What is it?
When Mercedes ditched the original, innovative, ‘sandwich chassis’ A-Class and went all conventional, many felt it was being a bit conformist. That said, it’s done it no harm, because the third-generation A-Class has sold by the bucketload.
Looking at this refreshed version, you might argue Mercedes has stopped innovating altogether because it hardly looks any different, but why change a winning formula?
For those that need help identifying the tweaks, look for the ‘diamond effect’ grille and front bumper, plus the new tail lights and twin exhausts peeking out from the rear bumper.
This version is the A 200 d Sport, and while you can’t have the new option of adaptive suspension that you can have on top AMG-Line versions, it does have a Dynamic Select button to change the driving modes - in the same vein as an Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series.
You also get a standard 8.0in infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink included, so you can operate your smartphone through it more easily as well.
What's it like?
Despite the subtlety of the styling tweaks the A-Class arguably still cuts a dash, but where it really needed some fettling was to the chassis.
Unfortunately this hasn’t happened, so the old issues remain. From our limited experience abroad it seems the new adaptive suspension improves the ride and handling, but on conventional dampers and here in UK, the A 200 d Sport still fails to shine.
It’s not bad by any means, with direct steering and lots of grip, but the body control is at times felt wanting. Push it hard on some twisty bits and it leans more than you’d like, while there's lots of unwanted float over a series of long crests and dips.
The rear axle has a tendency to hop about, too, so even though you can now adjust the sportiness using the different modes, this A 200 d Sport just doesn’t cut the mustard like an A3 Sport. You don’t get any payback in comfort terms, either; the brittle ride jostles you about over patchy roads, and then gives you a good thump through the seat when you hit anything sharp.
Meanwhile the refinement is also poor, because the A-Class generates too much wind and road noise on the motorway, and the suspension’s no church mouse. However, the worst offender is the engine, which sounds like diesels of yesteryear as it rattles away at either end of its rev range.
The 2.1-litre diesel provides decent poke and builds speed effectively when you rev it out, but teaming it with the optional seven-speed DCT automatic makes it feels slower than the figures suggest. This is because in Comfort mode it often languishes in a higher gear trying to be efficient, so the kickdown takes longer to respond. Switching to Sport mode solves this issue, but then the gearbox hangs on to gears for too long. There's no happy medium.
The A-Class ticks the boxes from the driver’s seat, though, with smart materials everywhere bar the centre console, and lots of space on offer. The driving position is also spot on, while the reshaped front seats are perfect for hours behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the optional Garmin sat-nav and indeed the infotainment in general is a bit off the pace.
The back seats and boot aren’t as good as in the competition, too, so bear that in mind if you’re often carrying lots of people or use the rear seats to carry possessions.
Should I buy one?
The A200 d has low CO2 emissions and good fuel economy so should be cheap to run for private and company car buyers alike, but by the time you’ve added the essentials that don't come as standard, such as sat-nav and a DAB radio, it’s not particularly cheap to buy.
Unfortunately, if we were talking about the excellent Mercedes-AMG A 45 here, we’d be telling you to buy an A-Class in an instant. But as a mid-spec diesel, on its lesser chassis, it’s merely average, and there are better options elsewhere. In short, the aforementioned Audi A3, a BMW 1 Series, or a VW Golf are all better bets.
Mercedes A 200 d Sport 7G-DCT automatic
Location Surrey; On sale now; Price £25,660; Engine 4 cyls, 2143cc, turbocharged diesel; Power 134bhp at 3200-4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 1400-3000; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1485kg; 0-62mph 8.8sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 74.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 103g/km, 18%