Car Test   R0225
  See also R0122 
March 2002
  Mercedes-Benz A-class
Printer Friendly Page Featured model A170 CDi LWB
SINCE THE ORIGINAL A-CLASS APPEARED, SMALL hatchbacks have been growing. They tend to be nearer four metres long these days and even rival Audi made its A2 longer than Mercís baby.
   Indeed, a new generation of (much cheaper) city cars, like the Vauxhall Agila and Hyundai Amica, were not much shorter-though in fairness, the A-Class has always had ample width.
   So the advent of a longer-wheelbase version is not only desirable, but really does resolve the originalís inability to satisfy some potential buyersí accommodation needs.
   The sliding two-piece back seats have been remounted farther back, so effective luggage space is the same as in the short-wheelbase version. (this has added 3cm to its length, in fact, due to minor frontal styling changes).
   However, the longer wheelbase results in a massive improvement to rear leg-stretching space, so in practice, itís no hardship to slide the seat forwards and release more luggage room.
   The only downside is that the high-set rear cushions (too high for really short passengers) arenít accompanied by low footwells (like the A2ís). This results in a less than ideal seating posture Ė and pedal operation, too.
   Weíve driven the more powerful petrol versions and found the acceleration good, but mechanical refinement doesnít match the 1.4ís. This diesel strikes a compromise and its strong low-speed response is remarkably free of any harshness, so one can confidently tackle a 30mph pull away in top slot. Of course, the three-cylinder A2 is significantly more frugal, but it canít match this Mercís low-speed manners Ė important in town or around the lanes.
   The longer wheelbase has some beneficial effects on the modelís behaviour over poorer roads, but (just like the A2) thereís still too much flouncing and steering nervousness to summon real enthusiasm. You can enjoy your driving more in other small hatchbacks at two-thirds of the price.
   Although itís worth a respectable 50% of its list price after three years, this adds up to £8000-odd, not to mention the interest on the capital. Compared with that, fuel savings are incidental.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
  • no inner door sills/low boot sill
  • interior spaciousness for length
  • light and easy seat adjusters
  • low window sills
  • seats heavy/awkward to remove
  • seats not very cosy or secure
  • door pillars can impede entry
  • poor heat regulation
This diesel version of the long-wheelbase A-Class is probably the most satisfying in the line-up. However, it's also expensive and despite a host of detailed improvements, this small Merc still lacks the composure and capacity to reward the "involved" driver. A pity, because in many ways its design points the way forward; its compactness suits congested roads, yet its interior space can cope with real-life families.

engine 1689cc, 4-cylinder, diesel; 95bhp at 4200rpm, 133lbft at 1600+rpm; chain-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 26.5mph/1000rpm in 5th, 21.1 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts, integral coil springs. Rear: independent trailing arms, coil springs   steering hydraulic power assistance; 3.7 turns lock-to-lock; 11.3m diameter turning circle between kerbs (19.7m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with electronic brake-assist, anti-lock and stability control standard   wheels/tyres 5Sin alloy with 195/50R15H tyres (optional 205/45R16H on test car). Full-size steel spare

size and type Supermini-sized (premium price) MPV, short and long wheelbase   trim levels Classic, Elegance, Avantgarde, Evolution
engines petrol: 4cylinder/1.4litre/82bhp, 4/1.6/102, 4/1.9/125, 4/2.1/140; diesel: 4/1.7/95   drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual;(5-speed stepped automatic or clutchless manual optional)

HOW THE A-CLASS LWB COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Mercedes-Benz A170CDi(LWB) 4/1689/95 2630 12.1 17.5/26.1 53/131 30/25 112 110/87 3.7/11.3 378
Audi A2 1.4TDi 3/1422/75 2680 13.2 15.1/21.9 60/116 41/25.5 111 102/72 2.9/10.5 383
Skoda Fabia 1.9TDi 4/1896/100 2360 10.3 13.5/20.1 55/132 27/24.5 109 100/72 2.8/10.3 396
Vauxhall Corsa 1.7TDi 4/1686/75 2850 12.7 16.3/22.8 57/127 14/24 106 95/70 2.9/10.3 382
Peugeot 206D Turbo 4/1997/90 2600 11.4 14.4/19.8 52/136 8/26.5 108 94/66 3.3/10.1 384
MB A140 standard w/base# 4/1397/82 3020 13.3 23.3/36.4 37/170 30/25 110 97/71 3.7/10.6 361
  # petrol version

MPV-style high seating but floor is higher, too - so you finish up sitting conventionally. Clear displays and good wiper sweep but screen pillars intrude. Minor rocker switches can confuse.
Electronics ensure A-class is stable in all conditions nowadays, but it doesn't make it an exhilarating drive. Steering isn't as "quick" as some and car can dither over poor surfaces. Larger turning circle on LWB version.
Semi-auto heater/aircon disappoints with cold feet too often! Seating and especially ride comfort still inferior to the best in class, but diesel is a relaxed motorway cruiser and really affable around town.

The diesel's greatest asset is its smooth, vibration-free step-off from as low as 1000rpm; it can be heard but never feels rough. Deft gears and clutch help to make it our favourite A-Class engine, despite slower in-gear times than A2.
  acceleration in seconds through gears 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 3.8 10.3 16.7
  30-50mph 4.6 8.3 13.2
  40-60mph 5.8 8.3 11.9
  50-70mph 7.5 9.2 12.9
  30-70mph 12.1 17.5 26.1
  max speed in each gear (+ using 4500rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st+      2nd+      3rd+      4th+      5th+
     speed (mph)      25      43      66      95      109

Not a remarkable result but many rivals aren't so easy-going. Good filler and excellent range; a low-cost taxation prospect, as well.
    AA test results (mpg)  
    worst (hard/urban) 36  
    best (gentle/rural) 66  
    overall mpg 53  
    realistic tank capacity 47litres  
    realistic tank range 550miles  
    official figures (mpg)
    urban 41.5
    extra urban 64.2
    combined 54.2
    CO2 emissions 139g/km
    car tax band B

Brake-assist now fitted but it still needs surprisingly firm pressure to attain its emergency-best. Good injury protection from "sandwich" floor construction; side airbags standard. Even rear belts have pretensioners
  Results for A140(SWB), 1999 model year
  from 50mph (with brake-assist/ABS)
front impact     69%
side impact     89%
overall     79%
overall safety rating    
pedestrian rating     not available
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     39m
sudden 30kg     25m best stop
+4kg 34kg     25m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

Long wheel-base makes A-class really spacious, with sliding back seat adaptable to make room for more luggage or bigger people - ideal. A proper (steel) spare beneath carpeted load cover beats Audi arrangement. Seat removal heavy going though.
  in centimetres (5-door hatch)
  length 378
  width - including mirrors 195
    - mirrors folded 180
  height(no roof bars) 159
  load sill height (inside/outside) 9/61
  turns lock-to-lock 3.7
  turning circle (metres) 11.3
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 89-112
    - headroom 94-101@
  rear - typical legroom 100-110*
    - typical kneeroom 77-87*
    - headroom 92
    - hiproom 129
  load area (all seats in use)
  boot volume (litres/cu ft) 332-278*/11.7-9.8*
  load length 63-53*
  load length to front seats 147
  load width 99-114
  load height (to shelf/top of aperture) 51 92
@ 90-97 with sunroof  * seat forwards-rearwards

As you would expect from this maker (and at this price) security is well contrived; hatchback styling makes luggage vulnerable from the interior, of course but an alarm is provided as standard.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)   
self-locking (static + drive off)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of"
NCSR - "theft from"
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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