The turbocharged 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine lends the A200 a respectable turn of pace, but it’s not quite up to scratch with the class’s better petrol options as far as refinement is concerned; and that’s perhaps a bigger disappointment in light of the fact that the car’s 1.5-litre diesel engine suffers with a similar major flaw.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with the way in which it delivers its power to the front wheels – acceleration is generally quite linear and there’s not a significant amount of turbo lag – but it’s just a shade more vocal than you’d ideally want an engine in a premium hatchback to be.
Stray above 3500rpm or so and you’re met by a drone that’s fairly harsh in timbre and gets notably loud as you approach the redline. And straying towards the limiter is somewhat inevitable because the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission has a tendency to hold on to its selected ratio longer than you might like – regardless of the chosen driving mode.
Just as irksome is the transmission’s eagerness to change down what often feels like one too many gears when you gently lean on the throttle to accelerate from a lower speed. So instead of making smooth, controlled progress, you can often lurch a little forward in a sudden surge of unplanned acceleration, which can be disconcerting.
At least when you’re up to speed, things improve. What was intrusive engine noise under acceleration settles down and becomes rather demure and unimposing at cruising revs, contributing towards the A200’s effectiveness as a long-distance tourer. The fact that it recorded an indicated touring economy figure of 56.7mpg at a sustained 70mph doesn’t hurt, either.
Despite representing, for now at least, the entry-level of the petrol-powered A-Class line-up, the A200 doesn’t feel as though it’s lacking any get-up-and-go. Mercedes quotes a 0-62mph time of 8.0sec and we clocked a very respectable 8.7sec from rest to 60mph.
The engine pulls keenly up to around 5000rpm, but stray too far past peak power (which arrives at 5500rpm) and it starts to run out of steam. By way of comparison, the 1.5-litre petrol Golf we road tested last year – which produced 13bhp less but the same amount of torque as the Mercedes – covered 0-60mph in 8.8sec.
Although the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission can be a touch clunky when you’re just tooling about town, it works well at speed. Upshifts are smooth and seamless, and the paddle shifters provide tidy downshifts. Delving into the vehicle’s submenus reveals a dedicated manual mode (part of the Individual program) that allows far more driver control over the transmission, too.