The Mercedes A-Class wins a controlled suspension that finally offers her proper comfort. She is still struggling to justify its high prices. Sometimes it becomes increasingly difficult to judge the qualities of a new car. Firstly because the differences between the competing services are sometimes more tenuous. Also and especially because the huge variety of options for the same model can give rise to radically different variants of the same model. Take the Mercedes-Benz A-Class: it offers no less than ten engines (six petrol and four Diesel), five types of suspension (comfort, lowered comfort, sport, controlled damping and damping control AMG), the choice between traction and wheel drive, automatic transmission with double clutch and seven reports an alternative to the manual six reports. All this not to mention a choice of various dimensions of wheels that can affect comfort and grip. To the question: "What are we to make of the Mercedes Class A?", So it is impossible to give a single answer.
Launched in 2012, the third generation of Class A radically contrasted with its predecessor, leaving his silhouette minivan for a conventional compact template. With this repositioning, the brand with the star had to compete directly with BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 on the lucrative market and growing high-end compact. Looking back, Daimler can be proud of this choice: sales of Class A have never worn as well. Better: two out of three customers have never owned a model of the brand before. The W176 (the code name for this compact to the Star) is therefore a commercial success.
Commercial success does not necessarily mean technical success. Without revealing a really bad car, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class has always struggled to justify its high price and its standing by benefits above average. The polished finish of the furniture (choice of materials and assemblies), not eclipse the untrimmed door frames or drawing of the dashboard that has no continuity in the door trim. Number of commoners more models, starting with the Volkswagen Golf, appear neater. Soundproofed better too: sensitive aerodynamic noise from 110 km / h and pollution from wheel passages to denote this level range. Unfortunately, on this point, nothing has changed: the technical evolutions of this restyling is too limited for that.
Of course, it is the same habitability in the back, still limited. However, Class A has no excuse as its rival the BMW 1 Series a longitudinal engine that impinges on the interior. In short, we will always choose this Mercedes recognizable for its sporty look than for its refinement and its practical aspects. Moreover, the designers did not want to upset a still seductive style: there is new shields and internal design of the revised and corrected lights, which reduces the sight of full back. That's all it is little and that's enough, in terms of sales figures. Although there are some versions in bad taste confusing (like Motorsport Edition gray to pale green supposed to recall the details Formule 1 brand), the smallest Mercedes has lost none of her sex appeal.
So what are the real news of this restyling that would pass almost unnoticed? The most important concerns the arrival radius of the options (€ 1,250) a controlled damping suspension (with electronically controlled damping valves), adjustable in two modes: Sport and Comfort. With this contribution, the A-Class finally offers a good compromise between comfort and support fund. Both modes appear sufficiently differentiated to meet the driver's needs. Filtering convinces in comfort mode, despite a very slight tendency to pump over bumps. In sport mode, the maintenance fund is more firm, without appearing totally uncomfortable. Do not expect however that this setting transforms the A-Class into a fun car: very neutral, it offers good grip but lack of enthusiasm in the corners. Despite this stability, it tends to oscillate slightly on the rear axle heavy braking (certainly less than a Volvo V40).
Too bad, the direction has not been reviewed
Besides the unpleasant direction, which requires a response time and consistency changes, removes much fun on small road. In short, if the A-Class proves this creep with damper regulation, it still fails to reach the level of references are called Peugeot 308 or Ford Focus. The engineers present at the presentation of this Class have confirmed that the chassis "comfort" standard (not available in the trial but we had tested in the past) remains unchanged. In the basic version, the A-Class therefore admit his age: his perfectible compromise setting a certain firmness to give the illusion of sportiness. The settings of the chassis too dry sports have meanwhile been revised for comfort. We can not take action on this version, also unavailable for testing.
In addition to these new dampers controlled, we note the arrival of a new catalog entry A variant called 160. It uses the four-cylinder petrol 1.6 turbo, in a version with 102 hp deflated. Sufficiently torquey (180 Nm tr 1200-3500 / min), he showed a flair daily. Despite a modest specifications, the A 160 does not appear in any case under-motorized despite a very long staging of the manual transmission. Soft City (the engine again without flinching from 1000 rev / min), it has enough breath to consider long journeys, all with a still reasonable consumption of about 7.5 l / 100 km on our course mix city and highway. Moreover, at € 23,950 in Intuition entry-finish, this variant shows still affordable, though a little more expensive than a BMW 116i First, a little less well presented. Of course, the gap with a Peugeot 308 exceeds € 1,500, despite a much more stingy equipment: cruise control to the options catalog. Nevertheless, the A 160, homogeneous enough, is a good surprise.
A powerful Diesel but overpriced
We also took the wheel of a diesel version of the A 220-strong 177 hp and only available with the automatic transmission with double clutch. Despite a lack of responsiveness in comfort mode, this transmission proves quite well suited to this large diesel, which delivers gratifying performance. Unfortunately, this four-cylinder OM651, which equips the entire range at the star almost until the S-Class and Vito utility, gives too much voice during acceleration. Diesel versions entry, driven by the Renault 1.5 original (not available in the trial) appear much more discrete. Consumption is running at about 7 l / 100 km on mixed routes. Still, Mercedes has taken the big head regarding prices of this version, about € 2,000 more expensive than A3 (with AWD and not simple traction), € 4,000 more expensive than a BMW 220 d, € 5,000 more expensive than a Volvo V40 or a Peugeot 308 GT, the latter being far more richly endowed. Clearly, the benefits do not justify this difference, far from it.
Finally, we completed this overview of the range by Mercedes-AMG 4MATIC 45, the most sporty version. It saw its power increased to 381 hp (by the grace of a redesigned exhaust camshaft) for a silly question of pride: the star could not decently longer be satisfied with 360 hp so that Audi launched a strong RS3 367 hp ... With such cavalry, the 45 shades 0 to 100 km / h in 4.2 seconds. In practice, acceleration is detonating and impeccable traction due to wheel drive (which transfers torque to the rear when the front axle is overwhelmed) and the new limited slip differential optional front. Very German at heart, she is a solid stability in major high speed curves and on heavy braking. His times make it an absolute weapon for portions of unlimited Autobahn speed.
A 45 who does not like corners
On small winding road, that German blood is a little too far. Stable excess, 45 lack of agility to link turns. Return curve on the brakes will not move back. The throttle before the apex to expect a transfer of torque to the rear wheel drive does not reveal is more effective: it is difficult to get the car in curve without destabilizing strongly through joint action on brakes and steering wheel. His behavior is that of a pull. The Audi RS3 or Subaru WRX STi are less praying to register cornering.
On small road, engine resources are inexhaustible wonder. Its sound, hauntingly suggestive but less than a RS3 sometimes surprising. If the detonations to downshift and up-aggressiveness regime are clearly hear the four-cylinder becomes almost inaudible at half load around 4,500 r / min. That has something disconcerting when using the shift paddles: it was quick to believe, wrongly, that need to downgrade. This is disturbing but it does not harm efficiency.
Ultimately, this 45 seems a little too wise in his behavior to cause the thrill. It is considered as a very fast motorway than an actual sport. If the Subaru WRX STi, although less powerful, does not show more exciting, it has the merit incredibly effective whatever the terrain. We prefer a little more spending (€ 56,900 against € 55,100) for the RS3 charming five-cylinder ... or spend much less in a less powerful sporty compact at less prestigious emblem, but more lavish adrenaline. Here too, the A-Class seems to take a bit of a big head. If there is a common point between all versions, it is this one: the benefits of the self are not quite at the top but remain correct. But they are not really in line with its higher rate.