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New models - Mercedes-Benz - A-class

First drive: Showroom debut for Benz A-Class

Keen to be seen: Mercedes-Benz is likely to woo plenty of prospective Volkswagen Golf buyers tempted by the prospect of a three-pointed star for $35,600 plus on-roads.

Premium small car segment shake-up starts as Mercedes A-Class hits showrooms

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28 Feb 2013

MERCEDES-BENZ has already taken almost 1000 pre-orders for the A-Class in Australia, which officially goes on sale tomorrow priced from $35,600 plus on-road costs.

Not satisfied with merely shaking up the premium small car segment with sharp pricing and high standard equipment levels, Benz is offering a special servicing contract on the A-Class, which covers the first 50,000km of maintenance for $1383.

Despite entering a busy and growing segment with such an aggressively positioned product, Mercedes-Benz Australia managing director Horst Von Sanden said the A-Class will not outsell C-Class, which averaged around 560 sedan and wagon sales per month last year.

He said the company expects to sell at least 200 A-Classes per month this year, but that could grow next year when factory supply frees up.

Entry to the A-Class is not much more expensive than high-spec variants of mainstream small hatches like the Mazda3, Hyundai i30, Subaru Impreza and Ford Focus that all top out at around $32,000 (sports models notwithstanding).

In fact it is similar to the price asked for European products such as the Volkswagen Golf 103TDI Comfortline ($34,490) Peugeot 308 Allure ($34,490) and Citroen DS4 (from $35,990).

So it goes without saying that the A-Class – which comes standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle-shifters – undercuts major rivals the BMW 1 Series (from $37,400 as a manual), Audi A3 (from $40,500) and Lexus CT200h (from $39,990).

The new Volvo V40 weighs in slightly lower than the Benz at $34,990, but the entry D2 variant is manual only.

Despite the keen pricing, the A-Class will come generously equipped, with standard safety kit including nine airbags, a radar-based collision warning system, electronic driver fatigue detection and Pre-Safe, which prepares the car for maximum occupant protection if an inevitable collision is detected.

An ‘Audio 20’ infotainment and telematics system with 5.7-inch colour display, six-CD changer, USB and Bluetooth connectivity is standard across the range.

The entry-level A180 comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, self-parking, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, ambient lighting, illuminated sill plates, an electric parking brake and two-tone fabric and leather-like Artico upholstery.

It is externally identified by a body-coloured grille and power comes from a a turbocharged, direct-injection 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine developing 90kW of power and 200Nm of torque, with combined fuel consumption rated at 5.8 litres of 95 RON premium unleaded per 100km.

The $40,900 mid-spec A200 adds 18-inch two-tone alloys, twin exhausts, a chrome grille and a unique black or grey upholstery design to go with the leather steering wheel, sportier instruments, a self-dimming interior mirror and electric folding exterior mirrors.

A200 customers have a choice of 115kW/250Nm petrol or 100kW/300Nm diesel engines for the same money.

The petrol A200 – expected to be the long-term volume leader – uses a higher-output version of the A180 engine that is slightly thirstier at 6.1L/100km, while the 1.8-litre turbo-diesel version sips 4.6L/100km.

Topping the range until the madcap 265kW/450Nm A45 AMG arrives Down Under in September, priced at around $80,000, is the $49,900 A250 Sport hot hatch that will initially be the most popular variant here, with 50 per cent of pre-orders for this variant.

With the 2.0-litre turbo engine, suspension, transmission, front axle and exhaust subject to tweaks by the Affalterbach hot-shop plus outputs of 155kW and 350Nm, the A250 delivers genuine hot-hatch performance – with 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds and a 10kW overboost function.

What with all the AMG input, it is no surprise that the A250 resembles the A45, having gloss black five spoke 18-inch AMG alloy wheels, lowered AMG sports suspension, red brake callipers, an AMG bodykit with red highlights, a perforated ‘diamond’ grille design, bi-Xenon headlights, a panoramic glass sunroof and rear privacy glass.

AMG put in 10,000km of testing at the Nurburgring to tune the A250’s handling.

The interior is furnished with Artico-upholstered sports seats, carbon-look trim, red air vent trims, an AMG steering wheel, sports pedals and red seatbelts.

All A-Class variants except the A250 come with run-flat tyres and no spare.

An already popular option is the $1190 satellite-navigation system that can be retrofitted into the glovebox, integrates with the standard audio system and can receive map or software updates via the internet.

The AMG styling and suspension pack costs $1990 on the A180 or $1490 on the A200 and a driver assistance technology pack bundles adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance for $2990, with a leather steering wheel thrown in for A180 customers.

A combined sat-nav and Comand APS infotainment system upgrade is $2990 and includes premium Harman Kardon audio and DAB+ digital radio.

The ‘night’ styling pack with two-tone 18-inch alloys, rear privacy glass, black door mirror housings and black radiator and window trims is $990 on A180 or $490 on A200.

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