Who is the new king of the compact segment? The new Mercedes A-Class meets its main competitors for the first ever comparison test from AutoBild. How does the Benz fare against the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and VW Golf?
Advance praise was enough. Now the new A-Class encounters a few good old acquaintances, where old is quite literally old: the BMW 1 Series comes from 2011, Audi A3 and VW Golf from 2012 – so the new Mercedes must have an edge here.
The test engines do not quite fit together, either, we know. At the time of the test, however, no other versions were available. But auto motor und sport really wanted to make the comparison, and – see the end result – the differences were not that big either.
In any case, the A-Class has become significantly bigger. The A 200 now stretches to 4.42 meters, which is almost ten centimeters more than the BMW and Audi and even 16 more than the Golf. All this is reflected in a significantly improved space, especially in the back. Front passengers sit very comfortable, unlike in the rear: there the rear seat is much too low mounted, with the passengers’ feet squating flat above the ground. Uncomfortable.
The Golf shows with its comfortable rear seats how to do it right. And he has noticeably more space than the Benz, still. The VW is typically restrained and easy to use. Only the Navi screen sits too low, and the large Navi Discover Pro (2435 Euro) system they have gave up on the knob for the volume, so you have to fumble awkward on the screen or on the steering wheel to adjust it.
The Audi shows an especially fine, clear design. And the current A3 also has this wonderful retractable navigation screen, which raises and lowers quietly. Oh yes, we will miss that too. With its space, the A3 places behind VW and Benz, but still before the BMW, in front it is so airy, in the rear not quite so.
Just below is the 1 Series. The BMW cannot compete in the space battle – but you knew that before. The front seat are better than any other: crisp and handy. In the rear, well, you have to restrict yourself. The iDrive pleases as always with logical menus and clear operation – but then finds its master. Because if the BMW, just like Audi and VW, really show their age in one area, then this must be the multimedia.
Mercedes is clearly setting the benchmark with the new MBUX system – UX stands for User Experience. The Benz always comes with two screens instead of traditional displays – one for the instruments, one for the multimedia. The basis is seven inches, the test car had the two 10.25-inch touchscreens of the Navi Premium for 3017 euros. Beautiful optics, we find, and recommend the ambient light with 64 colors (315 Euro), then even lighted air vents are included.
MBUX offers an incredible number of functions and is surprisingly easy to use with the small touch-control buttons placed on the steering wheel (as in the E and S-Class), directly on the touch screen, via the touchpad on the center console or with the super-smart voice control. Just say, “Hey Mercedes,” and the system quickly answers. The nice thing: You can talk in a normal way, say “I’m too warm”, then the temperature is lowered by one degree.
The A 200 is powered by a 1.3-liter turbo with 163 hp. The engine comes from the cooperation with Renault-Nissan, with particle filter and an Euro 6d TEMP rating. It runs a bit rough and growling, and seems compared to the other engines easily strained. This is noticeable because the Benz otherwise fared excellent on the road.
The dual-clutch transmission 7G-DCT (2094 Euro) is not, as usual, from Mercedes, but by Getrag. Good decision, it switches inconspicuously and for example when starting it acts smoother than the transmission of VW and Audi. Mercedes has agreed the A-Class is noticeably more comfortable than before. The test car stood on 18-inch wheels and had adaptive dampers (1178 euros) on board. It seemed rested, the smooth, unobtrusive steering playing well with. Nostalgics will recognize this typical Mercedes-style, slightly waving and reverberant springs of older Mercedes models. However, it reacts slightly ungraciously over long undulations or the like.
The BMW has a unique position in the compact class with its longitudinal engine and rear-wheel drive. But the next edition is known to come with a transverse engine and front-wheel drive. An error, as the current 120i shows very clearly. No one else drives so agile, so joyful. The 2.0-liter with 184 hp has power and pressure, sounds sporty.
The ZF eight-speed sports automatic (2,250 euros) gearbox is towering above the three dual-clutch transmissions. It switches fast, smart and supple. The precise, direct steering fits perfectly into the picture, and there is a surprise in terms of comfort. Because of course, the BMW is tightly tuned, springs with 18-inch wheels and adaptive dampers (1100 Euro) very confidently.
The A3 came with the 2.0-liter and 190 hp, the Audi delivers exclusively with DSG and four-wheel drive. The TFSI has culture and temperament, turns loose, sounds fine, and the all-wheel drive quattro ensures good traction. The result is the best performance – even in front of the BMW.
The DSG did not impress us so much: it likes to jerk when starting off, has problems with the start-stop system. Once in motion, it works smoothly. The A3 stood on 17-inch wheels, had adaptive damper (980 euros) and was basically designed firmer than its engineering brother Golf. Nevertheless, it still springs pleasantly. Its steering is especially synthetic compared to the BMW, a little too smooth, but works accurately.
In a direct comparison it is striking how comfortable and balanced the Golf is. Especially with the mounted 17-inch wheels and adjustable chassis DCC for 1045 euros – a nice combination. The steering works inconspicuously, with pleasant restoring forces.
And the 1.5-liter TSI (150 hp, 250 Nm) is a gentle, quiet engine. Only the DSG stands out, switches, just like the Audi, with a slight delay when starting and at start-stop. The VW beats again in the cost area: With the test equipment it comes to 33,970 euros, around 6,000 euros less than the other three.
Third place with 501 out of 750 points: Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TFSI. The nobler, sportier version of the Golf on the same technical basis. Fine engine, smart four-wheel drive.
Third place with 501 out of 750 points: BMW 120i. For everyone with fun driving: buy now, before it goes to front-wheels drive in its next-generation. Rear-wheel drive unique, automatic is top notch.
Second place with 510 out of 750 points: Mercedes A 200. With more space and much more comfortable than before. Multimedia system MBUX outstanding.
First place with 520 out of 750 points: VW Golf 1.5 TSI. It remains the best in class, harmonious and confident, has the best space. Mature.
“The new A-Class sets a very successful appearance here, but the star in the sky of the compact remains the – much cheaper – Golf. The fine Audi and the unmatched in agility BMW share the third place.”