By Patrick James on 2011-05-01 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
MERCEDES' big baby, the A-Class, has a few advantages over its competitors.
First launched in 1997, this small car allowed owners to parade the iconic three-pronged star on their driveway while paying not a huge amount for a prestige marque.
The kudos of having a Merc means a lot to potential owners and the German giant has milked this cleverly, with a cleverly designed, economicl mini-MPV that is as good as anything in its class.
With a starting price of around £16,000 it needs to be, because the opposition is good.
But the Merc offers a fine choice of engines and excellent economy across the range thanks to their BlueEFFICIENCY package which incorporates stop/go technology and increases fuel consumption by nine per cent.
The car is also well equipped, even at entry level, and offers high levels of safety kit.
It is a good looking car with the trademark star, distinctive grille and eliptical headlamps giving it typical Mercedes look.
It stands high off the ground in MPV style, which means driver and passenger have plenty of head and legroom while the deep windows allow excellent all round vision and allows plenty of light into the cabin.
While it looks high off the ground, the distinctive seven-spoke alloys give it a sleek profile and at the rear the wrap-around light clusters which extend well into the vehicle flanks to make the vehicle appear wider.
The interior generally features typical Mercedes quality and attention to detail with soft touch trim. It features fully adjustable leather seats and brushed aluminium and wood trim and neat chrome strips throughout.
For added practicality it has a large stowage compartment in the centre console and cupholder between the front seats. It has a large boot area of 435 litres while the the rear seats split and fold to create a huge, for the size of car, 1,195-litre cargo area.
Powered by an efficient lean burning 1.6-litre petrol engine, the Blue EFFICIENCY package also includes low rolling resistance tyres, enhanced aerodynamics and claimed economy is around 48mpg - pretty good for a large petrol engine.
It is also very refined with barely a whisper under hard acceleration while the ride and handling are surprisingly good for such a tall car.
It feels well planted on bends, but overdo it and the numerous safety features, including stability programme, kick in.
The Avantgarde SE is the range-topper in terms of equipment and will cost the thick end of £18,000, but it has masses of standard kit which includes the usual range of electric aids, auto dimming rear mirror, hill start assist, multi-function steering wheel, rain sensing wipers and automatic headlamp activation, to name but a few.
For safety, there are driver passenger, head and thorax side airbags, active head restraints, ABS and Isofix child seat fixing points.
: 3yrs/ unlimited miles
Mercedes A160 BlueEFFICIENTY Avantgarde SE
Price: £ 17,690
Mechanical: 95bhp, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 12.6 seconds
Combined MPG: 47.1
Insurance Group: 11
C02 emissions: 143g/km
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