First Drive

2016 Mercedes-Benz A-Class A200 d review

After a light refresh last year, is this Mercedes-Benz A200 d ready to challenge the class best? We drive it on UK roads for the first time to find out

Words ByJohn Howell

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This is the facelifted Mercedes A-Class, although you might not recognise it if you don’t know where to look. The subtle styling upgrades start at the front, with a diamond-effect grille and redesigned bumper, and continue at the rear with new tail-lights and exhausts which are now integrated into the rear bumper.

Of more practical use are the redesigned front seats that offer additional support and the option of Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. This allows you to connect your smartphone to the infotainment system, which now has an 8.0in screen as standard if you go for Sport trim or above.

A Dynamic Select button on the dashboard allows you to change the engine, steering and climate control settings to prioritise economy, comfort or sportiness. This new feature also changes the gearbox settings if you have the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, as fitted here, as well as the optional adaptive suspension that can be ordered on the top AMG-Line trim.

Historically the A-Class hasn’t been as recommendable as rivals such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, but have the upgrades changed all that?

What’s the 2016 Mercedes-Benz A200 d like to drive?

As our car was in Sport trim, it didn’t feature the new adaptive damping option, and, as a result, felt largely similar to the previous pre-facelift models we've driven.

Unfortunately, this means that over rippled surfaces the A200 d still fidgets about, while over deep ruts or sharp ridges it thuds quite heavily. The body could be better controlled over dips and crests because it takes longer to settle than the better-damped A3 or 1 Series.

The handling is good but unexciting. There’s plenty of grip and not too much body lean and the steering is pretty direct but feels rather numb. Switching it to the Sport setting doesn’t really improve the situation, merely adding some unnecessary steering weight.

This 2.1-litre diesel delivers decent pace, although without ever feeling outright quick. It picks up well from around 1500rpm and continues with plenty of shove in the mid-range, so keeping up with traffic isn’t an issue. What is a problem is its grumbly, rattling timbre. It is particularly noisy from cold, but even when up to temperature it remains coarse, especially when revved out.

The occasionally jerky automatic gearbox doesn’t help the refinement either, and neither does the wind and tyre noise you hear at motorway speeds. The gearbox can also be frustratingly slow to respond at times, even in its more responsive Sport setting.

What’s the 2016 Mercedes-Benz A200 d like inside?

The A-Class has always been nicely finished inside, and that sense of quality continues in 2016. The materials look smart and everything feels well constructed, plus our car featured the new attractive ambient lighting system that comes as part of the (Β£1695) Premium Package.

If that seems expensive, bear in mind that it also includes front and rear parking sensors, power folding door mirrors, heated seats, LED headlights and a Garmin-based sat-nav.

Those redesigned front seats are comfortable and enhance the already fine driving position, plus there is enough space in the front for tall adults. However, the rear seats continue to be less roomy than those of either an A3 or a 1 Series. Space is poor for anyone above average height, added to which, the angled rear windows create a sense of claustrophobia.

The A-Class's boot also remains smaller than those of its rivals and features a narrow aperture, although aside from those setbacks, it is, at least, a good square shape.

Should I buy one?

If you look at what you get for your money, initially the A200 d Sport we tested looks good value. It's marginally cheaper than an Audi A3 in Sport Nav trim and considerably cheaper than a 120d Sport. It also gets additional features such as a reversing camera and (man-made) leather seats.

However, after paying extra for arguably more useful equipment such as sat-nav and a DAB radio in the A-Class (both features that come as standard in the Audi and BMW rivals), it begins to look like less of a bargain. Because both the Audi and BMW also continue to be better to drive and more practical, while the A3 is just as economical and efficient, we'd still recommend either over an A-Class in this particular specification.

What Car? says...

The rivals:

Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI 150 Sport

BMW 120d Sport 5dr

Mercedes-Benz A200 d Sport 7G-DCT 7-speed automatic Engine size 2.1-litre diesel Price from Β£25,660 Power 134bhp Torque 221lb ft 0-62mph 8.8 seconds Top speed 130mph Fuel economy 74.3mpg CO2 103g/km