The first two generations of Mercedes‘s entry-level A-Class were rather strange contraptions. Their innovative dual-layer floor necessitated an upright stance and a minivan-like one-box design, giving them a high centre of gravity, which in turn led to less-than-stellar handling dynamics. For the third (current) generation, Mercedes abandoned this unusual layout and settled for a far more conventional hatchback design. The aesthetic improvement was immediate, and the driving experience got a massive boost as well, because the whole thing suddenly sat so much closer to the ground.
But in their fervour to finally banish the ponderous handling which plagued the first two efforts, Mercedes also gave the third-generation car suspension tuning which bordered on excessively sporty, to the detriment of ride comfort. Having competitors which ride with unusual fluency and control, such as the VW Golf 7/Audi A3 twins, didn’t help the cause of the A-Class either, and the overtly-firm springs became widely criticised in the motoring press. Now, after a mid-term facelift, the A-Class is finally on the right track to offering both sporty driving dynamics and improved comfort, thanks to the introduction of Dynamic Select – a system which allows the driver to switch between sporty handling or a smoother ride, along with changing the engine-, gearbox- and steering characteristics.
This facelift entails more than mere chassis tuning, however. There are new bumpers and headlights front and rear, while a revised instrument cluster, new switchgear and new interior trim materials refresh the cabin ambience. The centrally-mounted dashboard display typical of modern Mercedes cars can now be extended to a gigantic 8-inch screen, and can show all manner of performance data in the A45 (for instance g-forces, sprint times and laptimes, as if many buyers actually take their cars to the race track…)
The range is also somewhat restructured, and now offers a choice between two diesel-engined derivatives (A200d and A220d), and three petrol-fuelled variants (A200, A250 Sport and A45 4Matic). All engines bar the two A200s send their power to a standard 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (7G-DCT), while the entry-level cars also offer the option of a 6-speed manual. All 7G-DCT equipped variants feature Dynamic Select as standard, while it is an option on the baseline cars.
Power outputs again range from sensible to preposterous. The diesels deliver 100 kW/300 Nm or 130 kW/350 Nm in the A200d and A220d respectively, and boast official average consumption figures of 4.2 to 4.5 ℓ/100 km. The A200 petrol produces 115 kW and 250 Nm from its turbo charged 1.6-litre engine and the A250 Sport delivers 160 kW and 350 Nm – in the case of all non-AMG variants, power get sent to the front wheels.
The ballistic Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic also receives a power- and torque increase, now going up to 280 kW and 475 Nm. It again employs an all wheel drive system, but now offers an optional limited slip differential on the front axle to quell the understeer which plagued its predecessor. Revised gear ratios and altered gearbox programming gives performance a further boost, and helps to drop the official 0-100 km/h sprint time by 0.4 seconds, down to only 4.2 seconds – and all this without affecting its official fuel consumption figure at all.
Safety systems are boosted by Collision Prevention Assist, which gains a “Plus” in its name along with autonomous partial braking to reduce the risk of rear-end collisions. Full-LED headlamps also make their debut in the A-Class – standard on A250 Sport and A45, optional on the others.
Nothing too major, then – but enough to address the points of criticism levelled at the pre-facelift versions. Smoother-riding, sharper-handling, better-looking and nicer inside, there’s no reason why the revised A-Class won’t be able to continue on the trail so successfully blazed by its predecessor.
– Martin Pretorius
Mercedes-Benz A-Class Range (Base model prices, excluding CO2 tax)
A200 115 kW/250 Nm R389 200
A250 Sport 160 kW/350 Nm R491 500
A200d 100 kW/300 Nm R419 200
A220d 130 kW/350 Nm R460 100
A45 4Matic 280 kW/475 Nm R683 600