2013 MERCEDES-BENZ A-CLASS REVIEW
What’s hot: Value for money, great range of engines
What’s not: Brittle ride on run-flats, claustrophobic rear seats
X-factor: The cachet of the three-pointed star adorning the nose of a classy, appealing small car.
Tested: A 180, A 200 BlueEfficiency, A 200 CDI BlueEfficiency, A 250 Sport
- Price Range: $35,600 - $49,900
- Vehicle Style: Small luxury hatch
|Model||Power/Torque||Fuel Use l/100km (Listed)|
|A 200 Petrol||115kW/250Nm||6.1|
|A 200 Diesel||100kW/300Nm||4.6|
|A 250 Sport||155kW/350Nm||6.6 (8.5 tested)|
Mercedes-Benz is onto a winner with the new A-Class range. We’ve driven every engine variant, and there isn’t a single dud among them.
Not only that, but all across the range are genuine value buys.
It’s no stripper model either, the A 180. It’s loaded with safety gear, and has things like reversing camera, Bluetooth telephony (including audio integration), active parking assist, nine airbags and an automatic transmission all as standard.
And this is just the base model. The story only gets better the higher up you go.
Material quality is high, but in the A 180 there’s more than one hint that, yes, this is indeed the entry-point into Benz ownership.
The urethane steering wheel is evidence of cost-cutting, the fabric seat and door upholstery is another. But, by and large, the interior is well-made and solid.
There are lots of soft-touch surfaces on the dash, and the hard plastics on the centre console have a quality feel.
Seat comfort in the manually-adjusted cloth seats is good, and there’s lots of adjustment in both the seats and the steering column. The front seating position though feels rather low too - or maybe it’s because the window line seems so high?
In the back seat, there’s decent leg and knee room, but a shortage of headroom thanks to intrusion from the arching C-Pillar. Option the panoramic sunroof, and the rear seat feels even more claustrophobic.
The SLS-inspired gimbal air-vents are a nice touch, however they feel a little bit ‘loose’ when moved by hand. They’re the only real area of concern in terms of quality though, as the rest of the A 180’s switchgear and closures operate smoothly.
But safety is where the A-Class really excels.
There’s a wide array of safety features fitted as standard, including nine airbags (front, front pelvis, front head, rear side/head, driver’s knee), an anti-collision warning, Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-Safe system, a reversing camera and a pedestrian-protecting active bonnet.
That’s in addition to the usual ABS, ESP, brake assist and hill-start assist.
It really is a well-featured car. The headlamps are dusk-sensing, rain-sensing wipers are standard-issue and so is cruise control, start-stop, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, 17-inch alloys and front and rear parking sensors.
There’s even a self-parking feature, also standard across the range.
Move up into the A 200 or A 200 CDI, and you gain artificial leather upholstery on the seat bolsters and door trims, along with a diamond-patterned dash pad, Nappa leather upholstered steering wheel, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, electric lumbar support and a sportier-looking instrument cluster.
The wheels are also upgraded to 18-inch alloys and the wing mirrors gain an electric folding mechanism. There’s also an additional exhaust pipe sprouting from the rear bumper.
Both the A 200 and A 200 CDI cost $40,900, mirroring Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class strategy of pegging diesel models at the same price as their petrol equivalent.
When nearly every other manufacturer (not just luxury carmakers) charge hefty premiums for diesels, it’s refreshing to see Mercedes give their customers a choice of engine without financial penalty.
In the range-topping (until the A 45 AMG arrives) A 250 Sport, there’s different trim, red-ringed air vents, red contrast stitching, microfibre seat and door trim, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and red seatbelts, all making for a sportier vibe inside.
A panoramic sunroof is standard in the A 250, as are bi-xenon headlamps and privacy glass.
All A-class models have a boot capacity of 341 litres - about the norm for a small hatchback. The rear seats have a 60:40 split, but we wouldn’t describe the A-Class’ load carrying capability as being especially huge.
ON THE ROAD
We’ve previously sampled the A 250 Sport, so we’re not going to detail its on-road abilities here (see our A 250 drive report). But most will find that the A 180 has ample power for the daily drive.
With 90kW and 200Nm - certainly not large numbers - it nevertheless manages to feel ‘just right’: neither too slow, nor too fidgety, nor too soft.
Sure, when the drive selector is in Eco mode, it can feel a tad sluggish, but throttle response sharpens up dramatically in Sport mode.
But whichever the mode, the seven-speed twin-clutch 7G-DCT automatic rarely puts a foot wrong with gear selection, and, unlike some twin-clutch transmissions, handles standing starts as smoothly as a conventional auto.
For the A 180, fuel efficiency is a key selling point. With a listed average fuel economy figure of just 5.8 l/100km, it’s a fuel miser for sure.
Ride quality on the A 180’s standard 17-inch wheels is good, albeit with some brittleness on high-frequency bumps - a result of the standard-issue run flat tyres.
Turn-in is sharp though, and, although there’s noticeable body roll, the A180 corners very well for a luxo-hatch. It’s not far behind the rear-wheel-drive BMW 116i for cornering composure.
The brakes are reassuringly strong too. As far as all-round ability goes, the A 180 is a very well-sorted thing.
It’s a similar story with the A 200 petrol. With 115kW and 250Nm from a more highly-tuned version of the A 180’s turbo 1.6 petrol, the A 200 BlueEfficiency feels zippier.
When hustling along, it has no trouble handling steep grades without needing the gearbox to drop a ratio (or two) and accelerates eagerly when overtaking.
The third of this trio, the A 200 CDI, feels especially strong thanks to its 100kW/300Nm 1.8 litre turbodiesel.
Its extra muscle however comes at the cost of a gravelly - and surprisingly intrusive - engine note. If you value peace and quiet, maybe stick with the petrol engines.
Both A 200 variants handle well and are nicely balanced on-road despite their compact dimensions. Each has a slightly firmer on-road feel than the A 180 due to the 18-inch rolling stock down below.
They’re certainly well-engineered: there’s barely a trace of torque steer or wheel spin - even in the torque-laden A 200 CDI.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
It’s no pocket rocket, but throw the optional AMG Sport Package at it ($1990) and you have a very appealing premium hatchback that still retails for well under $40k.
It will get you around town in good comfort, stick to the road when you need it to and sip - rather than skol - petrol.
More importantly (for some, maybe), is that it proudly wears a three-pointed star on its front grille. Want to impress your neighbours without breaking the bank? This should do it.
But don’t discount the A 200 variants - they’re also value buying - and the A 250 Sport is a steal at $49,900.
With this combination of pricing, specification and desirability, we reckon the 2013 A-Class is going to sell like hotcakes.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 2013 A 180 1.6 petrol - $35,600
- 2013 A 200 1.6 petrol - $40,900
- 2013 A 200 CDI 1.8 diesel - $40,900
- 2013 A 250 2.0 litre petrol - $49,900