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Driven: Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

Driven: Mercedes-Benz A 200
Having a go in one of Mercedesí most technologically-advanced cars, on UK roads.

 



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Mercedes-Benz A 200

4 4 4 4 4

Mercedes has pulled out all the stops for the fourth-generation A-Class, giving it a breathtakingly advanced interior with a cutting-edge user interface and a better chassis. But how does the A 200 AMG Line, with its unusually small 1.33-litre engine, stack up on our home turf?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz A 200 AMG Line
Pricing: A-Class range from £25,800; A 200 AMG Line from £28,700, car as tested £31,710
Engine: 1.33-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 123g/km (VED £165 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 53.3mpg
Top speed: 139mph
0-62mph: 8.0 seconds
Power: 163hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,620rpm

What's this?

Our first go in the impressive new Mercedes A-Class on our own soil. Or tarmac, more specifically. Ahem. Moving on... Anyway, following on from Dave's drive of the diesel overseas, we got the chance to spend some quality time in the A 200 model, in and around the Cotswolds. To clarify, Mercedes is kicking off the launch range of the A-Class with the A 180 d, the A 200 and the A 250. And not a one of these has an engine whose capacity is reflected in any way by the boot badge.

The A 180 d is powered by a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel. The A 250 has a 2.0-litre turbocharged four petrol. But it's this A 200 we're intrigued by, because it's a dinky little 1,332cc unit that nevertheless kicks out decent numbers of 163hp and 250Nm. That's enough, driving the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, to punt the 1,375kg A 200 from 0-62mph in eight seconds flat and on to a 139mph top speed, where applicable, with commensurate eco-stats of 53.3mpg and 123g/km.

The A-Class is one of Mercedes' biggest sellers in the UK, coming in tenth overall in the 2017 sales chart with nearly 44,000 units shifted in the calendar year. However, the previous generation car was starting to feel outmanoeuvred, in terms of its prestige, by some key rivals - and even by vehicles from the class below. Not so the new model. By gum, the A-Class has a lovely interior. There's an attractive, sculpted fascia for the passenger to look at and almost all of the obvious fixtures and fittings are rendered in the highest-quality materials. It's visually interesting and structurally excellent, in equal measure.

But it's the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment which reaps all the accolades, and deservedly so. The A-Class comes with two seven-inch, configurable TFT displays as standard, and you can upgrade either/or of these to 10.25-inch screens as you see fit. If you're buying a new A-Class, do this. It'll cost you £1,395 for the Executive equipment line, which enlarges the main infotainment screen to 10.25 inches, or for £2,395 you can have the Premium package, which does both. Premium Plus (£3,595) also upgrades the visuals while adding even more toys elsewhere, but you need any one of these three packs before you can go for the £495 augmented-reality navigation display.

If you do spend the £1,890-£4,090 necessary to option these systems, you'll be rewarded with one of the most advanced cars Mercedes makes, S-Class included - and one of the most advanced cars on sale right now. True, there's a nagging doubt that trying to configure every last thing that the all-encompassing MBUX in its most evolved guise possesses would take you an entire day and more to get straight, but everything operates beautifully with a range of three touch methods (on the main screen itself, using the two steering wheel-mounted pads or the new haptic touchpad on the centre console; the rotary dial of Comand has bit the dust) and, once you have got it all just how you like it, you'll have all your infotainment requirements arranged in a fantastic, easy-to-access fashion and you'll probably never have to fiddle with the layout ever again.

Our favourite thing, though, is the augmented satnav. You need to see it in action to fully appreciate its simplistic brilliance but in a nutshell, it uses the car's forward-facing camera to overlay navigation instructions and graphics onto a view of the real world outside. So, if you're at an unfamiliar junction and you don't know which road of five you need to take, even with the usual simple map-and-arrow displays, look at the picture of the view outside the A-Class on the MBUX screen and there will be blue directional chevrons hovering in mid-air, showing you exactly which road to head down. It works so effectively that there's no excuse for getting lost and driving into a field/picturesque cottage/river/the sea (delete as appropriate) any longer, simply because your TomTom told you to do it.

If we may just conclude this section with one slightly-less-than-glowing observation, after the eulogy to the Merc's interior and MBUX, we're not 100 per cent sold on the A-Class' looks. It's undoubtedly a handsome thing and the front-end treatment is marvellous, but the rear isn't what you'd call... Mercedes-ey. Following other A-Classes around on the launch, the thought occurred that if the three-pointed star and model insignia were both prised off the rear hatch, your first guess as to the make of the vehicle you were tailing might be 'Lexus'. Hmm... we'll wait to see what an AMG version looks like before making our minds up on the Mercedes' exterior aesthetics, then.

How does it drive?

There's a weird spec thing in the A-Class family, which determines how advanced the rear suspension is, roughly determined by power - although not exclusively so, as specification can play its part too. For example, the 116hp A 180 d has a torsion beam at the rear; while the 224hp A 250 boasts multilink rear suspension as standard.

But the A 200 gets one or the other of these set-ups, depending on whether you go for Sport (torsion) or AMG Line (multilink). The strange thing is, having tried them both back-to-back... we're not sure the difference between the two suspension systems is that huge. Our AMG Line car, which we're going to focus on here, had one-inch-bigger alloys (18s) and seemed to have a slightly more composed ride on rutted Cotswold routes, while there was a poise to its cornering attitude that regular versions of the old A never possessed at all.

The torsion-beam Sport didn't seem to lose that composure, though. It fidgeted a bit more on its rather visually underwhelming 17-inch wheels but it was by no means atrocious in the ride comfort department - indeed, it was better than an adaptively-damped example of the outgoing third-gen car - and it seemed to gamely grip through high-speed corners and also discombobulating direction changes.

Besides that, the report card here is very promising. No longer is the A-Class a dynamic also-ran. It's not terrifically entertaining to drive but it does have sweet and precise steering, an absence of marked body roll and a resistance to understeer that's most heartening. Not only is the ride comfort of a high standard, but the rolling refinement is - in the main - superb, with only tyre roar on poorer surfaces disturbing the peace of the cabin.

The star of the show is the little 1.33 engine, though. It's an eager thing, albeit it is geared towards low-speed muscularity rather than high-revs fireworks; it feels sharp on the throttle, even in Comfort mode, up to about 3,000rpm, but keep the right-hand pedal mashed into the bulkhead and it doesn't surge up to the redline. Despite this, it stays very smooth right around the tacho, it sounds half-decent under load and it's got more than enough oomph to enact swift overtakes on two-lane roads with little difficulty. Yep, we rather like what we find with the fledgling A-Class family so far - we very much look forward to manual transmissions, four-wheel drive, further engine choices and the inevitable A 45 AMG version joining the ranks in the coming months, then.

Verdict

The Mercedes A-Class needs a little expense spending on it to be at its absolute best, but have it with the all-singing, all-dancing MBUX infotainment interface, the augmented-reality satnav and the AMG Line's multilink rear suspension, and what you have in the A 200 tested here is an extremely strong contender in the premium C-segment marketplace. No longer is the Audi A3 the default choice in this segment - and the Benz will only consolidate its strong position as more models join the fold in the near-future. Excellent stuff from Stuttgart, this.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 26 Jun 2018









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2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz A 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.








 

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