First Drive: Mercedes-Benz A180 CDI SE
Sector: Lower medium Price: £18,945 Fuel: 74.3mpg CO2: 98g/km
There’s a certain sense of irony that, having finally injected youthful sportiness into the A-Class, Mercedes-Benz has journalists fighting to get behind the wheel of the small-wheeled, un-bodykitted SE with its 98g/km diesel engine.
The good news is, though, it’s a far better first rung on the Mercedes-Benz ladder than its equivalent predecessor, all without alienating owners of the outgoing car. A spokesperson said the old model had an audience split between those seeking its practicality and space, and buyers who saw it as an access point to three-pointed star ownership. B-Class has picked up some of the potential deserters in the first camp, while the 70,000 global orders for the new A-Class suggest the latter has hung on and been joined by a large influx of newcomers.
It’s a well-proportioned small car, the new A-Class, and while it’s not as clever in packaging as the capacious but diminutively sized first generation car the more conventional silhouette has allowed for a more appropriate model range. Depending what you want, this can be the fastest or the most frugal A-Class ever.
At the thrifty end of the range, the A-Class is home to the same 1.5-litre diesel found in a Renault Megane, which offers 109bhp and returns up to 74.3mpg while emitting 98g/km CO2. And it’s rather good, too. Quieter than the A220 CDI, the most powerful diesel, it’ll even give the A200 a run for its money on refinement.
Performance is on par with its sub-100g/km rivals – enough for motorway cruising and steep inclines, but a little blunt for keener drivers. SE models also get better ride quality than the already supple Sport and AMG Sport versions, thanks to the smaller wheels. With a short, positive gearchange, the surprise is that this really is a delight to use.
The only reason to overlook it altogether is car park vanity. The A180 CDI is available on all trim levels but if it’s double digit CO2 emissions you’re seeking then you’re confined to the plainer SE. Not a bad looking car, by any means, but a lot less striking inside and out than the snarling versions adorning Merc’s recent adverts.
The A180 CDI is a pleasant surprise in the new A-Class range. It’s a quiet, perky little engine which should, based on the Renault-Nissan models it’s also found in, return genuinely high fuel efficiency figures. The question is, can you resist the aggressive AMG styling for that extra economy?