Mercedes-Benz A-Class A200 CDI AMG Sport 5dr
Mercedes caused quite a stir when they launched the new A-Class - the ugly, small family MPV looks of the old car were ditched in favour of a more mainstream family hatchback appearance. Alongside the latest generation VW Golf and BMW 1-Series, it looks the part, with more style than either combined.
But looks aren't everything. To be a good family hatchback in this premium space, the A-Class needs to merge an excellent drive with practicality, quality across the board, and low running costs.
So what has it been able to achieve?
Practicality? No - it has a smaller boot at 340-litres than a Golf, A3, or Leon, which all have 380-litre boots.
Running costs? No - the A200 CDI will return just 62.8 mpg versus the 68.9 mpg of the Seat Leon 2.0 TDI FR 5dr.
Tax? No - with a CO2 rating of 121 g /km, the A-Class costs £105 in annual tax versus the £20 annual tax of the Leon, thanks to its CO2 rating of 106 g/km.
Power? No - the A-Class A200 CDI produces just 134 bhp and 199 lb /ft versus the 148 bhp and 236 lb /ft of the Leon.
So the A-Class is not as practical, economical, cheap to run, or as powerful as an equivalent Leon. So why on earth does it cost more?
Seeking as answer to this question, I started with what I could see - quality. Inside, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is very sporty indeed. It has sports seats that hug you, a gorgeous steering wheel, race-inspired dials, and a carbon fibre effect on the front dash. The quality of the interior is great, that is, until you start to touch the door cards, centre console, glove box, or underneath the foot wells, where hard plastics have been used to save money during production.
All of this adds up to create an interior which, in my opinion, is only as good as a Leon FR's.
So what about equipment?
Both the Mercedes-Benz A-Class A200 CDI AMG Sport 5dr and Seat Leon 2.0 TDI FR 5dr have climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, and automatic wipers. But optional equipment on the A-Class, such as satellite navigation, power folding mirrors, and front and rear parking sensors all come as standard on the Leon FR. Seat are even offering full LED lights at the moment for free.
So does the A-Class have anything going for it?
Looks, and that's it. It looks much nicer than the Leon and it also has a more appealing badge. But I have never come across two cars in the same segment which share the same quality, where one is much better than the other at everything yet the worse machine costs so much more. The A-Class just doesn't make sense.