From £20,715
Mercedes class and build quality, but CVT 'box disappoints

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Can the latest Mercedes A-Class's slick conformity outweigh the old model's originality?

20 September 2008

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.

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.

Ed Keohane


Join the debate


22 September 2008

I quite like the A-Class too, but the pricing is out of this world! Especially looking at this spec; when you consider everything other than fuel economy it is a bit of a rip-off. I could by a Volvo V50 with the excellent 2 litre diesel, with dual clutch gearbox and 'R-Design' spec (leather, big alloys, etc) for not much more than the 'price as tested' here.

23 September 2008

......... agree with Julian but nearly new is the way to go.

Bought a basic 150SE CVT for my wife and have to say it's a great little car. The turbo diesel would give it some oomph but to be honest it's a leisurely sort of vehicle. You don't want to be driving it on its door handles. Quiet smooth and really versatile with good quality interior.

23 September 2008

It just seems to be a car that is produced to keep people who must have a three pointed star in a small car happy.

There are far better products for a lot less money.

I will concede the fact that there aren't any other auto diesels in the class at the moment, but in all honesty if you needed this now a petrol easytronic equipped Meriva will not be that far off the mark. If you can wait, I am also sure the replacement for the Ford Fusion (which is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor from what I have seen) will come equipped with the diesel and their version of the DSG box.



It's all about the twisties........

23 September 2008

How do they still manage to get so little power out of such a big diesel engine?? I wouldn't touch an A-class with a barge pole. With proper engines (there's no good engine in the range) and £2k off the price they'd fly out of dealerships

23 September 2008

[quote TegTypeR]a car that is produced to keep people who must have a three pointed star in a small car happy[/quote]

Yes, if you live in a place where parking spaces are no big issue, then a Focus makes immensely more sense. But in crowded places like Rome where space is at a premium, the prospect of having "Golf cabin and boot with sub-Polo measurements" is something that makes the A-Class quite unique (even though the previous version, especially in LWB, managed even better packaging, and that's the reason I bought it. I would have preferred if it came with Toyota, Ford or Skoda quality, badge and pricing). The various Idea, Meriva, Modus, Fusion and Jazz can't master the art of packaging in quite the same way and it remains to be seen whether Toyota can deliver on its promise of applying IQ packaging to the next-generation Yaris.

[quote TegTypeR]I will concede the fact that there aren't any other auto diesels in the class at the moment[/quote]

If you consider the W169 to be a class of its own, you're right.

However the Fiat Idea, Lancia Musa and Fiat Fiorino Qubo offer a sequential (robotised) box with Diesel, if you are brave enough to be seen in one. So does the Fusion, which surprised me with its qualities when I rented one last summer.

24 September 2008

Ugly, small, not at all good for young people and 80 bhp in 2008 what are merc thinking about I can get that power out of a blender. come on merc make a good afordable car...

24 September 2008

[quote giulivo]However the Fiat Idea, Lancia Musa and Fiat Fiorino Qubo offer a sequential (robotised) box with Diesel, if you are brave enough to be seen in one.[/quote]

Not in the UK market. In fact the Idea has quietly toddled off the price lists, so I am guessing we no longer get it.

We do have one alternative which I have since thought of, a Renault Modus which is available with a diesel auto.

[quote giulivo]The various Idea, Meriva, Modus, Fusion and Jazz can't master the art of packaging in quite the same way and it remains to be seen whether Toyota can deliver on its promise of applying IQ packaging to the next-generation Yaris.[/quote]

I would debate your comments on the packaging of the Jazz. Having done a back to back comparison with both the A Class and Jazz, the Honda is the infinitely better packaged car. The perceived cabin quality certainly I will agree is not in the same league but it certainly built better and will probably last a lot longer.



It's all about the twisties........

25 September 2008

An illogical car for illogical people. How does mercedes get away with cars like this that even chevrolet/daewoo wouldnt even sell. Even Hyundai and Kia can make better cars than this now and your supposed to pay 20 grand for the priviledge. that Star on the bonnet must be made of one hell of a precious metal because the cars only worth about 10 grand.And can anyone tell me how the car fared in the ncap crash tests.Considering all this fancy jiggery pokery going on under the bonnet I hope its at least a score of around 80.

19 October 2008

Don't know why there are a few people on this blog speaking so negatively about the A-Class. The old one wasn't a proper Mercedes; it was built in their worst period and even Mercedes themselves admit that their performance had decreased significantly. However, even the old A-Class isn't that bad. It hasn't got much storage spaces, and the ride is quite firm but there's loads of space, it handles well and is quite safe. The auto gearbox isn't that bad either, and when you press the pedal, it will surge forward quite quickly (at least the A170 CDi which I have recently experienced).The new A-Class, like the one tested here, is more like a proper Mercedes. The cabin materials are very good, it's got loads of high-tech equipment (the only car in its class that can park itself at the moment), the ride and handling is much better and it is one of the safest cars not only in its class but also when you consider other classes (it got over 90 points in EuroNCAP tests) despite having a front-end shorter than most cars (in fact I think it's only shorter than a Smart). The sort of packaging remains superb; a car that is only as long as a supermini (and smaller than some modern superminis) with the space of a family hatch is true and brilliant in cities. Where I live, parking is a problem and the A-Class seems to be designed specifically for this country. It also achieved a very good 5th place in the family car class (and 25th overall out of 100 cars) in the latest JD Power Survey, while A-Class owners are the most satisfied at Merc dealers.

If you say that this is inferior to a Honda Jazz, or that this is a bad car, you must either have something wrong in the head or you are not seeing the whole picture and the brilliance of the 'sandwich floor' packaging.

It might be expensive, but it is also rather unique and very well-talented (it got 4.5 stars in the Autocar road test....), so you can't expect to buy it for a cheap price.


- Follow your own star -

19 October 2008

I don't disagree with the interior packing of the A Class, which is very clever. The Jazz however, does run it close. While perceived quality and even maybe performance may be slightly worse for the Jazz, it is sooooo much cheaper. Oh and why on earth would anyone want a car that can park itself? Most need a space 2.5-3 times the car's length. I can do it myself thanks. I can't stand automation of simple driving processes - even syncromesh I had to think long and hard about ;)


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