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Mercedes-Benz A200

Broadcast date : 25th February 2007

When the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was launched in the late 1990ís, the Mini MPV segment wasnít even invented. So in a way the Mini Merc created a whole new segment, although some still feel itís more of a hatch-back, size-wise.

The A Class comes in three variants, starting with a 1,7 petrol model at well under R200 000, a diesel model in the middle, and this top-of-the-line petrol two-litre people-mover.

With the rear seats upright thereís a fairly small boot, less than 250 litres in capacity, but this expands to over 1100 with the seats flat, taking advantage of the Mini Mercís van-like profile.

When the A-Class made its South African debut in 2000, it was criticised for rather iffish cabin fitments and other trim bits and pieces, as well as its very utilitarian styling.

The second-generation is more of the same in a conceptual sense, but Mercedes-Benz has made a huge effort to upgrade trim to traditional Merc levels, and this shows, both inside and outside the vehicle.

Structurally, the unique aspect to the A-Class is its double sandwich body construction, which houses some of the mechanicals beneath the floor pan. Itís designed to deflect the engine downwards beneath the cabin, in the event of a front-end crash.

The two-litre engine used in the A-Class is typically middling Merc fare Ė 100 kilowatts and 185 Newton metres are produced with a rather un-charismatic delivery that borders on being harsh.

Nevertheless itís also typically Merc in that it has a good torque spread, and its well-chosen ratios enable brisk acceleration through the gears.

The handling remains rather top-heavy in feel like many MPVs, and the ride is a bit harsh over some surfaces for a family orientated vehicle. But it does have a solid feel.

The fact that you can place yourself and your family behind a three-pointed star for under R200 000 has made the A-Class a sales success.

Revisiting the A Class in two-litre form after the second-generation launch in 2005, we can see why itís a consistent top-twenty seller.

This A200 goes for R217 000 and, apart from extra punch, it comes with the top line Elegance trim which includes extra bright-work, leather and the like. A good car, but more image than substance, is pretty much our overall opinion of the Mini Merc.

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