Mercedes Benz’s innovative A-Class long wheelbase has been heralded as the prestigious "Most practical car in Britain" by Auto Express magazine.
In a week-long trial against 36 other cars, the A-Class was tested to see how easy it is to live with day-to-day, as well as how simple it is to change a wheel or top up the screen wash fluid. Auto Express particularly praised the car’s low boot height, rear visibility and the commanding driving position.
Auto Express reported: "They don’t come any better than the Mercedes A-Class. Having won itS-Class with a score of 71 per cent, the baby Benz combines family car levels of space and usability in a compact and good value package. Pound for pound it’s the most practical car on the market."
In fact, one of the A-Class’s stiffest challenges came from another Mercedes Benz – the new SL-Class Roadster. Described as "outstanding in its packaging", the new car was beaten by its smaller sibling over price – an important factor when determining practicality.
Introduced to the UK in June 2001, the long wheelbase models arrived at the same time as the rest of the A-Class range was revised. Both cars use the innovative sandwich floor concept, which, as the name suggests, sandwiches the engine and mechanical components between two steel floors.
In addition to improving occupant safety – the engine is pushed into the space between the floors in the event of a frontal impact – the occupants sit 20 cm higher than in an equivalent vehicle. As well as giving a more commanding seating position with excellent visibility, occupants are kept above the critical impact zone in the event of a side impact with a conventional car.
The flat interior floor, along with adjustable, folding, and removable rear seats make the A-Class range an extremely practical choice. The extra 17 cm in the long wheelbase version gives limousine-like levels of legroom for rear passengers, or up to 1,865 litres of load space.
Safety is important to the A-Class, too. Every car in the range is fitted with ABS (anti-lock brakes), ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and BAS (Brake Assist) which applies maximum braking pressure in emergency conditions. Driver and passenger front and side airbags and belt force limiters are standard, with windowbags optionally available.
Even more practical are the variable servicing intervals dependent on driving style, and a three year, unlimited mileage warranty. Added to this is 30 year mobilo life cover, guaranteeing against corrosion (from the inside out) and offering round-the-clock breakdown assistance for three decades.
The A-Class range starts at an entirely practical £13,025 on the road (including UK delivery (£395), new vehicle registration fee (£25), number plates and a full tank of fuel). Alternatively, new A-Class owners can collect their car from the factory in Rastatt, Germany.Published 26 January 2002