Feed similar data into a bank of computers and inevitably they’ll come up with near on the same answers – which explains why cars are, save for the odd cosmetic details, increasingly looking very much the same as each other across each class.
Now don’t get me wrong. The pristine cirrus white Mercedes-Benz A220 CDI Blueefficiency AMG Sport that attracted the envy of my neighbours for a week of test-driving is undeniably a very pretty car.
The original, rather frumpy A-Class resembled a bloated Smart car. Based on an all-new vehicle architecture and assembly techniques, the third generation shape is altogether more sleek and sporting in demeanour.
It’s just that if you were to substitute the three-pointed star on the radiator grille with the Audi A3’s three-ring roundel or the familiar Ford oval lozenge from the latest hot-shoe Focus, only avid hot hatch enthusiasts would spot the difference.
Climb aboard though and then the Merc’s individuality starts to shine through. For starters, like the 1964 Mercedes 300 SEL, reg number MMX 623C – and how’s that for memory? – which was my clear favourite among the many cars I have owned down the years, it features a column mounted gear lever, though in this case there’s no gate to negotiate, just a simple forwards and backwards motion, with a slick seven-speed auto box taking care of near seamless changes.
If you want to make manual gear changes, and enthusiast drivers surely will, there are flappy paddles at your fingertips.
Opt for the A 180 CDI and you can expect a super-frugal 74.3 mpg in the combined cycle, along with an affordable £18,970 starting price. If a sporting character is more your thing then the £27,195 A 220 AMG I fell in love with can still achieve 45.6 mpg, thanks to highly efficient Blueefficiency technology and a very low drag area that’s a benchmark for cars in this hatchback sector.
Both active and passive safety have been given high priority in the new design. In addition to ESP, active bonnet and adaptive break with hold function and hill-start assist, the standard specification includes a radar-based collision prevention assist system, which alerts a distracted driver through visual and acoustic warnings, as well as priming the brake assist function
Also standard is attention assist, the innovative system developed by Mercedes-Benz to monitor driver behaviour and warn of signs of tiredness
Blind spot, lane keeping and speed limit assistants are all optionally available.
The new A Class handles exceptionally well and scores ticks of approval when it comes to performance, space and comfort.
No longer coming across as a poor man’s Merc, it now wears that three-pointed star with pride.