable and as it turns out quite dangerous – as the Swedes found out during their infamous ‘elk tests’, in which the boxy and top heavy A Class toppled over without much hesitation.
So I think you’d struggle to find anyone with even the vaguest interest in motoring who liked the original A-Class Mercedes Benz. It was an insult to the very basis on which the company was built – nothing more than a brazen attempt to sucker unsuspecting customers into Mercedes showrooms with the promise of German built quality and style for a little less money. Only they didn’t get any style and paid quite a lot of money.
Now though the Stuttgart based firm think they have the competition nailed to the wall with the all new A Class. And at first glance you wouldn’t blame them would you? It’s a gorgeous little thing, nice and taut in all the right places, big alloy wheels fill those flared arches just right, drawing the eye down its flanks with pronounced creases in the body work – especially stunning in electric blue. Topped off with an oversized three pointed star displayed proudly on the front end.
On the inside the A Class is typical Mercedes, splashed liberally with leather and aluminium. There’s a very premium feel to almost everything inside the cabin, giving you the sense that they really thought about this one. I say almost everything because the display for the radio and satellite navigation appears no more than an afterthought. Like the design team crafted something beautiful, only for an engineer to realise they didn’t leave a space for the display and he just glued it somewhere on the dash. That aside, it is a very nice place to be and well equipped as standard.
The A doesn’t manage to incorporate the practicality of its predecessor however, as one would expect after a tummy tuck. There’s enough space, but more than four adults is a definite no-no.
Various engine options include three petrol motors, and two diesels. I tested the smaller of the diesels, measuring in at 1461cc, helped along by a turbo charger. The little oil burner produces 80kW and 260Nm which means progress is slow but steady. It’s designed to master the art of efficiency, which it does very well in fact. Its kind to the ozone layer too, spitting out less than 100g of CO2 per kilometre.
Sportier versions of the A Class are of course part of the line-up, namely the A250 (which confusingly enough is actually a 2.0 litre turbo). Unfortunately the handling dynamics will be a let-down for anyone hoping the new A might be a BMW killer. The car doesn’t feel well balanced through sweeping bends and there isn’t much grip, all of which ruins driver confidence. I suppose the fact that it doesn’t topple over shows progress though.
Despite its dynamic downfalls, the new A is in high demand. I can see why too; base petrol models start at a smidgen under R274 000 making it cheaper than a VW Golf (with a R26 000 premium for the entry level diesel model) – and tell me truthfully, who would rather have a VW? No? That’s what I thought.
Price: R 300 000
Engine: 1461cc 4 cylinder turbo diesel
Power (kW): 80
Torque (Nm): 260
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 11.3
Top Speed (km/h): 190
Fuel Consumption (l/100km): 4.0
First published in Autodealer KZN