I Like the Way you Merc it!
No diggity! Buckle up, we're taking the A-class Premium Plus, Mercedes’ uber-sporty hatch, for a spin.
Want a car that’s a doddle to drive? You got it! I road-tested the A200d AMG Line Premium Plus – a sporty-looking automatic hatch in classy Mountain Grey and it’s a total dream. Just point it in the direction you want to go, press the start button and you’re off. To park, tap the button on the end of the gearstick and it puts on the handbrake. Want to crank up the heating? Say, “Hey Mercedes. I’m feeling cold” and the car will do for it you.
It’s a total no-brainer which is great because your brain’s got a zillion other things to do when you’re driving, right? (As well as watching the road, of course.) But for most of us, driving time is time to plan, mentally write your to-do lists, and in this case, work out how I’m going to tell my hubby I’m buying a new car.
While him indoors might need a leeetle persuasion, it wouldn’t take much to persuade the teens in the family, they loved it. Most ‘cool’ things I do are met with the same eye-roll, even when I manage to pronounce Billy Eilish (not eyelash, obvs) but this hatch is a total teen-pleaser, thanks to the ambient cockpit lighting, voice-activated heated seats, covetable logo, legroom in the back, and a very happy mumma.
Sporty, compact, classy, assertive and very sexy. The AMG in the name (as I’m sure you know) is the high-performance, racing division of Mercedes-Benz, meaning you get the the DNA of their Silver Arrows Formula One team in its racy body-styling. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but this is a small car with a big interior and plenty of road presence. So, it’s great for teeny parking spaces, nipping through town traffic, and skimming through those Devon lanes and yet, there’s also loads of leg room front and back, and you don’t get that boxed-in feel of a small car.
The interior felt quality, thanks to manmade leather seats (so quick to clean off the kids’ Cheesy Wotsits), the digital dash and the lit-up words Mercedes Benz on the floor when you get in after dark. Sit in the driver seat and that small steering wheel looks and feels super-sporty, as do the high head-rests, and the rally-car red stitching front and back.
The interior lighting was the best I’ve come across – a massive 64 choices, including Sun Yellow, Jungle Green, Glacier Blue and colour mixes in moody blues and mauves. Simply pick to suit your mood. It makes for a good-looking cabin and, depending on the shade, a warmer night-time ride and for those silly o’clock morning drops to the train station.
The boot, while it wouldn’t take a family-full of cases heading to Gatwick, would easily swallow four or five flight bags, and my weekly supermarket shop of five full-to-bursting bags for life was no problem.
The 10-inch touchscreen cockpit display runs the MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) which responds to your voice. Wake it up with the words ‘Hey Mercedes’ and it will do your bidding. I asked it lots of silly questions with varying results – it accurately replied to “What’s the weather like in Exeter?’, “Turn on the heated seats” and ‘Play Radio One’, but when I asked it to “phone dad” it drew a blank (the same happened with Brad Pitt, sadly). Interestingly though, it asked what dad’s name was and then sieved through my contacts to find the name, and made the connection for the future so you can teach it new tricks. You can also ask it where the nearest filling station is – and it gives you an on-screen list. If you prefer you can use the central touch pad instead which has a hand-rest and a responsive feel, having the same vibrating haptic feedback as a smart-phone. I’ve heard it doesn’t always get strong regional accents, but as mine is fairly standard, no problems to report there.
You can personalise the lot so it knows your preferred radio station, and you can programme it with your own profile, so even if your partner is forever adjusting the seat position – the car can just put it back to your preferred setting – though it won’t take his coffee cup out of the door and clean it. One for the next upgrade, please Mercedes? There’s also a two-zone climate control to prevent any rows about whether it’s too hot or too cold in the cabin.
You’ll love the satnav – you can voice activate it and it gives you a choice which you set by hand and everything is shown in 3-D, switching to camera view when you have to do a manoeuvre.
Even if you’re a total gadget phobe, you will probably appreciate the collision and blind spot assistance. In traffic, the car is constantly monitoring the distance between you and the car in front and beeps at you if it’s worried about your braking distance. Likewise, it does the same should you indicate to pull out on the motorway when there’s a car you’ve not spotted coming up in your blind spot.
Look at the seat control on the door handle, shaped like the seat you just press the part you want to adjust in the direction you want it to go. Love it!
Apparently the future sees all Mecedes ‘talking’ to each other so if one spots a free parking space, it will automatically update everyone else. Pretty cool, huh?
Really versatile and good for Devon I’d say, as it was sleek in our ubiquitous windy lanes, quick at overtaking when you needed some oomph and pacy on the motorway. It’s not so small as to be overlooked by bigger cars, but compact enough to fit into tight spaces when I was nipping to the shops.
I’m used to driving an Audi and I’ve had a BMW, both bigger estate family cars so I was expecting to be disappointed by the space inside but I was really impressed by how roomy it was. The legroom at the front was palatial – better than my estate (and I loved the ambient night lighting on the pedal). If you’ve got littlies to plug in to car seats, there is room for two (with an easy isoflex attachment system) and a smaller central seat, plus excellent leg-room so no complaints from the back for a change.
I was also very taken with the SOS button above my head which means if you’re out of reception or have run out of phone charge, you can just press the button and a Mercedes technician is on the line and will come out to you, even if it’s just to come and replace the wheel. So, no more RAC or AA charges.
THE TECHY BITS
Technology you say? *Stifles yawn.* Pay attention folks, tech just got more interesting.
Comes with: The Premium Plus has loads of extra features as standard, including heated seats, memory seats, ambient lighting, keyless entry so no more fishing around in the bottom of your handbag for your keys – if you’ve got them on you, just grab the door handle and it opens like magic. Plus a sunroof, reversing camera, leather interior, tinted privacy windows in the rear and 18in alloy 5-spoked wheels. All the A-class have Mercedes-me connect, active lane keeping assist, active brake assist as well as speed limit assist to help you avoid those speeding tickets.
Emissions: it’s a diesel so definitely not for the extinction rebel, achieving 35.8 – 61.5 mpg. You can control the guzzle by switching between three settings: Comfort, Sport and Eco which will increase or decrease your fuel consumption by a good 10 miles per gallon in either direction. The eco-conscious would be better off checking out Mercedes’ electric and hybrid range instead. (A hybrid version is due to be released in Spring 2020 – the A250e.)
Pay more for: If you hate parallel parking go for the parking assistance package and let the car do the hard work for you (and without scratching those alloys). It’s included in the Executive Package, which costs £1,500 and comes with electric folding mirrors and auto-dimming side mirror and rear view mirror, Smartphone Integration including Apple Car Play and Android Auto for your toons and wireless charging.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: alpha females; professionals and mums on the run; ladies who lunch; smaller families and couples; there’s space for Fido in the boot; anyone who’s looking for a quality upmarket hatch with built-in space, luxury extras and a classy, quality feel.
Not for: erm, struggling here, except for the obvious – big families. I mean, it’s a hatch so it’s not going to fit three strapping teens in the back without a struggle.
The damage: The entry level price for a Mercedes A-class Premium Plus is £27,110 or if you want to spread the cost – from £430 per month with a £3,869 deposit. Ooh, and check out their tempting current offer – £299 per month with a £2,999 upfront cost for the A180 Sport Executive model.
Fancy a test drive? Check if you agree with me! Pop in to see the guys at Mercedes Benz South West at Marsh Barton in Exeter (they’ve got showrooms at Taunton, Truro and Plymouth too but Exeter is their HQ). They’ve got three decades of experience with awards to show for it (they’ve just been awarded Best Companies One to Watch status for 2020, recognising good levels of employee engagement), and an uber-stylish showroom. Also, half the sales executives are women who know how to talk your language when you’re working out the right car for you.
Mercedes Benz South West, Matford Park Road, Exeter EX2 8FD Tel: 01392 339 278