Open-top version of BMW’s acclaimed M4 Coupe is also pretty impressive…
Mercedes-Benz A200 CDI review (2005 onwards)
If I’m being honest when I phoned Mercedes to arrange a car to take us out to the Geneva Motor Show, I was thinking along the lines of an E or S-Class. The A-Class wasn’t really on my radar for such a trip. That’s not to say that I don’t like the baby ‘Benz, the contrary is true as I’m quite a fan of this second generation model. However, with a 1,400 mile return to cover as quickly and comfortably as possible, it wasn’t really my number one choice.
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I’d left it late in the day to arrange things though, and the A-Class was all that was available, albeit the range-topping A200 CDI turbodiesel. Who am I to complain though? And with Mercedes launching the B-Class at Geneva I was convinced that an A-B-Class story might work, too. So we’d take the A-Class along to see its new sibling. Even buoyed by the Mercedes Benz PR’s enthusiasm for us taking the car, getting off the phone I was still worried I’d made something of a mistake. Collecting the car from a colleague the day before setting off my doubts were raised higher. After a few days with the car his impressions weren’t great, being rather underwhelmed by the A-Class experience. Not exactly what you want to hear prior to a long journey…
However, I can only imagine his comments were made in a moment of madness. The smart looking, 140bhp A 200 CDI Avantgarde SE impressed even on the short journey home. The interior, by far the best available in any current Mercedes model is both brilliantly laid out and built the way a Mercedes should be. The ways they always used to be. It’s a view shared by MSN Cars Editor Tom Evans when he blags a lift in Switzerland and comments: “Ah, a proper Mercedes interior”. Indeed. Being a press demonstrator our car was specified to the max, raising its already lofty standard list price from £20,190 to an eye-watering £27,570.
Looking at the options added we’d happily have coped without any of them, even if the COMAND DVD navigation was very useful guiding us - a £5.99 map hasn’t got a look in compared to this easy-to-use system. The premium harmon/kardon surround sound stereo gives all those new CDs I save up for such trips the chance to shine, too. Oh, and the optional leather seats (£840) are a must, if only because they’re so beautifully made. It’s easy to see how those options can rack up…
Those seats are also supremely comfortable. Firm and supportive, even after many hours in them there were no aches or pains.
On the road
Refinement too, is excellent, wind, road and engine noise are muted despite the relentless high speed motorway work. They make up 99% of the journey and here the A-Class punched well above its weight, coping easily with everything from a snow covered M20, to persistent high speed sixth-gear cruising on the continent. It almost proves too good. Such is the refinement and ease that the A200 maintains progress on the motorway that it’s easy inhabit cruising speeds faster than the already high European speed limits.
71mph was our average speed over our entire journey on the trip computer, underlining both Europe’s traffic free roads and the A-Class’s excellent high speed ability and refinement. Despite our heady pace the A-Class managed a 38.4mpg average on our 1,400mile round trip. Impressive indeed, and if we’d been in less of a hurry it would have easily stretched the fuel stops even further.
With loads of space in the boot for our all our gear, there’s still plenty room in the rear for two of the team needing a lift back to Geneva airport to fly home. Indeed, the A-Class impressed all who sat in it, whether driver or passenger, during its brief European jaunt. Visiting the show to see the B-Class proved its all-round ability and raised questions as to why you’d want or need the new car. The B-Class is so close in concept to the A-Class that it’s difficult to see the point, especially as it’ll be even more expensive.
On our extended test drive the A-Class is a city car, MPV, GT and luxury saloon all rolled into one. And it’s got the right badge, too. So rather than pitching the A-Class against rivals like the VW Golf or BMW 1-Series its real competition really rests closer to home. It’s in the same showroom in the shape of Mercedes’ conventional saloons. Despite my initial reservations the trip proved the A-Class as a hugely capable all-rounder. Really, it’s all the Mercedes you could ever need.
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