• The latest Mercedes A Class apes the successful formula of the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series
  • The A-class eschews the tall, boxy profile of old
  • Contour lines give a dynamic profile
  • Headlight design eats into boot opening
  • Roof spoiler helps reduce the car's drag coefficient
  • Interior is well constructed, with a premium ambience
  • Standalone screen displays navigation and communicaton information
  • Dials are similar to those found in the Mercedes SLS supercar
  • Entry is tricky, but there's plenty of room up front
  • Rear head and leg-room is average for the class
  • Boot space is competetive but narrow opening makes loading bulky items a struggle
  • A200 CDI suffers from a slight torque defecit compared to rivals
  • 1.8-litre diesel provides strong, but not class leading performance
  • The A-class is grippy and capable, but lacks the adjustable balance of a true hot hatch
  • Taught body control inspires confidence in the bends
  • An overtly sporty nature and a lack of ride comfort mean the A-class will divide opinion

So the A-class we used to know has gone and with it packaging has departed that bordered on the revolutionary. Instead, today’s A-class mirrors the segment norm, in being a 4.3-metre-long small family car that’s easier for potential buyers to understand.

The original A-class’s ‘sandwich’ floor trademark, which neatly packaged the engine and ancillaries around or below the cabin rather than in front of or behind it, made it a brilliantly short and exceptionally spacious car.

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The A-class may be svelte, but it's all too easy to brain yourself on the A-pillar entry.

But its purpose was less clear when compared with ostensibly ‘bigger’ rivals such as the BMW 1-series and Audi A3, even if, inside, they were no bigger at all. Today’s A-class, then, follows rather than breaks convention. Its proportions are typical for the segment, though the styling cues make it unquestionably a Mercedes.

You would know it even with the badges removed, thanks to the shape of the grille and lights and the strakes in the side that mimic Mercedes’ larger models.

Entirely deliberate, you would think, given that Mercedes will want to take advantage of customers downsizing from larger cars in its line-up, or fulfil the realities of those aspiring to own a Benz.

Given the  ‘join them’ ethos, the hardware is as conventional as you might expect. Beneath the steel monocoque there are MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear.

Diesel engine choices consist of a 1.5-litre, two 1.8s and a 2.1. There are also four petrols: two of 1.6 litres and two of 2.0 litres. In addition, there is a plethora of chassis options, with a Comfort set-up offered alongside two firmer settings.

 

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