Mercedes’ baby model – the A-Class – has undergone a fairly massive transformation in its 21-year existence.
What started as a faintly weird looking micro-MPV has morphed into a sleek hatchback that’s more closely tied to its larger stablemates.
Mercedes lays a lot of emphasis on how high-tech this new model, launched earlier this year, is. It borrows a lot from the flagship S-Class, from the heavily-buttoned multi-function steering wheel to its two 10.25-inch LCD displays and augmented reality navigation.
Mercedes A200 AMG Line
Price: £28,700 (£31,710 as tested)
Engine: 1.3-litre, four-cylinder, turbo petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Top speed: 139mph
0-62mph: 8.0 seconds
Economy: 53.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 123 g/km
In our AMG-Line model it also brought the latest motorway assistance with adaptive cruise and active lane control, the MBUX multimedia system with internet connectivity, LED headlights and selectable drive modes.
The tech is impressive but there’s so much going on I found it a bit distracting. I’m sure you’d get used to it but there seemed to be a lot displayed on-screen, almost at odds with the calm, slick character of the interior design, which majors on soft-touch materials, high-gloss plastics and the liberal use of chrome detailing.
Whether it really needs a 64-colour interior lighting pack is questionable but the way the air con vents change colour as you adjust the temperature made me smile.
What I liked more about the A-Class was the way it drove. All premium manufacturers talk about bringing the luxurious qualities of their flagship models to their whole ranges and the A-Class really feels like a high-end machine. Given that it starts at the same price as a higher-spec Ford Focus, that’s quite some achievement.
The A-Class’s strong suit is a smooth unruffled character wherever you are. I covered long motorway runs, winding A-roads and cramped urban streets in my time with it and it never felt out of place or unsettled.
There’s a hint of sportiness to the way it can be threaded down an A road, especially with the steering, engine and damping set to sport mode, but it never loses its refined edge that makes long-distance slogs bearable. The suspension is damped to feel controlled but comfortable and the auto gearbox slips unnoticed between ratios unless you opt to take control with the steering column paddles.
The refinement is slightly spoiled by the engine, which can sound rather boomy under hard acceleration, but its power delivery is smooth enough and the 161bhp of the test car hustled it along with decent urgency when required.
Claimed economy is 53.3mpg on the combined cycle but we saw high-30s across a week, getting as high as mid-40s on a couple of slow 30-mile commutes.
The A-Class has been hailed in some circles for bringing new levels of tech to the segment. While that’s important to some people, it’s also got to get the basics of being a car right. Thankfully for Mercedes it does just that.