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Our Mercedes A-Class long-termer: endless configurations

Published: 07 January 2019

► New Mercedes A-Class daily driver
► Full long-term test review, updates
► We live with an A200 AMG Line
 

Month 2 living with a Mercedes A-Class: menu madness

Every day – literally every day – I’ve found a new combination of graphs, dials, lists, maps and squiggles to display on the twin screens. Yet there’s also a setting called Understated. Saab did it years ago, but it’s all the more welcome for being in a high-tech package. ‘Here, look at all the amazing things our car can do!’ ‘Er, no thanks, I’ll just leave it blank.’

By Colin Overland

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz A200 AMG Line specs and costs

Price £28,700  
As tested £31,710  
Engine 1332cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 161bhp @ 5500rpm, 184lb ft @ 1620rpm  
Transmission 7-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.0sec 0-62mph, 139mph, 123g/km CO2
Miles this month 1130
Total 4410
Our mpg 39.1
Official mpg 53.3
Fuel this month £181.58
Extra costs £1.50


Month 1 of our Mercedes-Benz A-Class long-term test review: welcome to the fleet

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is as outstanding inside as it is generic outside. Jarringly so, as if Mercedes started with the interior and ran out of time or money or imagination before the body could be persuaded to do anything more than complete its transition into a BMW 1-series or Mazda 3 clone, at precisely the same time as Ford reached the same destination with the Focus.

One of the challenges in my time with the A200 is to avoid the trap of going on and on about the many wonderful and intriguing and sometimes baffling aspects to the interior to the exclusion of the rest of the car. And that would be a serious oversight, because first impressions are that the Merc is pretty ordinary to drive, and at times quite annoying, and we can’t let that pass, however good the interior is.

This particular A-Class is the lesser of two petrols currently available. There’s also a diesel, and other variants will follow. Its 1332cc turbo four drives the front wheels through a seven-speed paddleshift auto. It rides on 18in alloys, with multi-link suspension at the rear and MacPherson struts up front. 

It’s in AMG Line spec, which involves a bodykit and fancy grille, sporty-ish seats and a multi-function steering wheel. That costs £28,700 on the road. This car also has £3010 of extras, in the shape of the Premium package (a 10.25in central screen merging with a 10.25in instrument screen, heated front seats, 64-colour ambient lighting, illuminated door sills, an audio upgrade, electrically folding mirrors, active parking assistance, keyless unlocking, all for £2395), a nav upgrade that includes augmented reality (£495) and some aluminium trim (£120). 

Passengers love it. The augmented reality, which superimposes road names and arrows on to a camera image of the junction ahead, is actually better positioned for passengers than for the driver, as you need to take your eyes south-west to the central screen. They also love the adjustable ambient lighting, which can make the dash, the footwells and the door bins glow a variety of colours. The way the air vents glow red when you increase the temperature is also a big hit.

More news, specs and photos of the new Mercedes A-Class

And the voice activation is remarkable. I’ll doubtless have much more to say about this in the months ahead, but at the moment we’re in that wonderful stage in a relationship where we’re getting to know each other. This is not an illusion; it really does adapt to your voice and the sort of thing you want it to do. For a while it thought that saying ‘white Mercedes’ was a request for help, but soon learnt that it wasn’t.

The interior of our Mercedes A-Class hatchback: keeper Colin Overland in the cabin

It currently responds to ‘hey Mercedes’, ‘hi Mercedes’ and ‘okay Mercedes’, but ignores ‘white Mercedes’. It’s quick and efficient at adjusting temperature and lighting, too. But it’s far from flawless,  denying all knowledge of certain destinations and certain music, and being weirdly keen on getting me to listen to more Prodigy.

The central touchpad (where a gearlever would go in a what we used to think of as a normal car) is extremely fiddly, as are the tiny touchpads on the steering wheel, but the central screen can be used as a conventional touchscreen, which works just fine.

I love the look of the dash – with its simple horizontality, its Fritz Lang vents and its Austin Maxi perforations  – and the elegance of the seats with their built-in head restraints.

But I’m finding the fuel tank to be annoyingly small. The transmission is poor in every way – it does dozy and it does jerky, but I can’t get it to do the good stuff in between. And the brakes are juddery too often. I may soon adapt.

By Colin Overland

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Logbook: Mercedes-Benz A200 AMG Line specs and costs

Price £28,700  
As tested £31,710  
Engine 1332cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 161bhp @ 5500rpm, 184lb ft @ 1620rpm  
Transmission 7-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.0sec 0-62mph, 139mph, 123g/km CO2
Miles this month 319
Total 3280
Our mpg 40.6
Official mpg 53.3
Fuel this month £47.10
Extra costs None

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