And as the newest car on the lot, Mercedes has the edge, especially when it also channels the tactile feedback of a BMW 1 Series with the build quality and interior refinement of Audi’s A3. Add to that the badge snobbery of owning a three-pointed star and getting stock may be the biggest problem Mercedes Benz has.
The A200 is predicted to be the volume seller at a starting price of $40,900. The car is fitted with a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine that hits 100km/h 8.3 seconds after stomping the accelerator and comes with Bluetooth streaming, a reversing camera, self-parking software, cruise control, auto lights and wipers and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Audi’s A3 1.4TFSI is slightly dearer at $41,200; Beemer’s 116i is slightly cheaper at $39,690. Neither of these is as quick or fitted with as much standard gear.
The engine is good without being sensational. It uses 5.8L/100km to put it on a par with the Audi and BMW powerplants and the dual-clutch auto rolls through the gears with silicon smoothness. It is inside where Mercedes takes the lead.
Self-parking software is standard as is a reversing camera and front/rear parking sensors. There are a range of “packs”, the dearest being a Command set-up that adds a bigger touchscreen with satnav, voice control and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and digital radio.
Chasing younger buyers needs a fresh approach and Mercedes has gone to town on the design of the A-Class. It’s a stylish car that will earn looks in traffic, especially for the early adopters.
The high sill line means young kids won’t get to see much in the back and the C-pillars are chunky enough to warrant a second glance in the mirrors before changing lanes. The interior channels SLS aspirations with the circular air vents and carbon-fibre weave across the dash and the switchgear is typically top end.
ANCAP has yet to officially rate the A-class but the family oriented B-Class is based on the same platform and is the safety car the crash-test body has reviewed. Nine airbags are standard, along with a rear-end crash avoidance system, drowsiness detection software and the Pre-Safe setup that primes the car if it determines an accident is about to happen.
Taut suspension gives the A200 a firmer ride than the Audi and big potholes will be felt in the cabin. That’s the trade-off for having feedback and roadholding to match the rear-drive BMW. A full road test will be needed to see whether the compromise works in daily urban driving but given it’s aimed at younger buyers, I can’t see it being a deal-breaker.
The seven-speed auto takes a second to fire up from standstill. Get going and it shifts gears with the speed of a Tour de France frontrunner, while the turbo engine provides the steroids to keep its nose in front of the competition.
It’s no rocket but a low eight-second sprint time ensures it won’t disgrace itself against bigger capacity opponents. The 341-litre boot is good without being class-leading and will easily cope with a couple of bags or the weekly shopping.
The new A-Class puts Mercedes-Benz on the front foot in the prestige compact hatch class. The firm ride suits the sporty look and the standard gear makes the Mercedes best in show for value.
|Exterior Color||Pearl White|