You can form an opinion on the new, much-improved A-class based on the sharp exterior, or the fact that it now drives like you’d expect a small Mercedes to. But it was the intersection of the A-pillar, door and dashboard that summed it up for me.
Unlike the old car, with its less than substantial interior, the solid, slab-sided plastics of the new one and the way they join together are proper Mercedes-Benz. They’re just there, with a uniform gap between them – and look like they’ll be for a long time. It’s a small but important indication of the leap in standards.
To be fair to Mercedes, it has not dodged entirely the issue of the original not quite living up to the quality expected of a Benz. Yes, the PR people said tacitly, build quality and dynamics would be much better than the previous car’s. They had learnt from their customers about what was wanted in a baby Benz and had made every effort to deliver the goods this time around. They may have even been slightly defensive when they said that the old one had, after all, shifted 1.1 million units.
That the new A-class is really good is hardly breaking news, but this is our first steer in the diesels and they’re rather good too. The basic 1991cc block is used across all three of the Euro4 compliant diesels (A 160 CDI, A 180 CDI, A 200 CDI) but it’s the 108bhp A 180 CDI we’re concentrating on here.