2013 Mercedes-Benz A ClassEnlarge Photo
How it drives
Both our test cars were in 'AMG Sport' trim. That gets you 18-inch wheels, lowered sport suspension, and fancy interior trim with hugely comfortable sport seats.
Ride quality wasn't bad considering the rolling stock, but felt restless over some of England's bumpier country roads. Larger Mercedes still rule in these conditions.
Handling was precise--there's not a lot of body roll, the steering is accurate (if rather light) and levels of grip are high. The brakes are good too, with a satisfyingly firm pedal and good stopping power.
Both engines are impressive. The A250 makes 211-horsepower from its turbocharged 2.0-liter, and officially reaches 52 mph in 6.6 seconds. The dual-clutch gearbox is swift, but not quite as eager to respond to your demands for gears as the Volkswagen equivalent.
It also hunted around uncomfortably on a few hills, and in gentle driving the early automated down-changes--to improve engine braking--became irritating, particularly as the car jerked with each change.
The gearbox is much happier with the 1.8-liter, 136-hp diesel unit. Up- and down-changes are nearly imperceptible.
Performance is still strong too--9.2 seconds to 60 mph, and 130 mph flat-out. Extra low-down torque from the diesel motor makes rumbling around at low speeds fairly effortless. A little diesel noise makes its way into the cabin, but little enough so as not to intrude.
Both engines also feature stop-start technology to improve city economy. Apart from a little extra noise and vibration on re-start, its operation is pretty faultless, even with the auto gearbox.
Coming to the U.S... sort of
Mercedes-Benz confirmed a while back that its baby will arrive in the U.S, though it has since announced that cars based on the same platform will appear--a CLA shooting brake and GLK crossover.
The engine from the A250 is most likely to arrive, but a diesel isn't out of the question. We've no doubt that U.S. buyers would happily accept a range consisting of only four-cylinders too--performance is more than up to scratch.
While the new A-Class isn't as overtly practical as older models, it's now a genuine competitor for its rivals and has a compelling blend of quality, performance and economy.
Perhaps its greatest achievement is combining those talents with the sort of qualities previously associated with Mercedes' largest vehicles--downsizing is here to stay, folks.