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Autotronic: automatic MPV choice

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

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

8 March 2005

The new Mercedes A-class is a very good MPV, but which one should you buy? The A 170 petrol has little more poke than the entry-level A 150.

The A 200 is quick but unrefined; the A 200 CDi diesel offers a great combination of pace and frugality but costs over £19k. Maybe this A 180 CDi is the answer, with a detuned 108bhp version of the 200’s 1992cc common-rail turbodiesel, tested here with Merc’s Autotronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) in top Avantgarde trim.

The engine has two characters: cold and warm. When cold it’s noisy, both at tickover and throughout the rev range, but once up to temperature it transforms into the kind of diesel we’ve come to expect from Mercedes: quiet, cultured and happy to rev.

Mercedes claims 0-62mph in 11.1sec (10.8sec for the manual) and 52.3mpg overall. It feels particularly punchy from 1600rpm, when the 184lb ft torque peak begins, and is ideal for shooting past juggernauts on the motorway.

The £1160 CVT ’box is a good partner, keeping the diesel in its most useful 1500-3000rpm zone, and with little step-off delay from a standing start. There’s even a manual mode, where the gearbox simulates seven ratios that can be swapped with a tap of the lever.

If you can’t stretch to a 200 CDi, this is the next-best A-class, though we’d opt for £16,315 Classic SE trim and forgo the three-door’s prettier profile for the five-door’s extra practicality.

Alastair Clements

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