A car to really enjoy
A t the personal level I was extremely lucky to spend a couple of days blasting around the Ardennes enjoying the first A-Class, and contrary to what one of the motoring magazines found out after modifying the car, we, the thousand or so regular motoring hacks, found the A to be most satisfying in all respects.
This, of course, has absolutely no bearing at all on the new car, for the latest Merc is absolutely on the button. The profile is aggressive to the point that it’s worth stopping and simply enjoying the cunning double fold of metal, one below the door handles sliding gently downwards by the rear door and the lower one sweeping upwards to meet the former at the rear of the back door.
The impression given is one of rapid movement and, matched to the rear roofline spoiler and bulge of the rear bumper, the entire profile is dynamic, interesting and a great sales point.
The interior of the new car has been made as user-friendly and as ergonomically accurate as we’ve seen in a very long time. One of my pet hates, a central armrest too high for comfortable driving, is perfectly solved in the new A-Class. The most comfortable driving position was a must before embarking and personal preference demanded that the pilot’s seat was raised, the wheel lowered and then we were almost ready to blast off. Our model had the marvelous seven-speed dual clutch automatic, and even here the Merc is pleasantly innovative. The auto lever is mounted behind the steering wheel and has only three positions: neutral/park, drive and reverse. There are also three modes selected from the lower central console: economy, sport and manual. This car is seriously interesting to drive.
The reverse camera proved totally absorbing and much fun was had dashing around in the backwards gear.
One of the interesting advances with the dual clutch set-up is the seamless gear changes without any delay or lack of traction. In sport mode, the gears were held longer than in economy, which allows the driver to get the ultimate out of the car – probably to the detriment of petrol consumption, as these cars can use quite a mugful of the expensive stuff when accelerating hard in sport mode. Not surprisingly the handling is superb.
A line is selected through a corner and, as if on tramlines, the car follows the directed course.
Hands off the steering while braking on a straight, flat road from 80 km/h was no more dramatic than it would have been with the wheel firmly grasped.
Passengers are firmly held in comfortable chairs and the driver positively exudes enthusiasm as the performance is tested with more and more verve and enthusiasm.
The suspension is really well sorted with McPherson struts up front and a redesigned four-link rear axle.
This layout works extremely well when engineered to Mercedes standards as it helps keep the car glued to the road.
Undulations and wavy road surfaces fail to faze this car at all. The electro-mechanical power steering is speed sensitive and reduces as speed increases, which means the car is finger light at slow speed and remarkably attuned to the road at speed.
The differences experienced when comparing this latest model to the old A-Class are far too many to elaborate on. This car handles like a true sports saloon and that’s without the AMG conversion. Obviously the cockpit has been created to provide a realistic safety zone with all the expected inbuilt strength.
The brakes were delightfully progressive, ABS worked to perfection and, although not needed, the steer control which gives steering assistance in critical conditions seems like a great idea.
However, as the roads were in dry, non-slippery condition, this useful aid was not needed.
Apart from the expected little electronic help-mates, the attention assist, collision prevention assist and the safe driving brake assist are absolutely up to the minute.
Obviously, with a car of this magnificent stature there are optional safety aids, quite apart from a plethora of optional extras to make the model even more exciting than it is in standard form.
This is a car to enjoy, go shopping in, go abroad in or even enjoy on our locally-built, dual carriageways and modified arterial network.
Lots of leg room, lots of head room, lots of comfort
Absolutely adequate even without the AMG performance.
Yes it’s up there with the very best.
Nothing less would be expected from Mercedes.
At a glance
Combined cycle. 5.7 to 5.4 litres per 100 km.
Emission Class Euro 6.
1,461cc turbo diesel.
107bhp at 4,000rpm.
Four cylinder, in line turbocharged. 1,595cc Rated output, 122bhp at 5,000rpm.
Length. 4,29 mm.
Width. 2,022mm to edge of mirrors.