Mercedes-Benz A200 AMG Line review: The most upmarket small car you can buy
In the past, many small cars have laid a claim to being more upmarket than they actually are. But in our opinion, only a few have truly succeeded. Up until now, that is, which is exactly what Mercedes-Benz has done with the new A-Class. It even contains some features from the S-Class. Yes, the littlest Benz is that good.
Hang tight while we take you through everything you need to know about the all-new A-Class.
Those enormous screens
Apart from the purple interior lighting (we'll come to that in a bit), the first thing that grabs your attention in the new A-Class is the giant, free-standing glass panel dominating the width of the dashboard. Comprising a pair of 10.25-inch screens, it forms the infotainment screen (the stereo, navigation and telephony, amongst other functions) and the instruments immediately behind the steering wheel.
Displaying high-resolution, vivid graphics with snappy responses of the sort you'd expect from your phone, it'll make you pine for a car with traditional analogue instruments. Wait, who are we kidding? No, of course we don't miss analogue instruments. Not when a digital display is this good. And the one Mercedes-Benz put on the A-Class is up there with the best.
Incidentally, the dashboard-spanning glass panel is the sort you'd find on the carmaker's flagship model, the S-Class. Actually, the one here is better than the S-Class, because the A-Class is the beneficiary of a new interface, dubbed MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). It's still a little clunky to use, mainly down to how a touchpad isn't the best interface option around, but at least the central infotainment cluster also can be used as a touchscreen, which is handy.
The light fantastic
Now, we get that neon purple might not be everyone's favourite colour; a definite concern since the lighting covers pretty much every part of the cabin, from the air-conditioning vents to the interior door strips and even the footwell, but never fear. The A-Class allows you to customise it in one of 64 colours, and if one solid colour isn't quite your cup of tea, colour shifts and ombres are available. You can even sync it up to the music or the air-conditioning system, with the bezels of the vents turning red when turning up the temperature or blue when making it cooler.
Sure it sounds a little cheesy, but after witnessing the effect up close, it all seems rather tasteful. Another testament to the quality of the lighting is how the lighting strips themselves have no discernible 'hotspots', making for a uniform distribution of the coloured light.
Apart from the giant screens and LED light strips everywhere in the cabin, there's also wood trim. Though it isn't the glossy faux walnut you find on more geriatric cars. The A-Class gets open-pore, matte-finish wood trim, the sort you might find on fancy Italian furniture. Elsewhere in the cabin, quality is stunning, far more than we'd expect from a so-called 'Baby Benz'. Close your eyes and you'd be hard-pressed to tell you weren't in a more upmarket Mercedes-Benz model.
That said, there are some minor concessions to the A-Class being at the foot of the extremely expansive model Mercedes-Benz model tree. The window winder switches and most of the air-conditioning controls are made of black plastic, instead of the metal-effect ones (granted, it's still plastic) found on more expensive Mercedes-Benz models.
Class A penny-pinching
The variant we tested here (the A200 AMG Line) comes with a new 1.3-litre engine. The new, smaller engine replaces the 1.6-litre one from previously. The best news about this new engine is how it attracts a positively microscopic annual road tax bill. You'll be paying just $586 per year, which is great news, considering Mercedes-Benz also claims it can do 17.9km/L.
Of course, that's just the manufacturer's claimed numbers, and real-world use will see that number go down somehow. But even then, it's still phenomenally good, considering it has 163hp, giving the A200 decent pep when needed.
Unfortunately, it's pretty pricey
While the A200 will save you big time in terms of ownership costs, its cost of entry is fairly steep. The top-of-the line version we tested costs a whopping $158,888, though there is an A200 in Progressive trim that costs $5,000 less. You will, however, have to live without the racy AMG bodykit, lowered suspension, two-tone seats and an uprated 10-speaker sound system.
Thankfully, an entry-level A-Class, in A180 trim has just appeared on local Mercedes-Benz price lists, though even that's not exactly cheap, at $150,888. For reference, an Audi A3 Sportback can be had for $134,240, though in the Audi's case you won't have anywhere near the level of goodies the A-Class has. Plus, there's likely to be a brand new A3 just around the corner.
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