UK Car Road Test

Mercedes A-class 2002

 Movie Clips of this Car

Exterior Movie Interior Movie

 


 

Ah the rather un-lovely and un-loved A-class, Mercedes invented the motor car, and now they seem intent on re-inventing it.

They currently have two models of peoples car for the 21st Century, the wild and wacky SMART car that they will not even give their name to and this slightly more sensible piece of politically correct motoring design, the A-Class. 

It is a strange looking old thing, all odd angles and alien shapes, and whilst the SMART has a certain chic charm, the A class for me does not get the styling quite right. Mercedes seem to have tried to create an Iconic small car, but then been unwilling to do the right thing and build a cheeky face onto its ugly body.  Ugly cars can sell and sell in droves if they hit the right niche, (Beetle 2 CV) and small compromised cars also sell if they can carry some decent looks (MINI) But the A class just does not hit the right buttons. It has not got a smiling cheeky face, more a sort of scowling cross look. And as for that rear end treatment , come on guys it looks like its been smacked up the rear by a bus and distorted into shape.

Internally its not too bad sort of  cross car come mini MPV. The fittings and Fixtures are not what you expect of a Mercedes but then this is supposed to be low end cheap and cheerful. Sure its better than your average small Fiat, but only just and lack a little space age sparkle.

It does not strike you as a fun car, inside or out which is a shame, as lots of people find the Smart a fun looking attractive package. By comparison the A class looks staid and middle aged, perhaps a Beige interior would be better suited.

Now I know what you are going to say, its supposed to be cheap, cost cutting, frugal and that would be fine if the A class was not so horrendously expensive to buy. Frankly these are not cheap when new and when you look at the small cars that exist in its price range, it is competing with some well kitted and high specced little motors.

If it was a Fiat or Ford and  33% cheaper I would say it was a good effort, but at the new price its really a bit of rip off.  

Just as a contrast though I looked at a silver version and boy does that look different, all modern and space 1999, I guess this car is very colour sensitive so buy carefully.  

 

Is it well specified for its size or rather Spartan for its cost, I know what I think. There is no doubting the cleverness and righteousness of the basic design as a small family car for our modern car unfriendly times. But I think buyers are just not quite ready for Mercedes vision of our motoring future.

Plastics not exactly S class standard.

Comfort Features
Cloth Trim
Cloth Trim
Cup holders
Cup holders
Front Door Bins
Front Door Bins
Head Rests (front & rear)
Head Rests (front & rear)
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Pollen Filter
Pollen Filter
Remote Petrol Cap Release
Remote Petrol Cap Release
Split rear seats
Split rear seats
Time Clock
Time Clock
General Features
Digital Odometer
Digital Odometer
Heated Rear Window
Heated Rear Window
Rear Wash Wipe
Rear Wash Wipe
Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows
Luxury Features
Cigarette Lighter
Cigarette Lighter
Electric Mirrors
Electric Mirrors
Electric Windows front
Electric Windows front
Electro Chromatic Rear View mirror
Electro Chromatic Rear View mirror
Heated Mirrors
Heated Mirrors
Radio Cassette
Radio Cassette
Trip Computer
Trip Computer

  

The twelve valve diesel is nothing to get excited about in any dynamic terms other than its parsimonious frugality. Its a noisy fairly gutless little thing, though I guess maximum thrilling urge was hardly in its design parameters.

There is not enough power to get you into difficulty and the chassis is well up to the little expected of it.

In theory the 1700 Turbo unit puts out a respectable 94bhp  but it rarely feels like it. It will run on to a respectable  112mph hitting sixty in a relaxing 12.1 seconds. 

Its redlined or should that be dotted around 4500 revs, to its dead stop at 5000, but you would have to have no mechanical sympathy at all to suffer stretching it that far.

The engine is a little disappointing as the 2.2CDi in much bigger E-class cars is such a good unit, and I was expecting more of the same only perhaps a little sweeter with less piston and rod to shift about.

The A class  may look small but its actually quite weighty which blunts some of its performance.

Sensibly located gearstick

Tacho somewhat surplus to requirements

The gear box and clutch are fairly slick, enabling you to extract the maximum out of the engines minimum urge, and once on the move it cruises the motorways fairly comfortably which was a bonus in this size bracket of Motorcar.

If there is a place where a small car can make up for all its other problems its in the ride and handling department. After slouching around  in big cars , its nice to get in a little thing and chuck it around.

Traction control would seem like overkill on a car with this level of power, but  as early A-class cars seemed to have a problem steering around wild animals perhaps its best that it is in place. But whether that solves the basic problem is questionable. 

Its short and narrow and yes that's fine for a small car. But it is very tall and as all sport car designers know tall does not good handling make.

The steering is light and easy but somewhat devoid of feedback in the corners, though as mentioned before it is stable at speed.

Alloys would have been nice at nigh on 15k

Steer/Susp/Tech Features
Automatic Stability Control
Automatic Stability Control
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Halogen Head Lights
Halogen Head Lights
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rear Spoiler
Rear Spoiler
Rev Counter
Rev Counter
Service Level Indicator
Service Level Indicator
Traction Control
Traction Control
Wheel Covers

 The ride quality is what I would question most though, it really does seem quite harsh and prone to vertical pitching, small or not it does not fit the essence of the badge which leads you to expect a somewhat more cosseted journey.

 

Safety is a big issue for this little car, its possible the safest for its weight and size ( though not its cost) Four stars in the Euro NCAP is a good result for a car of its size.

Novelty headrest stowage

Three head rest rear, safe but slightly overkill

 

Safety/Security Features
Alarm
Alarm
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Child Locks
Child Locks
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Side Air Bags
Front Side Air Bags
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Remote Central Locking
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

Top marks for safety,  and security is pretty well catered for too right down to visible Id numbers. Locking wheel nuts would be nice, but hey who would pinch those ugly things.

 

 

Slanty eyed scowling front

Clever wiper location clears lots of the big screen

As a shopper come, school run, come general run about  the A-class is a decent well conceived package if rather dynamically lacking for any one who expects to get any pleasure out of their motoring.

It squeezes five in easily enough, and the boot is actually fair, as long as all five do not bring much luggage.

If you want a car backed by a reputation for build quality and reliability, with excellent economy,  then the A class will do that fine. 

You even get cheap insurance, probably the cheapest you will ever find under a Mercedes badge.

But if you want a Mercedes to be smug about  then  the A class is really stretching the boundaries of imagination a little. Only the badge is any relation to its highly esteemed brethren, and its as much as a travesty of badge engineering as the MG Maestro, Seat system Porsche, or the Proton Lotus thingy.

For me though I just can not balance its eco values and running costs against the purchase price. And judging by the A class's relative rarity in the car park few other drivers can either.

Surely a misuse of the word classic

CDI means minimal visits to the Fuel Pump.

Strange FIAT PANDA like seats

Decent boot

 

The bottom line,  excellent fuel economy,
an ever more important factor of our future.

68.5mpg at the cruise is not to be sniffed at.

The A class shows its best side
Well its front actually, to be precise.

 


 

Sample data Click here to access specifications for over 30,000 UK cars. 

Car information and car pictures.

Many more used car road tests. 

 

For all Mercedes cars specifications and data from:
www.ukcar.com click here.

UK Car Road Test Mercedes A-class 2002

UK Car Road Test Keywords: Diesel HatchbackA-class