This car’s now pitched even more directly against sporty premium compact family hatches like Audi’s A3 and BMW’s 1 Series thanks to key new driving features, plus sharper looks, extra media connectivity and greater efficiency. It’s a step forward.
On the move, the key change with this improved third generation A-Class model lies with the addition of this ‘Dynamic Select’ driving programme selector which allows you to appropriately tweak steering and throttle settings – and alter gearshift timings too if you go for the 7G-DCT 7-speed automatic we’re trying here. This helps resolve the rather fidgety ride that you get from this car in its standard form. The pay-off for that though, is class-leadingly taut handling and impressive body control through the bends.
Engine-wise, Mercedes’ main efforts have centred around improving the efficiency of its diesel engines, hence the way the entry-level 1. 5-litre A180d can return up to 80. 7mpg on the combined cycle and 89g/km of CO2. Here, we’re trying the pokier 2. 1-litre diesel offered in 136bp guise in the A200d, or in 177bhp form in this auto-only A220d variant, a car that, as here, can also be ordered with 4MATIC AWD. Petrol buyers get a 1. 6-litre unit offered with either 122 or 156bhp depending on your choice between A180 or A200 derivatives. Otherwise, you’re looking at one of the AMG-engineered 2. 0-litre hot hatch variants – either the 218bhp A250 or the barnstorming 381bhp Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC model.
If you think of clever, forward-thinking British design as something belonging to your father’s time, then check out one of these. This third generation A-Class model’s original shape was styled by Englishman Mark Featherston, a graduate from Coventry University’s School of Transport Design and the man who designed Mercedes’ SLS AMG gullwing supercar. Modern, extrovert and quite radical, it was everything its predecessors weren’t and few embellishments have been needed to keep this facelifted version looking fresh.
As before, the pronounced front end has a prominent arrow-shape that’s now been further emphasised by this re-styled bumper that looks particularly dynamic with this AMG bodystyling package.
Time to move inside where at the wheel, the cabin treatment is, if anything, even bolder than that of the bodywork. This is yet another interior inspired from the world of aviation, with your eye immediately drawn to the five circular air vents, styled to resemble jet engines and finished in ‘cool touch’ electroplated metal trim. The three grouped in the centre of the fascia sit below what remains a rather unusual touch, this free-standing Central Media Display. It looks like an iPad that’s been bolted onto the upper part of the centre console as something of an after-thought. Actually though, it’s a fully-integrated infotainment system that now offers far more sophisticated media connectivity via a larger 7 or 8-inch screen with much classier graphics.
Time to take a seat in the back. The curve of the rear side windows and the amount that the rear wheelarches intrude into the door openings mean that getting in isn’t quite as easy as it would be in, say, a Focus or a Golf.
Once installed inside though, even a couple of six-footers should be reasonably comfortable, thanks to these scalloped cut-outs at the back of the front seats.
And the boot? Well the heavily styled rear light clusters do necessitate a rather narrow opening, but once you get your stuff inside, you’ll find nearly as much space as you’d get in an A3 or a 1 Series – 341-litres with the rear seats up or 1,157-litres with them folded.
And in summary? Well those who can afford the asking prices and like the driving experience will find this hatch sporty, self-assured and possessed of a feel-good factor that really does make you feel special. Which is exactly what owning a car of this kind should be all about.