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Mercedes-Benz peps up its A-Class

03.02.2016

DESPITE being a pioneering model for Mercedes-Benz, the original A-Class didn’t quite appeal to the younger audience looking to get behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz. A few years ago Mercedes rectified that by introducing a car that was able to take on the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 but also one that would appeal to younger buyers.

The A-Class has, since its local launch, experienced great success within our market. Now though Mercedes-Benz has decided to freshen it up a little bit. I spent the day with the entire model range to see just what the benefits of these changes are.

Mercedes-Benz has given the A-Class a refreshed exterior appearance and although the changes might be minimal they do give the car a sleeker look. Inside there are further upgrades to certain aspects of the interior which include better materials and switchgear. Engineers have also improved on ride quality for all the models. Let me explain the changes in more detail.

Exterior

On the outside, one will notice a new set of headlights both at the front and at the rear. The lights now feature LED technology as well as a more up-to-date design. The rear lights feature a double blade design element which I quite like.

The second thing that an eagle-eyed onlooker will notice is that the front and rear bumpers have been slightly changed; they now feature a more streamlined design, which goes well with the brand’s Diamond Grille, which has been a hit amongst customers.

As for the sheet metal, well nothing has changed there. The car still looks good and features a coupé-like profile. Mercedes-Benz has introduced a new colour… elbaite green metallic. How popular this colour choice will be amongst conservative South African buyers is still to be seen.

Customers can fit various styling packages to their preferred model. I, naturally, prefer the AMG line, which sees sportier bumpers and wheels fitted to the car.

Interior

At first glance the interior looks unchanged, until you get behind the new-look steering wheel and notice the updated instrument cluster. It resembles that of the C-Class, which is nice; I didn’t quite like the previous design, which was too bold and the needles were far too big.



Another improvement can be found when one explores the larger (eight-inch) dash-mounted LCD screen. The A-Class now comes with the brand’s upgraded operating software. The digital experience is one of the best on offer. I will admit though, the dial that’s used to control the system feels a little bit out-dated. Mercedes-Benz has also improved on the materials used for the interior as well as on the seats, which can now be ordered with various design features and colour trims.

Under the hood

At launch I got to drive every model on offer, from the entry level A200, A200d, A220d, A250 and the A45, which I will elaborate on later. The A200 features a 1.6-litre turbocharged motor which develops 115kW/250Nm.

The A200d makes use of a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine good for 100kW and 300Nm. I quite like this model as it serves the purpose for which it is intended and that is, economy and comfort and, with a claimed fuel usage of around 4.5 litres/100km it sure is economical.

The A220d might also appeal to those who want an added boost of power; this diesel develops 130kW/350Nm and is said to consume around the same as the A200d. For those looking for a high-revving hot hatch then the A250 Sport with its 0-100km time of just 6.3 seconds, thanks to 160kW and 350Nm, is probably what you should look at.

As for the drive, well, the previous model came under fire due to its rather stiff ride. Engineers took notice and have rectified the issue. The suspension is much more compliant on uneven road surfaces. To enhance the driving experience, the A-Class now features DYNAMIC SELECT (an option on the A200 and A200d). This option gives drivers the ability to select various driving modes. One can choose between Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual, the latter allowing drivers to set the car up as they wish. Also available is the 7G-DCT (dual clutch transmission) automatic gearbox.

Saved the best for last

The Mercedes-AMG A45 has once again retained its crown for being the most powerful series production hatchback on the market. This new model now develops 280kW of power for its four-cylinder turbocharged engine and it also makes 475Nm. Thanks to 4Matic, Mercedes-Benz claims a 0-100km time of around 4.2 seconds and thanks, as well, to some sporty additions such as a large rear wing and new rims, the A45 AMG looks menacing.



As for under the skin, Mercedes has shortened the gear ratios for third gear, which benefits the driver with quicker gear changes via the seven-speed gearbox. The hot heads at AMG have also fitted an active exhaust, which increases the volume from the rear by pushing a button on the dashboard. I took the A45 AMG around the Killarney Racetrack in Cape Town. One thing that impressed me was the grip through the corners as well as its straight line speed.

Verdict

The enhancements to the A-Class have definitely refreshed the model line-up. Comfort levels have been hugely improved compared to the previous model and the design elements as well as safety features do make the A-Class an attractive option to customers looking to enter the Mercedes-Benz family. Premium cars carry premium price tags. Mercedes has done a good job with keeping the price fairly competitive but it is wise to note that the prices stated below are base prices. As for the A45 AMG, well it lives up to the hype and as we enter this year it’s going to be interesting to see how it stacks up to the ever growing competition.

Pricing

A200 115kW/250Nm R389 200
A200d 100kW/300Nm R419 500
A220d 130kW/350Nm R460 100
A250 Sport 160kW/350Nm R491 500
AMG A45 280kW/475Nm R683 600



Article written by Justin Jacobs
03.02.2016
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