Hanker after a Mercedes-Benz but hate being parted with your money? The entry-level diesel A180d model is the car for you. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes A180d might well be a car you'd never previously considered if you were maybe looking at a Focus or an Astra. If you can downsize one notch, you get a car that's cheaper to run, better built inside and comes with some sophisticated technology that makes it feel like money extremely well spent.
Let's press the rewind button back to, say, 2005. Back then, you could buy a Mercedes A180 CDI with a 109bhp diesel engine. It managed 52 miles from a gallon of derv, which would have set you back 95 pence per litre. Almost a decade on, you can still buy a Mercedes A180 diesel and it still develops 109bhp. With diesel fuel at £1.20 pence per litre at the time of going to press, the latest A180d would need to manage around 75mpg on the combined cycle in order to work out cheaper than its 2005 predecessor. That it can manage 80.7mpg clearly demonstrates that technology can, in certain instances, even outpace the avarice of oil companies.
What's more, this improved third generation A-Class is smarter, safer, better built, more comfortable and packed with features that would only have been in a hazy future concepts stage back in 2005. It's a class act and one that presents a real challenge to rivals and a real tempter for those who always thought buying and running a Mercedes-Benz was out of their reach.
The Mercedes A180d develops exactly the same power output as the conventional A180 CDI ECO model it replaces but its engine gets numerous changes to improve efficiency. Do these change the way the car drives? Not markedly. The old A180 CDI was never exactly a tarmac scorcher and the 180d model's 11.3 second sprint to 62mph and 118mph top end still makes it appear a little pedestrian. Still, sacrifices do need to be made in order to achieve such excellent economy and emissions figures but you'd be wrong to condemn the A180d as a dull outing as a result.
While it's certainly not quick in a straight line, there's fun to be had here; something you couldn't really level at its predecessors. Like other A Class models, the steering is sharp and well-weighted, the manual gearbox is crisp and positive, the brakes are reassuring, front end grip is very good and body control is better than such a tall car has any right to deliver. The 1.5-litre engine delivers its 258Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm, so you won't need to rev it too hard to get instant acceleration.
Design and Build
This third generation A-Class delivered a design that was longer, wider and lower than before, with sharply defined edges and tautly-drawn convex and concave surfaces which seem to constantly change as the light catches them. With this facelifted version, not too much has changed in this regard, except at the front where there's a smarter, more angular front bumper below a standard 'diamond' front grille. At the rear, the exhaust pipes are now integrated into the rear bumper while the tail-lights are revised. Overall, though the changes may be subtle, they do sharpen up the styling nicely.
Inside, the interior has been upgraded with smarter instrument dial housings, more seat adjustment, sleeker metal switches, plus a fresh choice of materials and dash trims. Higher end variants also benefit from a larger 8" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone integration. This system is an option on lower models. Boot space remains competitive at 341-litres.
Market and Model
A180d buyers get two trim choices - standard and SE. Both include get air conditioning, electric windows al round, a trip computer, a decent quality CD stereo with 6 speakers, a tablet-style 5.8-inch colour infotainment display and Bluetooth and USB inputs. The wheels are perhaps the only part of the car that look as if they could benefit from having a bit of money thrown at them, but be aware that going for a set of alloys bigger than the 16-inch ten-spoke rims that the A180d comes with will see your fuel economy dip a little.
Options packages include a Lane Tracking Package with blind spot and lane keeping assist systems, a Memory Package with memory seats and mirrors that can be configurable to three individual settings, plus a Light and Sight package which features rain sensing wipers and illuminated door sills, vanity mirrors and a whole host of other interior lighting. Safety is well taken care of as standard, with features including Collision Prevent Assist, an active bonnet, electronic stability control, a brake pad wear warning, twin front, side, and curtain airbags as well as a driver's knee bag. There's also attention assist and tyre pressure monitoring.
Cost of Ownership
The A180d turns in some excellent cost of ownership figures. We've already mentioned the fact that it'll register 80.7mpg on the combined cycle, with emissions of a mere 89g/km. This means you won't have to pay any road tax and the low Benefit In Kind company car tax band will attract business users.
The asking price of around £22,000 looks reasonable value given the amount of equipment you get and resale values of this latest A-Class have held up very well. You'll need to be a little careful when choosing options to protect those residuals but otherwise there's little to worry about here. Expect to pay well under 50 pence per mile to run this car over a three year/36,000 mile ownership tenure. That you can spend about the same asking price on a Ford Focus diesel that will cost around 55ppm to run demonstrates that Mercedes is offering a viable alternative to the mainstream badges here.
The Mercedes-Benz A180d is a very interesting vehicle. We normally think of Mercedes as a company that's all about power and prestige, but here's a car that makes a diesel Ford Focus look expensive to run and feels like a product several notches removed in terms of quality and sense of occasion. Yes, it's a smaller car than a Focus and that may well be an issue but it's hardly cramped inside and comes with safety features that family buyers will certainly value.
So if you thought you were in the market for a Ford, a Vauxhall or a Renault, it's worth doing the sums, taking a test drive and seeing whether the Mercedes A180d will work for you. We're betting it will and we'd also wager that you wouldn't regret your decision to buy it. Just try it. You'll see.