“A is for Attack”, these were the proud words used by Martin Zimmerman, the CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa. Together with his team, who were all like proud parents as they unveiled the very different 3rd generation A-Class, at the local launch in Cape Town last week.
The morning after, what was an entertaining prelaunch dinner with singing sensation Toya Delazy and the MB gang, we were introduced to the creator of the car, Mark Fetherston. A Brit by accent with compact proportions and an enthusiasm that comes only from true passion. Mark mustn’t be older than his mid-thirties, which would indicate his design prowess; he is in fact the Lead Exterior Design for Mercedes-Benz.
The new generation A-Class, described as an ‘A-revolution!’ is nothing short of that payoff line. Mark explained how nature: Sharks, landscapes and movement in sand-dunes were his muse when penning the sculptural silhouette of the car. The A-Class features a wide grill with centred Mercedes-Benz Star; the headlights have been stretched to the furthest corners of the car to create a notably dramatic look. The convex and concave flaring on the doors have been taken from the concept car, which mimics sand-dunes; these shapes have been manufactured in maximum proportions where possible on the production car. The rear of the car carries the broad shoulder line with a low slung centre of gravity. All these dynamic design details create a look that is solid, aggressive and ultimately a design masterpiece.
The new A-Class is visually outstanding and arguably the most attractive executive hatch in its class. The interior follows suit with a vast array of trim, colour and detail finishes, all of which makes each owner, the creator of his/her unique A-Class. Through the car is well spec’ed, there is a list of options as long as Heidi Klum’s legs, all of which cost as much as her divorce settlement. Nice options to have are large sized mag wheels, the auto gearbox and a panoramic sunroof. One design element that functions well but looks less fluid is the multifunctional on-board computer screen that looks like a tablet stuck onto the dashboard. Mercedes-Benz is synonymous with safety, whether it be a flagship S-Class limo or the compact A-Class. Close the door, fasten your safety belt and feel it electronically pull you closer to the firm yet comforting seat. This is a great selling point, one which every potential customer should feel to experience. All A-Class‘s come standard with the radar-based COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST system, ATTENTION ASSIST and PRE-SAFE. These safety features leave the driver with an overall feeling of sitting comfortably safe.
The new A-Class comes in a variety of engine variation, after sampling most of them, I have to say they are all pretty good. I felt the pick of the bunch after a fare amount of unanimous debate is the A220 CDI (diesel), followed by the A200 (petrol). Both offered a very well suited power (125kW/115kW) to economy (4.3 litres/100 km and 5.4 litres/100 km) ratios for day-to-day driving, they were comfortable to drive and felt brisk in most acceleration situations. The range toping A250 (155kw) sport is reserved for a 'boy-racer', the AMG tuned suspension is go-cart stiff and though it improves the cars handling, it makes for a bone chattering experience that takes away from what is a very refined ride in the standard suspension set-up. The optional 7G-DCT automatic dual clutch transmission is fantastic, it slices through gears faster than a ninja-star through room temperature butter. It makes every day driving a pleasure and is beautifully mated with all the engines available. I didn’t get to drive the standard 6-speed transmission but hear it’s a goodie too. The A-Class has some stiff competition in the VW Golf 7, Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Volvo V40. All these cars are accomplished players some better in some respects but none offer the same design sensation as the A-Class. People love cars because of the way they stimulate the senses, the A-Class does this better then it competitors and for this reason believe that more drivers will be getting behind the wheel of an A-Class than ever before.
The A-Class comes standard with a high level of equipment, safety comes first. This car has been very well thought out, it’s German after all. Mercedes-Benz now also offers as standard with all their cars, a 6-year 100 000 Km maintenance plan. Gone is the top-up service plan of the past where customers had to pay in a percentage of the service fee as the miles piled on the clock. You can now travel hassle free and enjoy the car.
Priced from around R 270 to R395 000, the A-Class is well priced for what you get. One needs to consider that though this class of car is compact, it comes packed with features and abilities of larger cars in higher price brackets. The attack is on, may the best German or Swede win! In my opinion the A-Class has already won the looks category.
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