Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Hatched and Unmatched
A-CLASS BY NAME, A-CLASS IN STYLE — THAT’S MERCEDES’ SMALL HATCHBACK
While the C-Class sedan and extensive SUV range are important vehicles for Mercedes-Benz in New Zealand, one smaller model is a big player here too.
The A-Class hatchback was the company’s second-most popular new vehicle sold here last year, helping Mercedes-Benz take out the top spot in the luxury segment for 2015.
Now the A-Class has been given a midlife makeover, but it’s no midlife crisis. Instead, the German company has left the stylish interior and exterior (with that stunning diamond grille) generally alone and concentrated on improved ride comfort and fuel economy.
Driven was given a first drive of the A250 before the Australasian launch this week.
The 2-litre, four-cylinder, direct injection turbo-charged petrol hatch produced 160kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
The A250 was paired with the company’s 7G-GDT seven-speed auto transmission, with claimed fuel consumption of 6.7l/100km.
But an unusual burst of summer heat during my week-long test meant having the air conditioning blasting Antarctic-like cold air prevented any fuel economy figures close to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Also hindering my attempt at frugal driving was the delight in the surge of power from the tweaked A250.
It was great to plant my foot on the accelerator as I entered a near-empty motorway during the Christmas holidays and feel the response.
The A250 is tuned to give a more sporty ride, thanks to addition of Dynamic Select with three modes — comfort, sport and eco. The comfort setting is great for everyday use and knocks out those bumps in our bitumen.
The suspension was revised for the facelift and added to the sure-footedness of my A250 was Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic system.
The test vehicle also had the option of 19-inch AMG multi-spoke alloys in black over the standard 17-inch alloys found in the A180 base model.
My A250 also had the Command infotainment system ($3190) and Driving Assistance package (also $3190), offering distronice-plus cruise control and lane-keep assist.
Those packages, plus the alloys, pushed the price from $67,900 to $74,970.
The facelift A-Class range starts at $48,600 for the A180.
That sub-$50,000 price is why Mercedes-Benz NZ’s managing director Ben Giffin reckons the hatchback is popular here.
Mercedes-Benz saw an increase in new customers last year, with 60 per cent buying the marque for the first time.
Giffin puts this down to the “value proposition” offered now. “There is the opportunity to own a brand-new Mercedes-Benz A180 for sub-$50,000 with a three-year warranty, three-year service plan, roadside assistance.
“We’re really offering the consumers so much choice now,” he said.
“It’s been three years since we launched A-Class and in 2016 we have the opportunity to talk to the original customers about the brand-new facelift A-Class and the benefits of it.”
While the A180 has been a popular model for Mercedes-Benz, Giffin thought the A250 would perform well in sales this year, as the brand pushes to keep its No1 luxury-car spot.
The success of attracting new customers to the A-Class range, especially the A180, has also seen the average age of customers lowered.
“We’ve come down five years in average age over three years. Ultimately, the A-Class and compact SUV range was going to do that, but we’ve also become more relevant because who doesn’t want to own a C63 [sports sedan]?” said Giffin.
The A-Class will continue to face stiff competition from BMW’s 1 Series and Audi’s A3, while the sports performance A45 4Matic now has a serious rival in the Audi RS3 that is not only superb-sounding but a delightful performer.