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Mercedes-Benz A-Class

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Mercedes-Benz A-Class Mercedes Benz A Class

Driven January 2006

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Paying a hefty premium for a prestige car is as inevitable, as finding at least one elected representative in your government suffocating inside his wife's pantyhose with a satsuma in his mouth.

But so long as you're getting what you want, it's worth overlooking the initial shortcomings.

Unless, that is, you're shopping for an A200T. This is Merc's top spec, performance version of its second generation A-Class.

Albeit far from faultless, a more basic A-Class is an attractive proposition if you're a small family with brand issues and a healthy double income.

But the A200T smacks of frustration and denial in a way seldom seen, apart from the ludicrously off-message Zafira VXR. And this one's half the size and almost as expensive.

To give it its due, the A200T looks pretty good. The new three-door A-Class is a slickly styled car, and with the benefit of a few tarty bits and pieces like AMG wheels and sports seats, it looks the part both inside and out.

On the move it is also entertainingly quick, if nothing more, and corners without the ponderous body roll you might expect from such a tall car, thanks to the inclusion of firmer suspension.

The problem for the A200T lies in the familiar dilemma of exactly what any A-Class offers you over a conventional hatch, complicated even further this time by the vague premise that this one's 'hot'.

The Ford Focus ST can be yours for £17,495, the as yet unbeaten Golf GTi for £19,995. Both practical and convincing hot hatches.

The A200T starts at £20,695. This isn't a huge leap up from the VW admittedly, but the Merc's dynamic and quality shortfalls are so pronounced that we'd have to section you before you considered one over the Golf.

Ultimately, the A-Class continues to exist in its own confident yet oddly inexplicable world, like a narcissistic D-list celebrity who keeps turning up uninvited to big media shindigs.

As a baby Merc, a mumsy little alternative to an unwieldy family car, it's fine. So be it. But the faintest whiff of performance at a price negates all of this.

Rich, angry, badge-loyal dads queue up here for a second car to your SLK that won't be totally humiliating when you have to share the driving on the bank-holiday slog to see the in-laws. Or snap out of it man, and get the Golf.

Matt Master

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