Proceeds from sale of seized cars will go to the country’s poorest people
You are here
£29,390 when new
What’s this? The facelifted Mercedes A-Class. The new face-warping 376bhp A45 AMG will grab the headlines, but it’s cars like this mid-range diesel, the A220d, that’ll do the heavy lifting so far as big sales are concerned. I thought all Merc diesels were called ‘CDI’ or ‘Bluetec’? They were, once upon a time, but in an effort to ditch silly jargon (and save a fortune on badging costs), Mercedes now denotes an oil-burner with a simple ‘d’ badge. Hurrah, badge rationality at last! So it’s got 220bhp, right?
Erm, no. The numerical badging is still more about ‘range hierarchy’, according to Benz’s experts. This A220d uses a 2.1-litre turbodiesel, which has gained an extra 7bhp for the facelift model. It’s now good for 175bhp, and a more important 258lb ft from 1400 to 3400rpm. It’s basically a Golf GTD rival, without much of the hot-hatch pretentions. But what if I want hot-hatch pretensions? Then Mercedes will sell you a ‘Motorsport’ Edition pack, which pinches wings and wheels from the AMG model, decked out in the green/grey Petronas colour scheme of Lewis Hamilton’s title-winning Mercedes F1 racer. So, if you want up to 70mpg and 104g/km while feeling Hashtag Blessed, there’s your car. #swag. Is the A220d any good to drive? Pretty good, if not exactly night and day different to the old car. The gearbox has necked some Lucozade and is now less lethargic when you want to drop a few cogs and ping past a line of traffic, and the diesel engine’s much more refined than in some of its earlier applications (rattly CLA, anyone?) too. Safety understeer is the order of the day if you get a bit brutal with the new, C-Class-borrowed steering wheel, but it’s all reassuringly composed. What about the ride? Our test car had adaptive suspension, as part of the new Dynamic Select ability that cycles through Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual modes via an unassuming button next to the heated seat toggle. You know the score – heavier steering, angrier gearbox mapping, more acute throttle response and even a less aggressive, fuel-saving air-con mode. Lots to fiddle with between meetings and team-building days. Frankly, we’ve no idea why you’d ever take it out of Comfort mode, as Sport and Eco just make the powertrain feel out of sorts, in polar opposite manners. The more pressing issue is – as with the A45 – that the parameters between the suspension modes are too narrow. ‘Comfort’ isn’t as cosseting as a VW Golf, but ‘Sport’ only moderately dials out body roll. Nice idea, but pretty futile in a company car warrior.
Anything else I should know? Mercedes has come over all generous and upped the standard toy count. All A-Classes now get a bigger, clearer ‘floating’ screen, reversing camera, leather-effect seats with hidden storage drawers underneath, and upgraded drowsiness sensors that work between 37 and 124mph. It’ll also autonomously brake to lessen impending impacts now, so insurance costs should drop a little. All that little lot is worth about £1,100 in options list terms, but Merc has jacked the price up by a sporting £300. So, lots more stuff to play with, and it’s only a bit more expensive. Prices kick off at £21,065, so this is still very much the premium proposition, one rung above a Golf. The cocooning, special-feeling cabin helps swallow that fact, but the switchgear quality is more variable than an Audi A3’s, and no facelift can do away with the A-Class’s pinched rear seats, small boot opening and poor visibility. None of which has hurt the A-Class’s sales so far, has it? Quite right. Two-thirds of A-Class buyers are switching into a Mercedes from a rival brand, so they’re clearly not fussed about heater knobs made from old bottle tops and less glass area than a submarine. They’ll like this one even more.
£22,790 – £35,980
BMW 1 Series review: Brilliant engines, rewarding dynamics. BMW takes the 1 Series to the next level.
£22,500 – £39,380
The latest version of the car that defined the premium hatch sector stays classy
£18,100 – £31,085
Ford Focus review: success in a hatch isn't just about the drive. The Focus has the rest of the bases well covered too.
£18,325 – £33,785
It’s the car that Top Gear staffers tend to recommend when asked ‘what should I buy?’ more often than anything else.