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Efficient blues. Image by Dave Jenkins.

Efficient blues
Eco friendly cars are becoming a more common sight on these pages as the economic climate - and legislation - drives them to the forefront of the motoring psyche. The latest to stay for us with a week is the Mercedes A-Class in BlueEfficiency guise.

   



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| Week at the Wheel | Mercedes-Benz A 160 CDI BlueEfficiency |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

Mercedes-Benz tends to be conservative in terms of styling and the A-Class is no exception. Given the BlueEfficiency's focus there's little in the way of body addenda or bling wheels to lift the tone of what is a rather uninspiring profile. However, it is an appealing shape in other ways, not least practicality. In many ways the A-Class is not a conventional hatchback. The relatively low ride height is deceptive as the floor and seat heights are actually significantly higher than you'd think, giving an MPV-style driving position. This MPV theme continues elsewhere in terms of head room and cabin space, which are both generous; indeed the A-Class is as roomy a small car as we've tested.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

On paper, a high-tech, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine in a small car suggests strong performance. However, in this case that engine has been detuned to a low tech maximum power figure of 82bhp, a number that reflects the BlueEfficiency's mission in life where, in actual fact, few owners are likely to ever see the tachometer sweep around to the 4,200rpm at which that peak power is produced. More important is the nature of the delivery and the 133lb.ft peak torque produced all the way from 1,400- to 2,600rpm. On the road, this characteristic, combined with long gearing, equates to ensuring that engine speed is kept as low as possible and, truth be told, there is no real justification for revving it harder, as the performance benefit is negligible.

Performance is best described as relaxed. A 0-60mph 'sprint' of 15 seconds gives this A-Class the dubious honour of being one of the slowest cars on paper we've tested in quite some time and so it proves on the road, with pace being limited and more strenuous cut and thrust driving best left as a spectator sport. In everyday driving, playing to the BlueEfficiency's role and intended use, this performance doesn't hamper one's progress too seriously. The fact is that most people wouldn't expect it to be quick, but bear in mind that other rivals offer much more favourable emissions vs. performance trade-offs.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

For many the A-Class will forever be synonymous with the infamous 'elk test' problem, but those dynamic challenges were resolved a long time ago on the previous generation of the model and this latest version of the A-Class has banished them to the history books for ever. The high body shape does still give one expectations of body roll and compromised handling ability but in practice the A-Class's body movements are well controlled. Cornering is secure, flat and confidence inspiring and there are hints aplenty that the chassis has potential beyond this eco-warrior's remit.

The trade-off for this handling is, as always, the ride, as the stiff suspension struggles to deal with pock marked urban roads with confidence and never truly settles into a controlled gait on motorways either. Given the likely purchaser's driving demeanour there was perhaps opportunity for a softer set-up, but the lowered ride height that is part of the conversion to a BlueEfficiency model ultimately determines the engineers' options.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

BlueEfficiency is Mercedes-speak for best economy and lowest emissions. On the road this translates to an average of over 50mpg with little concentrated effort and, if driven with economy as the ultimate goal, that number can be pushed towards 60mpg. What impresses is that the around town numbers tend to be in the mid-40s putting the A-Class on a par with some of the most economical cars we've driven.

Our test car was fitted out at Classic trim level with a list price of a smidge over 15k. It includes much of what the majority of buyers would need. A generous array of options is available but, as is the norm, a little lack of self-discipline in this area can drive the price upwards rapidly. Ten minutes on the Internet yielded a best price of over 10% off list, however, which would go some way towards satiating your need for those extras

Overall: star star star star star

The BlueEfficiency A-Class has a number of weaknesses that many prospective buyers of a family hatch may find unacceptable, not least refinement and performance. However, buyers of cars such as these focus primarily on other areas, where this car excels, such as economy, environmental friendliness and functionality; more A to B motoring than hardcore thrill seekers. In context, the A-Class BlueEfficiency is a very capable car.

Dave Jenkins - 9 Mar 2009



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2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class specifications: (A 160 CDI BlueEfficiency Classic SE three-door)
Price: 15,124 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 15.0 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Combined economy: 64.2mpg
Emissions: 116g/km
Kerb weight: 1300kg

2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.

2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.



2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 






 

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