Baby Benz is one of the best choices when looking for a compact premium hatch
THE baby Benz was a car that people aspired to drive. It was the leap from cars like the Mondeo, Insignia and Passat that meant you were doing well enough to be driving a premium brand.
Now though, the baby Benz comes in the form of the stylish A-Class, with a family-friendly B-Class giving Mercedes one of the most diverse car line-ups currently offered.
Mercedes took it upon themselves to change the appeal of their cars, with the pipe and slippers brigade being replaced by a younger, new style-conscious buyer. But Mercedes has been smart. Their C-Class comes with different faces that won’t alienate the young or old, much like the E-Class, which was a firm favourite of the older, loyal Merc driver.
When Mercedes decided to take a chance on a front-wheel drive compact car back in 1997, they went for unusual design that was tall – and a little on the dull side. It got a little better with age, but in 2012, Mercedes decided to rip it up and start again, and the improvements were ten-fold.
The third-generation A-Class was sporty and nothing like the MPV design of the original. If anything, Mercedes made it too dynamic and the ride was a little harder than many were expecting. This latest update has seen an improvement on the handling as well as more equipment and better efficiency.
The revised A-Class needed to improve to keep fresh against fierce competition in Audi’s A3 and BMW’s 1-Series. Right now, there’s not a lot between the three, but the updates have given the A-Class a better shot at toppling its rivals.
My test car for the week was the A180 d in Urban spec. It was powered by a 1.5-litre diesel which produces 109bhp and has 260Nm of torque. For the size of the car, it was ok, but I’d like it to have more torque. It’s an area that Mercedes need to put more focus on – the smaller diesel engines. They are quality units, but the noise and power falls behind that of its rival’s diesels.
The styling changes to the latest A-Class include the front bumper and at the rear the exhaust pipes are now integrated into the rear bumper, while the tail-lights are revised.
Inside, the interior has been upgraded with new materials used throughout and you get a smarter instrument housing. In the higher grades you get a larger eight-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone integration. It looks like an iPad stuck on the dash and it would be a much nicer finish if it disappeared into the dash somehow.
I liked that Mercedes made the third-generation A-Class sporty, in both looks and driving. It still has sharp handling, but doesn’t feel overly stiff for everyday use.
The 1.5 diesel is a little underpowered, but if you like the look and prefer efficiency over performance then it’s a good choice. It handled motorway drives very well and was a breeze around town. My preference would be the AMG-styled A180 petrol version, which has a few more horses at 122bhp, but has a bit more refinement.
My test car was the mid-level Urban spec – very well equipped as standard. For those looking for a hatch with a bit of class, the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is worth taking a closer look at.
Model: Mercedes-Benz A180 d Urban
Price: from €27,145 (test car €35,095)
Tax Band: Band A3 €190
Fuel Economy: 3.9l per 100kms (claimed)
Top speed: 190kph
Boot space: 341 litres