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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz A-Class – on sale December

Mercedes-Benz

Factsheet

Transmission
1.6-litre 122/156bhp, 2.0-litre 211bhp petrol; 1.5-litre 109bhp, 1.8-litre 109/136bhp diesel
RV 3yr/30k
118-150
Start mileage
6.6-11.3
Current mileage
46-74
Key rivals
98-148g/km CO2
0000000000000000000
£18,945-£28,775

Review

BMW and Audi must be getting sweaty around the collar. They've generally had it easy in the compact executive segment in recent years, as any ambitious young executive desiring a prestige set of wheels for his parking space left the staid Mercedes A-Class alone to its small fan base of retirees.

But Mercedes-Benz has got it right this time and there's a serious fight brewing for 2013.

It wants to take the slice of the market that it is now rightly due. In fact Mercedes-Benz UK sales director Mike Whittington suspects the ceiling will be set by supply constraints, not demand.

He said:"We'll sell as many as we can get hold of. I'd like to be in for 25,000, but we probably won't get that many. The A-Class will be positioned very competitively. It's a fantastic chance for us to get younger conquest buyers."

That is a key role for new A-Class. The new car has already been shown at the Canary Wharf MotorExpo and Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Dealers get a left-hand drive demonstrator in September to show customers, with TV and broadcast marketing in November ahead of December's launch. Like the A3 and 1 Series, the new A-Class is a proper hatchback. It's arguably better looking than its rivals too.

Entry to the Mercedes-Benz new car experience now starts at £18,945 for a base model A180 BlueEfficiency, and the brand is bound to have highly attractive PCPs to help keep monthly payments below the £300 mark.

Going up the ladder, SE and Sport trim levels offer more kit and greater choice of powertrain – both being offered with the 122bhp A180 petrol and a 109bhp A180CDI diesel, with CO2 emissions as low as 98g/km in manual guise, and the Sport also offering a 156bhp petrol A200 and a 136bhp A200CDI diesel.

It is here where the core volume will be sold. For the £1,200 walk-up the SE buyer gets 16in alloys, fabric sports seats and leather steering wheel above the standard car's CD/radio with 5.8in colour display and USB/aux-in.

Sport, another £1,100 step further, adds twin exhausts, 17in alloys, cruise control, auto wipers and ambient lighting.

Two further models complete the range. AMG Sport, from £23,445 includes sports suspension, drilled disc brakes, 18in alloys and AMG bodystyling, plus Artico leather seats.

The ultimate A-Class is the Engineered By AMG derivative, offered only on the most powerful petrol and diesel engines, which gets even more kit such as a diamond grille with one louvre, red brake callipers, privacy glass and bi-xenon headlamps.

Plenty of options give the dealer a chance to increase the invoice value.

Top technology includes connectivity features for the iPhone through Siri, which lets drivers access the phone through the car's controls and display, and a collision mitigation system which supports the driver if it detects a crash is imminent.

The low emissions diesels will get plenty of interest with Mercedes-Benz putting more focus on fleets, but no derivative in the range will struggle to find takers. Expect the A-Class to feature on many more business parks in the future.

What your customers have been told about the A-Class

DAILY TELEGRAPH

The standard suspension puts the new A-Class slap bang in contention with its rivals; it is a lovely machine to drive and reasonably sharp when you want to make progress. The A-Class will sell by the bucketload purely on the strength of its provenance. The Volvo V40 and the Audi A3 have marginally better dynamics, but the Merc gives you a star on the bonnet and that's important in this badge-obsessed world.

AUTOCAR

Although the new A-Class offers a radically different driving experience from its predecessor, it doesn't set new class standards. It is well rounded and highly competent in areas that matter most, and will appeal to a much broader - younger audience.

FLEET NEWS

Mercedes-Benz has already done well to create a more youthful image for the A-Class through its advertising, and the fact that there is a new choice in the sector with established prestige should make it attractive to some drivers who want to make a change from the default premium badge choices. That it should tick all the important boxes for fleet running costs makes the decision of the organisation paying for the car a little easier.

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