For a Mercedes-Benz it was not what I was expected. The gear change is awkward with exact precision required to move from gear to gear. The higher than normal elevated driving position provides a clear view of the road but can be disconcerting at first. The boot space is not extravagant but can accommodate a full set of golf clubs and a fold up golf trolley.
The dashboard is well presented but certainly could benefit from a clock. The rear screen heater button is so frustrating to turn on as it needs to be pressed in a certain way. The battery position is very novel as it is under the driver's legs. This I expect will leave it not so exposed to the cold winter conditions.
The overall ride is bumpy to say the least but this is more to do with the body design rather than the suspension. The acceleration in low gears is excellent and it can really motor in second gear without excessive revs.
If you like your Mercs then this is should not be your first choice I can honestly say.
Its a fairly average ride to be honest. The interior is very plasticky and bits have fallen off covering the seat adjusting mechanism. Its not very smooth and you can feel lots of the road surface when travelling. Its nice and high up but overall, i've not been greatly impressed unfortunately.
Probably the most disappointing aspect was having to pay for a new engine when the timing chain broke!
My use for it is mainly local - ferrying my daughter around town and taking shopping trips. Its ideal for this. I do use it for short journeys up and down the motorway too and to be fair, it handles very well and gets up to speed with no dramas. The shape of the car does make you feel as though it might tip over when it goes around tighter corners but this is something you probably get used to.
I probably wouldn't buy another of these however.
Wanting more form a car is nothing new these days, every car manufacturer boasts some sort of MPV (Multi-person Vehicle) or designer “town” car, yet no one expected Mercedes-Benz (Daimler Chrysler) to follow suit. Well, they did, and did they manage to captivate their fierce critics and loyal brand followers? Read on and see. The Mercedes-Benz A Class was unveiled to the public late 1998 and had to put up with some unjust flack for safety as well as ridicule from the “alleged” experts of the motor industry. There were tales of tipping up when cornering, bad road handling and other so called design faults with Merc’s new baby girl, some fair, most blatant attempts to belittle a car that has since gone on to conquer the small family car market. Now the tests that were carried out on the early models showed her to tip up at high speed when simulating an emergency swerve or lane change at 70mph. Mercedes were quick to pounce to her defence, but never being a company to ignore public outcry, they stripped her down and added safety features galore to counteract the slight chance of an accident being caused by any fault of design. Since then, a few more modifications, a face lift back in 2001 and almost 1 million cars later, the A Class has won accolades not only from the motor industry, but from the real critics, the driving public. THE A CLASS I have chosen to write about the A Class in general rather than stick to one particular engine size. The reason for this is that in the last 6 months, I have driven some 20 or so of these little love bugs, and find that they are individual, but also similar in their design and build, therefore I find that every time I wrote an op individually on the A Class, it would be rather repetitive. Here goes: <><>< DESIGN <><>< Like all MPV’s, the A Class has a look of a hybrid van-come-car f
eel. Sleek, with her curves, cutting edge design and chrome effect, yet harsh, with her pug dog bonnet and square ass, The A Class is no Miss Congeniality when it comes to strutting the catwalk. However, let her strut her stuff around the streets of St Tropes, and she does turn heads, even if only for curiosity. Unveiled to the hungry consumer to the tune of “Mamas going to buy me, a Mercedes Benz” the New Orleans/Mississippi style blues music blends in well with concept of affordable motoring without compromising any of the standard Mercedes benefits. Sturdy shell, gentle contours and discreet three-point star all make you believe that you are driving a car for pleasure as well as practicality. Good all round vision is created by an almost greenhouse glass effect and no blind spots. Reversing is so easy, as your window is the back of the car. So I find this car very offensive to the classic car eye, but intriguing to the lovers of design and creativity. A refreshing approach to what is certainly an oversubscribed market. <><> Inside <><> Here is where you gasp with nostalgic Dr Who’s Tardis (for those younger than me, which is most of you, she was uncannily big on the inside) Headroom that Michael Jordan would appreciate and legroom to entice an Octopus to take a trip down to Brighton Aquarium with you! At 6ft and the best part of 14 stone (Lean though ;o) I always shudder at the thought of getting into anything smaller than an E Class Mercedes. My wife’s KA being one of the only small cars that I can enter/exit without making a popping noise! Yet somehow Mercedes have managed to make this a car for all sizes of people, tall (tone) small (minds) of us somewhat wide shouldered fitness fanatics who normally have to sit at a slight angle to get comfortable in a small car. To ensure that all achieves maximum vision, the seat has a hand pu
mp which rises a good 8” ensuring that smaller people have adequate sight over the wheel, and tall people don’t have to dip their heads to fit into the cab. An adjustable steering wheel and a hand pulley for back/forward motion help you to find the exact driving position that suits you. Once clunked into your seatbelt, you are ready to drive away at your own leisure. BUT STOP! What is wrong I hear you ask? Surely if there is that much room in the front, then the back must compensate for this? RIGHT! If you have two/three small children then you wont have a problem with the leg room in the back, but if you take adults on a regular basis, then plumb the extra few hundred for a long wheel base which gives you ample leg room and head space in the back. Boot space is somewhat limited, but a normal size buggy and a weekly shop will fit in with ease. If you need more room, the back seats remove very easily and you can turn her into a four seater or a three seater, even a small estate if you take both seats out. <><>< SAFETY <><>< One of the few cars to pass the European safety tests with flying colours; this magic box has some serious safety functions, let me explain. The unique sandwich floor design enables the engine to be squeezed under your feet if you are unlucky enough to have a head on collision with another vehicle. The actual cab is similar to being inside a steel cage, although disguised to look more like a des-res. Surrounded by four airbags, including side ones, you have every chance of being cushioned from any serious harm should the need arise. I say should the need arise, as you have ABS braking System, Electronic Stability and Brake Assist (A way of recognising an emergency stop) to prevent you from being in this position to start with. Now should you feel the need to have a child in the front seat, a Baby/Toddler seat can be
purchased that disables the passenger airbag in the front, giving you that added peace of mind in affect to child injuries caused by airbags. All in all, the safety features on this little car far outweigh most of her larger rivals and then some! <><><><><> PERFORMANCE <><><><><> This is where I need to go through the different sizes. Around town, they more than hold their own, with nippy acceleration, excellent cornering and road holding and ease of manoeuvring, thus enabling parking in the smallest of spaces. Accelerating quickly through the gears, the auto and manual, even the clutch less manuals all pass the inner city beat the guy next to you test! Steering wheel responds well to the slightest of touches and follows the lines in the road well, however she doesn’t like bumps and clatters her rear drop link suspension at you whenever a pothole or speed ramp is taken too fast. Indeed, back seat passengers have been known to complain about the bumpy ride in the back and find it a tadge on the uncomfortable side. Motorways are where you have to chose the model wisely, as I find the 140,s extremely underpowered and lacking that much-needed acceleration to manoeuvre safely. The automatic version of both the 140 and 160 tends to have a lag of almost a second at times, and this can frustrate you when trying to nip out of a busy junction into that all rare gap in traffic, yet the manual seems to find that little extra and eases out somewhat elegantly. If you tend to vary between town and country driving, than opt for the 160, but if you stay around town most of the day, than the 140 will be sufficient for your needs. The A190 is a different kettle of fish! She plays with traffic like Godzilla in the centre of New York during rush hour! The 190 has more than her fair share of power under the bonnet, and can blast a few revs when request
ed. Hell has no fury like the torque of this babe, and few small cars can even keep up with her designer outfits, never mind her pace. For the Motorway driver looking for economy, this is the car of your dreams. Try her and see! The 170 CDi (common-rail diesel injection engine) boasts some 60 plus miles to the gallon, and can return over thirty to the gallon around town, the penny-watchers dream. Although when cold, she can be a bit sluggish to start but takes no time to warm up to maximum performance. There is another called the A210 Evolution, with lowered springs, alloys, body kit and an engine that would power a Boeing 747, but again, they are so rare if you want to know more about them, email me. At speeds of 70MPH, this car handles very well, but at 80, I find it follows bumps and grooves rather than my aim, and tends to buffer from side to side with strong winds, so I suggest she is driven at a safe speed rather than a rush to get home style. <><> PRICE <><> There are so many different options that it is hard to say, but here goes: New, the range starts at approximately £14000 to £20000 plus for the Evolution. Second hand you can pick one up from a Mercedes Direct sight from as little as £6999 for a three year old average mileage 140 classic. The price again varies on the actual models specification. The A140 Classic has steel wheels and rarely comes with aircon before the facelift version. The Elegance and Avantgarde on the other hand, have more generous trim levels and boast an array of Alloy wheels to chose from. They have suffered some problems with the rear suspension, from the drop links failing, but otherwise have no real characteristics to mention. <><><><>< CONCLUSION <><><><>< On the used market, a bargain can be found for the family on a budget with a purpose to their driving. You can feel safe in the knowledge that every single precaution has been taken to ensure you come out on top in the event of a RTA. Do not buy private, as they aren’t the cheapest cars in the world to put right should there be any problems. A Merc dealer should give at least 12 months full warranty. An October 1998 onwards model will come with 30 years breakdown cover from date of registration. I have sold some 20 plus of these cars and have had only minor come backs from customers, never any major problems, so can speak from experience. Try one, buy one, enjoy. Angus Reid