This is my Mercedes A-class story, a story of 3 cars. Enjoy.
Have you ever had something that you really like? We have, our Mercedes A-classes. We’ve had three of them now and we love them to bits.
Lets start with our first A-class, an A160 Avantgarde, in Athol Blue, which we purchased in 2000.
We’d initially wanted to purchase the new VW Beetle as we where smitten with it after taking a test drive, however we wanted an Automatic and this pushed the price of the beetle up to around £18,000.
At the time this was way beyond our budget.
In the mean time our old VW Golf was busy dying, it was an G reg Golf Driver Auto with all these stupid emission control systems which had really screwed up, it either ran okay or idled at 2000rpm with a viscious gear change and everywhere where quoting us a fortune to replace it.
At round about the time as the Golf was dying our local Mercedes garage where holding a sale so we decided to take a look at the A-class as they had several on offer at the time.
We entered the garage to see a brand new A160 Avantgarde Auto with all the bells and whistles, the only thing it didn’t have was Air Conditioning. We took it for a test drive, loved it and bought it there and then!
We decided on the A-class over the Beetle on 3 things,
- Mercedes Benz over Volkswagen (Bit of a no brainer that one)
- Practicality (The A-class is a more practical vehicle that the beetle, which looks nice)
- Space (The glove box on the A-class is more spacey than a Beetle’s boot)
To be brutally honest the A-class is basically a 5 door van with seats and windows. Don’t get me wrong I like its van like interior which brings us on to space. The A-class is massive inside compared with the VW Beetle which is both handy for my own and my wife’s business as we both need to move large items from time to time.
My wife shifts large pottery items, materials and equipment and I move large amounts of computer equipment.
All the seats come out of the A-class, and on the rear seats in the Long Wheel Base version has either loads of legroom or you can move the seats forward for loads of boot space. Not as much as some MPV’s on the market admitidly but they don’t come with a Mercedes Benz badge on the front.
I’ve even had two cement mixers in our first A-Class with all but the driver’s seat removed. Quite funny when I turned up at HSS with both cement mixers in the car. The staff at the store didn’t believe me until they saw it. (On later models the removal of the front seats has become an optional extra as the front seats are now bolted in)
We had the A160 for just over a year and did 7500 miles in it driving as far away as Cornwall to John O’Groats. In all the time we owned the car we didn’t have a single problem and all the garbage people told us about the car tipping over when forced to swerve hard was dismissed late one night driving down the M7 at 90mph, when a fox ran out in front of us and I had to swerve to miss it.
We ended up facing the wrong way on the motorway however we didn’t tip over and we didn’t hit the fox, but we did leave some groovy looking skid marks on the motorway! Glad it was at about 2am in the morning though!
After driving the A160 round for a year, we’d only had the sunroof open a few times and began to wish we’d gone for Air Conditioning instead. So we swapped our A160 for a brand new A140 Avantgarde with AC. Same car, smaller engine, and different colour. Mangrove Green.
Now the A140 was a different beast to the A160 as the A140 was a Post face lift model and looked slightly different to the A160. It was also cosmetically different inside. The dials and switches being the most noticable.
We did just less than 7000 miles in the A140 in two years, not because we didn’t want to drive it but because 2001/2002 was a busy period for me and the wife and we didn’t drive very far. My wife was in Japan for 5 months in these two years and if I was away, I was using my Crown as at the time my business was paying my insurance/petrol/etc.
By the way the cheapest I have found for A-class Insurance for our Mercedes has been , we pay under £300 for the A210 Evo.
However we did do some epic trips, driving to Southern Spain and back and Cornwall Twice!
The A140 did cause us two problems though, one major, one minor but extremely irritating. Lets stick with the minor problem first. When we where away in Japan the car sat idle in the Garage for 4 weeks and on our return the car only just started, however it did start. But the engine management warning light came on as it started and stayed on.
After driving the car round for about 50 miles, the battery was charged enough to start the car no problem but the engine management light was still on even though the official user handbook says the light should go out within 20-30 miles.
So, off down to the local MB dealer, who informs me that it will cost £43 to reset the computer. What! Okay I part with £43 to get it reset but the dealer informs me that this was because of the flat battery. How can I avoid paying £43 every time I go to Japan for 4 weeks?
I have since found out that you can only reset the engine management warning indicator with additional equipment, but any errors are still logged in the engine management computer and it can invalidate your warranty if anything major goes wrong at a later date because of this error. Anyway I complained to MB head office several time and got a voucher for £100! So not too bad after all.
Next onto what I class a major problem. Mercedes Assyst. (Click here if you want to know how to reset mercedes assyst on your A-class.)
What a pain in the arse this was, as it kept telling us the car needed a service first at 3500 miles and then after the dealer reset it again at 4200 miles, then again after it was reset at 4800 miles. After throwing my toys out of the pram in the dealers they replaced the instrument panel but the assyst went off again at 5200 miles so I had the car serviced. Didn´t stop assist kicking in again just 600 miles later, the dealer replaced the instrument panel again and this sorted it out. However we did trade the car in soon afterwards so I don´t know if this problem continued or not. (I see the car quite regularly as its now owned by elderly couple – if you own Y131 SBN or my old Athol Blue W637 JHE please send me an email)
This brings us onto our last A-Class.
At the time we bought this car we where looking at buying a smaller sportier car but in the end we bought a A210 Evo which is a cross between something sporty and something with a load of room inside.
Now some would say its not sporty, well define sporty. 0-60 isn’t Porsche territory and it’s not as cheap as something like the Honda Civic, but I’ve already stated on this site that I wanted a White Civic Type-R but Honda UK wouldn’t accommodate me. I’ll have one though if the price is right next time I go to Japan. The Jap Spec is a better car anyway!
I have to say the A210 is brilliant to drive compared to the other A-Classes I’ve owned. It’s fast, a little too fast sometimes and it handles miles better than the other two, although it does have a tendency to drive on three wheels when pushed near the limit on the corners as I found out on a recent track day. On the straight and narrow the speedo does have a tendency to climb round to the wrong side of the dial rather quickly. I wont say how far round the needle has been!
Okay its not as quick as some cars for the same money but they don’t have the three pointed star on the front. Plus even though I live in an A-Class hot spot, our A-Class stands out because of its body kit and nice alloys.
Besides, if I’d have bought the Honda Civic Type-R I wouldn’t be able to nearly as much stuff in the back as I can in the A-Class and i’d have probably wrapped it round a tree by now!
I have loads of friends who own A-Classes and constantly meet people who own A-Classes and ask me about ours. For those who are reading this and want to meet other A-Class owners then I always point people in the direction of the Baby Benz website, who have regular meetings of like minded people throughout the country.
If your interested in an A-Class then there are a few things to check before you hand over your hard earned cash.
The most common faults are listed below,
1. Steering rack. With the engine turned off, move the steering wheel from left to right. If it makes a clunking noise then the bearing which connects the wheel to the rack is in need of replacing. Its an expensive part especially with labour from MB. The A-Class steering rack has been updated three times since the model was released, that I know of, and this has been the topic of many a subject at Baby Benz meetings. This affects all RHD W168 models upto 2005 although Mercedes will dispute this.
2. Rear suspension, Where the spring is held onto the rear trailing arms have a tendency to rust which allows the spring to move. Parts are cheap, labour is expensive. Have a look under the rear, its worth getting your hands dirty for this one. This only affects older models.
3. Rear trailing arms bushes. While you’re down checking the springs check the trailing arm bushes.
4. Rear Wheel bearings, these can go. Check them. Jack the car up and wiggle the wheels. Cheap to replace.
5. Rattles from interior. Its not that the interior isn’t put together well, its just that some bits might not be secured properly, the part didn’t fit exactly or they fit so well the bits touch each other. Common areas to look at are: Rear seats (take them out and put either insulation tape or foam over the securing posts in the floor), headrests (Easy one this, take them out and pull the posts further apart, not too much mind you. When they go back in they will fit more snugly than before). Tailgate (remove the cover and install bits of foam around the door, then screw the cover back on) Any other rattles can be fixed as per the tailgate.
6. Air Mass Sensor. This is £500ish just for the part! However whether or not this needs replacing is like the lottery. I know people who’ve done 190,000 miles and it’s been okay and other with 10,000 miles and it needed replacing. If it worries you get a warranty if you can. Remember that all MB under 3 years old should have a warranty with MB. There are companies now selling re-manufactured Air Sensors but these are still around the £300 mark.
Also bear in mind with this one that you cant just buy another one off the shelf of a breakers as it wont work.
If you buy an A-Class then Join the Baby Benz Club, the people you meet are a nice bunch who share a common enthusiasm the A-Class.
PLEASE NOTE: if your going to leave a comment below, remember:
- As of 1st March 2011 I will no longer aswer any questions posted below. I do not have the time, inclindation or can I be bother responding to people who never say “Thank you” If you want a question answering then Check out out Loftys A-Class info site, he will for a small donation answer your questions : http://www.aclassinfo.co.uk/mypage.3.htm
But be aware he does require a small donation to provide information.