A180 CDI Classic SE 5-door
continues its new
and refreshed product rush with
the arrival in the UK, from 17 July,
of the revised A- and B-Class models.
David Miles went to Berlin to check
them out here are his first
impressions of the latest A-Class...
AT THE INTERNATIONAL PRESS LAUNCH in Berlin last week, Mercedes said that
when the A-Class was originally launched in 1997, it was the first 'premium'
car in the compact segment. The second generation A-Class was introduced in
2004 and over 1.7 million of them have since been sold worldwide making
it one of their best-selling model ranges.
The latest A-Class range consists, as before, of three- and five-door hatchback
models. There are no price increases over the outgoing versions despite
added specification, improved safety features, better fuel economy, lower CO2
emissions, body restyling and a revised model line-up.
Classic, Sport and Turbo variants are no longer available but the revised line-up
is: Classic SE (expected to take around 51 per cent of sales), Elegance SE (20
per cent) and Avantgarde SE (26 per cent). On-the-road prices range from £14,365
Although engine options for the A-Class are comprehensive for Europe
four petrol and three diesel units in the UK there are only four choices:
1.5-litre 150 and 1.7-litre 170 petrol; and 2.0-litre 160/180 CDI turbodiesel
units. All are available with the option of manual or automatic transmissions.
Active Park Assist, which identifies a parking space big enough for the A-Class
and that when engaged reverses the car into the space, is also a new option
priced at £550.
In the UK, over 70 per cent of A-Class sales are for petrol-powered models and
over 47 per cent of customers tick the box for the automatic transmission option.
The best-selling model has, traditionally, been the A150, 89bhp, five-door variant
which has accounted for 45 per cent of sales. Next comes the A180 CDI, 108bhp,
five-door with 21 per cent then the A170, 114bhp, five-door with 12 per cent.
Five-door models account for 90 per cent of A-Class UK sales.
Additional lower-emission BlueEfficiency models three- and five-door
manual versions with A 150/170 petrol engines and the three-door manual transmission
A160 CDI diesel will all be available from September 2008 at no extra
cost over the standard models.
BlueEfficiency specification will include Mercedes' new ECO Stop/Start function,
low rolling resistance tyres, lightweight construction and detailed aerodynamic
body styling changes. The three-door A160 CDI BlueEfficiency model is said to
return 62mpg with 119g/km of CO2. BlueEfficiency versions are claimed to offer
a nine per cent fuel and CO2 saving over conventional new A-Class models.
Driving the new A-Class models last week in the former divided city of Berlin
for the international press launch, while taking in the historic sites
including the infamous Berlin Wall we proved what we already knew about
the A-Class. It is a premium quality compact city car but with an elevated command
driving position making it easy to drive and to park.
Where both the A (and B-Class) models appeal is to those customers who need
popular-sized family cars but also want their products to be 'premium' in both
quality and brand image, with a good level of specification. To some extent,
performance and fuel economy doesn't matter especially to these retail
Company car users, however, will be more interested in the BlueEfficiency models
coming to the UK later and I have to report that their ECO Stop/Start system
is excellent: probably the best around at the moment for the speed of its operation.
In all other respects the front-wheel drive A-Class is as before. It mostly
provides a comfortable ride, although it can prove choppy over poorer road surfaces.
It is also exceptionally easy to drive and to park thanks to the high-up
driving position and being just less than four metres in length.
The specification is all you could reasonably ask for at the price. The fuel
economy is better and the emissions lower and it looks smart with the styling
updates. With prices starting at £14,365, a Mercedes becomes affordable and
the best-selling Classic SE A150 five-door at £15,115 is a bit of a bargain.
The enhancements for SE models include crash-responsive emergency lighting (warning
lights and interior lighting) and flashing adaptive brake lights, hill start
assist, body-coloured door handles, mirrors and rubbing strips, enhanced Telematics
with Bluetooth, a carwash compatible aerial, large three-louvered grille, new
front and rear light clusters and new-look front and rear bumpers. Naturally,
all the usual features such as power front side windows, air conditioning, airbags
and split folding rear seats are all present.
It was unfortunate that Mercedes in Germany did not have the UK's likely best-selling
model the A150 petrol version for the Media to drive, so we had
to make do with the expected second best-selling version: the A180 CDI turbodiesel.
This 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel unit has been given the 'better fuel
economy' treatment and should return around eight per cent better fuel efficiency.
This is officially 54mpg but our test car, fitted with the six-speed
manual gearbox, returned just 30mpg in Berlin city traffic. Acceleration was
adequate, with 0-62mph taking 10.8 seconds and the top speed is said to be 116mph.
What's not to like? Not much: some models are expensive, the ride can be choppy
and there's light and vague steering. On the other hand, the latest A-Class
delivers more of the same only better. In addition, it's easy to park,
easy to drive, relatively roomy, offers good storage space, is well built and
has that evergreen Mercedes-Benz badge desirability. David Miles
Mercedes-Benz A180 CDI Classic SE 5-door | £17,215
Maximum speed: 116mph | 0-62mph: 10.8 seconds | Overall test MPG: 30mpg
Power: 108bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 134g/km | Insurance group 6