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First Drive

Road Test: Mercedes-Benz A Class A140 Classic 5dr

Published: 24 Aug 2004
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M-B claims fuel consumption averages 10 per cent better than before, despite the extra power. The turbo petrol engine and the two top diesels come with a six-speed manual gearbox; the rest make do with five. Optional is the CVT system which Merc has decided to call Autotronic.

It's not just the new rear suspension and wider track that ought to help the road manners. The dampers have a special valve in them that allows the oil inside them to move freely as the car passes over small bumps, giving a pliant ride. But when the damper stroke is longer, the valves close, stiffening the damper so there's enough body control for good handling.

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The rear seats don't slide, but fold and tumble forward, and to make a long, flat floor the cushion of the 2/3 section can be hidden under the boot floor. An option pack allows the entire rear seats as well as the front passenger seat to be physically removed, turning the mini-Merc into what's basically a van with windows.

Mercedes sold 1.1 million of the first A-Class in seven years. Good going, especially given the elk-test scare that caused a redesign almost as soon as the thing hit the market. Merc will be hoping for a smoother launch this time. The car goes on sale on the Continent this Autumn, following here next Spring.

If the elk-induced rollover didn't dent the old car's image, the sight of them with missing hubcaps and orange easyCar stickers certainly did. That'll have to change too.

Mercedes is also looking for profit. The old one hardly made money, whereas this one, being bigger, will sell for more cash. If you want a truly baby Merc now, buy a Smart Forfour. But if you're after a bigger, more desirable A-Class then here it is. Merc must be hoping the original car has created 1.1 million people who are looking for just that.

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