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Mercedes A ClassMercedes A Class 2005
Mercedes A Class
Bigger And Better In Every Way, Including Price
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Mercedes A ClassMercedes A Class 2005
Mercedes A ClassMercedes A Class 2005
Mercedes A ClassMercedes A Class 2005
Mercedes A ClassMercedes A Class 2005
Mercedes A ClassMercedes A Class 2005
Mercedes A ClassMercedes A Class 2005

Handling, Quality, Ride All Improved
Elk Debacle A Distant Memory
Rating - *** out of 5

The Mercedes A Class, which survived a near-death experience at the hands of Swedish elks when it was introduced in 1998, has been transformed in its second generation with more space, quality and better handling.

The original A Class tipped over during a road test in Sweden, designed to replicate the kind of evasive action you might take if you encountered an elk while driving at high speed in the wild, northern part of the country. So far there have been no reports from Sweden concerning failed elk tests of this second iteration. You will be glad to hear that no elks are involved in the high-speed swerve test, which uses strategically placed plastic cones.

Mercedes Benz had to withdraw the first A Class after the rollover, and suffered much embarrassment and spent much cash to make the stability control system standard across the range. Mercedes also lowered and stiffened the suspension before the car finally hit the market.

The suspension modifications made the first A Class’ ride thumpy and uncomfortable, and the handling suffered as well. Quality was also not up to scratch, which made a bit of mockery of Mercedes plans to move its luxury reputation down market.

Sales Success
But the car was a sales success, with over 1.1 million sold worldwide, excluding the U.S., where the car never appeared, although Mercedes had planned to launch it there. It is perhaps hard to remember just how radical the first car was, with its egg shape and “sandwich” floor concept, where the main mechanicals of the engine and transmission sit beneath a false floor.

The new car has a more spacious and upscale interior and better handling. It is built on a single 2,568mm wheelbase. The old A Class had short (2,423mm) and long (2,593mm) wheelbase versions. This time there is a 3-door version as well. Take a look at the pictures and see if you agree with me that the 3-door version is remarkably ugly. The five-door looks much more handsome and balanced, in my opinion.

Power Up
Power is increased by up to 38 per cent in some diesel versions, while torque has improved by up to 46 per cent. Fuel economy is raised by ten per cent.

Standard equipment includes a multi-function steering wheel, electronic stability control (naturally), a selective damping system, four airbags and seatbelt force limiters.

There are four petrol engines and three diesels –

* A150 – 1.5 litre 95 bhp
* A170 – 1.7 litre 116 bhp
* A200 2.0 litre 136 bhp
* A200 Turbo – 2.0 litre 193 bhp (available autumn)
* A160 CDI – 2.0 litre 82 bhp
* A180 CDI 2.0 litre 109 bhp
* A200 CDI 2.0 litre 140 bhp

Just as with a regular Mercedes the trim levels are split into Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde.

I drove three versions, the A200 CDI, the A150 bottom of the range petrol, the A200, and the A180 CDI. The A200 CDI was noisy and not particularly smooth, the A200 was a bit noisy and gruff, but the A180 CDI was the pick of the bunch. I drove the automatic version with the Autotronic transmission, a continuously variable gearbox, and the combination worked very well. Plenty of acceleration is available right through the speed range, and Mercedes says that power and economy is not much different from the manual version. Autotronic has an “S” mode, which recognises different driving styles and changes gear accordingly, a “C” for comfort mode which gives smoother acceleration and lower fuel consumption, and a manual mode where the entire range is split into seven virtual gears that can be selected by nudging the gear lever left or right. Just like the CVT option on my Honda Jazz.

Wind Noise
On the road the car feels very competent, although wind noise became obtrusive at over 60 mph. The electro-hydraulic power steering is light at all speeds. The new suspension is much better than the old models, flattening out the potholes and bumps of Britain’s third-world roads. The dashboard was a treat, with great quality materials and clearly laid out controls.

There are some neat storage ideas, including the ability to transform the car into a virtual van by folding the rear seats flat, and the front passenger seat too. Compared with the Honda Jazz, the process is fiddly, and the seats don’t fold away completely into the floor. The A Class’s boot floor can easily be raised to the same height as the rear loading lip for a completely flat loading area.

And so to prices. Mercedes says prices of the A class start at £13,655 (19,750 euros) on the road, but once you’ve included a decent sized engine and an automatic gearbox, and a few creature comforts and necessities like side-airbags, automatic climate control, leather seats, and sunroof, the price will start to approach more like £20,000. This is an awful lot of money, which will almost buy you a BMW 3 series, certainly a top-of-the-range BMW 1 series, or an Audi A3 or top-of-the-range Golf. If it’s flexibility and practicality that you want, why not save about £8,000 (11,600 euros) and buy a Honda Jazz (declaration of interest – I own one).

Neil Winton – February 4, 2005

Mercedes A Class A180 CDI Avantgarde SE
1,992 cc 4-cylinder common rail direct injection diesel
109 bhp
CVT automatic
0-62 mph/100 km/h 11.1 seconds (manual 10.8)
Top Speed:
115 mph/185 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined 52.3 mpg-5.4 l/kms
142 g/km
3,838 mm
Height: 1,593
1,345 kg
Suspension front:
MacPherson strut, 3-link
Suspension rear:
Parabolic, coil springs
3 years, unlimited mileage
£19,315 – 28,000 euros
Audi A3 Sportback, BMW 1, VW Golf, Alfa Romeo 147, Jaguar X-type estate, Lexus IS Sportcross, Seat Altea, Honda Jazz
Would I buy one?
*** out of 5
Spacious, flexible, well-made, utilitarian
- so is the Honda Jazz for £8,000 less (11,600 euros)

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