First drive review: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

New A-ClassMercedes-Benz

The new A-Class has ditched its old mini-MPV packaging and is now a sporty hatchback. But is it any good? AOL Cars headed to the Peak District to find out.

What is it?

Mercedes-Benz calls this the most important car they've offered for a generation – and that's quite some statement. But it's easy to understand their enthusiasm as the firm can finally tackle the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series head-on for premium hatchback honours.
What's new?

Everything – only the "A-Class" name is the same. The new A is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor. There's also a whole new range of engines and transmissions and, the biggest change of all, are the looks. Gone is the old A-Class's mini-MPV styling and safety-first packaging, and in comes a more conventional premium hatchback look. It's only available as a five-door version, but there's a coupe and mini-SUV on the cards.

What's under the bonnet?

Kicking off the line up is the A 180 BlueEFFICIENCY – a 1.6-litre, 120bhp petrol which emits 129g/km of CO2 and can achieve 51.4mpg combined. There's also a 154bhp 1.6 and a 209bhp 2.0-litre. For diesel the line-up ranges from a 98g/km, 1.4-litre unit with 107bhp, right up to a 2.1-litre, 168bhp unit.

The most popular engines are expected to be the 1.4-litre diesel and the 1.8-litre diesel.
Coming next year is the hot A 45 AMG with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class
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First drive review: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

What's the kit like?

There's a vast range of models. The line-up starts with the A 180 for £18,945 which comes with air conditioning, a multifunction steering wheel and stop/start. For now, the range peaks with the Engineered by AMG at £28,775. The pick of the line-up is the mid-spec Sport – which ranges from £21,240 to £24,720, and has niceties such as 17-inch bi-colour alloys, cruise control, carbon-fibre-like interior trim and twin exhausts.

Any rivals?

Well, the A-Class ploughs head-long into the inter-German premium hatchback battle between the BMW 1 Series and the new Audi A3. Don't forget the new Volvo V40, either. That brings with it its own unique Swedish charm.

New A-ClassMercedes-Benz

Is it any good?

It is, yes. It may share the same name with the old A-Class, but there's no wobbly body control with the new one; this is a very competent machine. Mercedes has worked hard to give the A-Class a neutral driving experience – no understeer or oversteer – and it has worked. Cornering is flat, the steering weighty, the driving position is close to spot-on and the new seven-speed dual clutch gearbox is a peach.

The AOL Cars verdict

Mercedes has built a-class act here. The firm has sold 2.1 million units of the A-Class since its introduction in 1997 – but, interesting looks aside, both the Mk1 and Mk2 never got your pulse racing. This new one does; it's not as fun to drive as a BMW 1 Series, but it's far more stimulating than the new Audi A3. It's one of the best Mercedes in recent years.

The knowledge
Model: Mercedes A 200 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Sport Automatic
Price: £33,240 (as tested)
Engine: 1.8-litre, diesel
Power: 134bhp, 600Nm
Max speed: 130mph
0-60mph: 9.0s
MPG (comb'd): 65.7
Emissions: 114g/km
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