These are our pick of the best cheap used cars currently available - all cost under £1,000
Mercedes-Benz A 150 Classic SE 5dr review (2009 onwards)
What - Mercedes A 150 Classic SE 5dr
Where - Brooklands, Surrey
Price - £15,115
Available - March 2009
Key rivals - BMW 1-Series, Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf
The best-selling Mercedes of all gets a no-extra-charge stop-start function. With one small proviso, it works well, and makes the roomy, competitively-priced BlueEfficiency-branded car usefully more fuel-efficient.
We like: No-cost and effective stop-start system, real-world economy improvements, high quality Mercedes feelWe don't like: Not the most stylish of cars, ride a bit pattery, need to keep brake pedal pressed in engine off mode
Image © Mercedes
The A-Class is the most economical car Mercedes sells. It is, in A 150 guise, also the company's best-selling model. This car has been given a BlueEfficiency makeover, improving fuel economy by 12 per cent, for no increase in list price. This has been achieved by fitting an innovative stop-start system, cutting the engine when the car is stopped.Unlike conventional stop-start systems, it has no starter motor. Instead, the alternator is replaced by a starter-generator. The advantage here is much faster restarting. It is also more refined, with no annoying 'whirr' as it restarts the engine. The system works automatically, so long as the engine is warm and the outside temperature above freezing.
Another BlueEfficiency addition is a gearchange indicator in the instrument panel. This also advises the selection of neutral when stopped - if the car is in gear, the engine won't turn off. The 'Eco' stop-start system can be disabled by a button on the dash; the default set-up is 'on'. Otherwise, it's hard to spot a BlueEfficiency A-Class, whose stop-start system is also available in more powerful A 170 guise, and on the larger B-Class, too. There is also an A 160 CDI BlueEfficiency. This uses a high-economy diesel engine, rather than stop-start, to push up mpg figures. But it is the A 150 that is most affordable and most significant.
Here, there is no difference in output. The only change relates to the starter motor system, so the BlueEfficiency reaches 60mph in 12.6 seconds. That's the same as the standard car (which, oddly, remains on sale, for the same price). What will surprise those new to the A-Class is what a pleasant engine it is to use.Diesel versions of this car are rather noisy, making the smooth and refined nature of the 95bhp petrol engine pleasing. It has decent low-rev pulling power for a relatively small engine, and deals well with the weight of the A-Class. It cruises quietly and the five-speed gearbox is very light and easy.
The stop-start element is fully automatic. It works so long as the gearlever is in neutral, the clutch out - and, significantly, the brake pedal pressed. Release the brake pedal and the engine restarts. This quirk aids fast restarting, but may become annoying for prolonged periods at rest, particularly for those behind, dazzled by the brake lights. So swift is restarting, it is impossible to 'catch it out', no matter how quickly you engage a gear and release the clutch. All electronics still operate with the engine off, and the extra refinement of no engine noise is welcome. However, because the water pump is stopped, it does mean the heater eventually cools, until the engine restarts again.
Ride and Handling
The first A-Class had mediocre handling, but this second generation model is better. The steering is light and easy, while its sheer diminutive size makes it very easy to manoeuvre in town. It is not a car for being chucked about, as the tall stance means it can feel a bit top-heavy. But it nevertheless handles securely.The ride can seem jittery, and bang heavily into potholes at times. But everyday bump absorption is not bad, and there is a tough feel to the A-Class over rough roads. The suspension also works quietly. There are 'hill holder' brakes, too. These stay on for a few seconds when you release the brake pedal, so you don't roll back.
Interior and Equipment
Soft, shapely and supportive seats are positioned high in the A-Class. It feels very commanding behind the wheel, with almost a people carrier-like driving position. Visibility is excellent. The thin plastic steering wheel is disappointing, but otherwise, the solid interior has an upmarket, classy feel. It exudes Mercedes integrity, and details like clear instruments are good.Space really is impressive. There is as much room as inside a Ford Focus, despite exterior dimensions more in line with a Fiesta. The 435 litre boot has a low loading height, plus a dual height floor. It is extremely practical and flexible - in this five door, it expands to a vast 1995 litres. A minor 2008 update also introduced more cabin storage.
Economy and Safety
An overall average of 48.7mpg is claimed for the BlueEfficiency variant. This compares to the standard model's 45.6mpg. CO2 emissions show a similarly healthy boost - 139g/km is 12 per cent lower than standard. Real world city centre returns will be better still - studies have shown that, for every hour in busy London traffic, you are stationary for 20 minutes.The petrol engine also produces fewer pollutants than diesel alternatives. A further saving comes from petrol being much cheaper than diesel. The A-Class is a good safety proposition as well. Stability control is standard and crash-focused construction means, says the company, it is as safe as a much larger E-Class in a collision.
The MSN Cars Verdict 4/5
The A-Class has always been impressively economical. The BlueEfficiency kit enhances this with a well-integrated stop-start system, which is more refined and less intrusive than the set-up BMW has adopted. It is a pity the brakes have to be held on for the engine to stay off, but the best-selling A 150 otherwise works well.On-paper economy gains are there, but real-world benefits should be better still. The A-Class is also a very flexible package, and while the look is 'mumsy', it is more mature on the road than you may think. Best of all, the BlueEfficiency kit is available at no extra charge. Making an entry Classic SE version a surprisingly compelling commonsense proposition.
Engines diesel 1498cc
Power hp 95@5200rpm
Torque lb ft 103@3500-4000rpm
0-62 mph secs 12.6
Top speed mph 109
Mpg combined 48.7
CO2 g/km / Tax % 139/15%
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
Check out the Shockwave Jet Truck racing at Toronto Motorsports Park in Cayuga, Ontario, Canada. Powered by 3 Pratt and Whitney J34-48 jet engines, which are usually found in the U.S. Navy's T2A Buckeye plane! Now that's intense!
Date 25/07/14, Duration 3:54, Views 947