In well over 20 years at Auto Express, I’ve driven plenty of Mercedes test models, but I’ve never run one as my family car. And since taking delivery of our new A-Class, the first thing I’ve noticed is how excited everyone else is about it.
Friends and extended family often ask: “What are you driving at the moment?” And I’m now aware that this brand pricks up people’s ears like no other.
Our A-Class sits at the lower end of the Mercedes glamour scale, because it’s a really smart, but relatively conservative-looking compact family car.
Try telling that to my wife and kids, though. After a few oohs and ahhs as ‘our new Merc’ was proudly parked up on the street for the first time, they excitedly scrambled in and out of it. They’re not the only ones to have heads turned; the neighbours were queueing up to sit in the front seats and fiddle with switches as well.
That’s with good reason, because the interior of our A 200 is stunning. For starters, it does all the good stuff that you’d expect: it’s comfortable, the materials look and feel premium and it’s beautifully built. I especially like the red stitching on the seats and the brushed metal on the doors.
The finishes are tactile and feel like real leather and suede, even though they’re Artico and Dinamica microfibre. They had me fooled at first glance, until I looked at the spec sheet.
The design and layout of the dashboard take the interior of the Mercedes racing to the other end of that imaginary glamour scale. The infotainment system is incredible and dominates proceedings. It can be controlled either by the main trackpad (where the gearlever would be in most other cars), or two small touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel.
Touching the screen will bring up various menus and options with seemingly endless ways to configure the display layout and look. The only slight downside to all this is that you have to be really disciplined and responsible; you’re essentially driving with a giant smartphone in front of you.
As I’m not the only driver, I often find different displays enabled. My family particularly enjoys messing with ambient lighting that floods the air vents in blue and pink. That’s a bit bling for me, but it’s good to see the Mercedes is keeping everyone happy.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.