First DriveAMG’s attempt to create hot A-class to sit £10k below the A45 creates a potent but ultimately uninvolving VW Golf GTI rival
First DriveBy chasing the compact benchmark set by BMW and Audi, Mercedes has produced an equally hard-edged competitor
What is it?
This is the Mercedes A-class fitted with the least powerful version of the company’s recently revised 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit and a CVT (Constantly Variable Transmission).
The gearbox has five ‘fixed’ ratio positions in its ‘manual’ model, but moves steplessly when left in automatic.
What's it like?
For my money, the A-class is one of the classiest superminis or small family hatches that you can get.
The interior is genuine Mercedes, albeit on a budget, and the fit and finish of our test car was excellent. My only reservation about the standard car is that there is no reach adjustment on the steering wheel.>> See more pictures of the Mercedes A160 CDI The driving position is pretty good anyway, but there's no harm improving it.
Now, how much of an improvement is the CVT gearbox? The unfortunate answer is 'none at all'.
A gentle prod of the accelerator gets you tickling along smoothly in slow-moving town traffic, but that's about as good as it gets.
Push the pedal to the floor and the engine revs fairly freely to 4200rpm and stays there. Lots of noise, but little action: it would be misleading to suggest that there’s no acceleration, but it’s not far off the truth.
It's almost impossible to pull onto a free-moving motorway without sending trucks swerving from Lane 1 – and overtaking anything quicker than a tractor on A roads requires nerves of steel.
The reward for this lack of performance, if you inch your way through town, is effortless fuel economy – up to 48mpg if my experience of inner-London traffic is anything to go by.
Should I buy one?
The lack of automatic diesel superminis means that, if you can stand the price, the CVT A-Class has its market pretty much sewn up.
And, in town, it makes a good case for itself, being smooth and relaxing in stop-start traffic. But if you plan to spend time on the open road then steer well clear.