We are now more than four months into our long-term test of the A220CDI AMG Sport and have identified plenty of its strengths. It has the youthful appeal its predecessor could only dream of, tonnes of premium-level equipment and systems and a really gutsy yet efficient turbodiesel engine.
However, it’s time to scrutinise the car’s biggest weakness – its ride comfort. It lacks it, to be blunt. In fact it takes me back to the period in my late 20s when I owned a heavily modified Volkswagen Corrado on 40mm lowered coilover suspension.
In AMG Sport trim, the A-Class comes with a Dynamic Handling Package as standard, which lowers the car by 15mm on firmer springs and dampers and 18in alloy wheels. This makes every slight bump and change in road surface noticeable to the occupants and speed bumps must be taken very sensitively and slowly.
The sports suspension could be firm enough to put some customers off buying this derivative. Any company car user-choosers who opt for an A-Class in AMG Sport guise from their fleet’s list without ever having test-driven it may be in for quite a surprise.
Mercedes-Benz seems to have learned a lesson from the feedback since launching the new A-Class. It has since introduced the CLA-Class, a four-door coupé which shares the A-Class’s platform, and offers its AMG Sport derivative with a no-cost factory option of comfort suspension to replace the standard sports set-up.
Nevertheless, when driven on the right roads and with the right frame of mind, the A220CDI AMG Sport can put a real smile on an owner’s face. That Dynamic Handling Package deserves its name. There is so little roll and such dependable grip from the low profile tyres that roundabouts can be tackled in kart-like fashion, assisted by hydraulically adaptive precise steering and an extended traction control system which induces yaw on the inside wheels to tuck the nose in and reduce understeer while accelerating out of the turn. Lift-off oversteer is also kept in check by the ESP system braking the outer rear wheel.
For the driving enthusiast, the A220CDI’s ride is confidence-inspiring. But prospective buyers who want a cosseting, comfortable cruiser would be better steered towards a lower grade A200CDI Sport derivative that has comfort suspension and slightly smaller alloy wheels. It’s much less powerful, but the added bonus is that it’s almost £2,500 cheaper.
What’s been said about the Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Mercedes-Benz has put considerable effort into ensuring the body is stiff. This improves cornering and agility, making for a more engaging drive. The new A-Class can be driven at speed with confidence.
Sunday Times Driving (paywall)
Where the VW Golf is conservative, the A-Class looks low, lean and sporty: a far cry from the previous two generations of the baby Mercedes.
Specification: Mercedes-Benz A220CDI AMG Sport
Price £27,170 (£36,925 incl options)
Engine 2.1-litre turbodiesel: 168bhp<
Performance 0-62mph 8.2secs
Top speed 137mph<Transmission 7sp DCT
Efficiency 64.2mpg, 115g/km CO2
RV 3yr/30k 50%<
Start mileage 5,382
Current mileage 11,748
Key rivals Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Mini Countryman, Volvo V40