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Comparison test Mercedes A-Class vs. BMW 1 Series after the facelift

Arturo Rivas
BMW 116d EDE versus Mercedes A 220 d
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E in subtle reference to the return to old virtues? Mercedes diesel models no longer have a CDI or Bluetec on the rear, but a simple 'd' - as in the good, old pre-chamber times when a Benz was allowed to be cozy and not have to wag its competitors. In the meantime, Mercedes itself knows that the tuning of the A-Class presented in 2012 was overdone. Therefore, the chassis was tuned more comfortably during the facelift, and adaptive dampers are available (1,238 euros), the characteristics of which vary between soft and tight.

Mercedes A-Class with sensitive dampers

The hard times are also behind BMW's 1 Series, which was also given a smoother set-up during the facelift six months ago and is therefore an ideal partner for the driving comparison around Dresden, where Mercedes for the first time lets journalists behind the wheel of the facelifted A-Class. So set the silver Dynamic Select switch on our A 220 CDI to Comfort and go. What is noticeable after just a few meters: The new suspension responds very sensitively to transverse joints and frost cracks without appearing too soft.

It even removes the tips of strong stimuli from deep potholes, making even bad jogging tracks bearable. The increase in comfort was made possible, among other things, by electronically controlled valves in the dampers, which regulate the oil flow and thus the hardness. The driver's preselection is overruled as soon as vehicle sensors report violent body movements or yaw rates. In such moments, the electronics automatically turn to hard to make it easier for the driver to control.

Fortunately, we do not get into such situations. Rather, we enjoy the evenly winding country roads, which we plow through precisely thanks to the soulful, not too pointed steering, and we are happy about the stoic straight-line stability on the motorway. Just as remarkable is the extent to which the driving modes change the character of the A: In the Sport position, not only is the chassis harder, the 2.1-liter diesel responds much more readily to accelerator movements, while the power steering reduces its support. On the other hand, on Eco, the seven-speed dual clutch transmission prevents hectic downshifts and often uses the 350 Nm torque, which contributes to the relaxed driving experience.

BMW 116dEDE even livelier

And the ones? With its more direct steering, it looks busier, turns more jagged and animates the driver more than its Swabian competitor. For a clean line, however, the rear-wheel drive requires more concentration. After all, the occupants do not have to compromise on comfort. Its adaptive suspension (1,100 euros) also springs benevolently, thanks to small 16-inch wheels it even rolls more smoothly than the A-Class with 18-inchers.

The three-cylinder in the 116d looks against the Mercedes with 177 hp EDE with 116 HP of course no sun. The suitable comparison engine for the Öko-Bayern would be the A 180 d Blue Efficiency with 109 PS and CO2 emissions of just 89 grams /100km, which was not available, however. With the facelift, the basic A 160 model with a 102 hp four-cylinder petrol engine was added. The sports car A 45 AMG now produces 381 instead of 360 hp and can be equipped with a mechanical limited-slip differential.

Different networking strategies

Otherwise, the changes are limited: the new aprons and lamp designs (front with LED instead of xenon light) should only attract experts, as well as the fact that the multimedia monitor has grown from seven to eight inches. From the beginning of 2016, the infotainment will at least be able to play apps from the cell phone via Apple Carplay and Mirrorlink. Since navigation apps are also running, many buyers will surely save themselves the more than 3,500 euros expensive Comand-Online.

BMW uses a different networking strategy and deliberately does without Carplay and Mirrorlink. However, an independent mobile phone interface also pulls apps onto the on-board monitor, plus dozens of online functions including a concierge service with a personal contact person for on the go.

Equal space and clarity

On the other hand, the two compacts surf on the same wavelength when it comes to space and clarity. Little can be felt in the A-Class of the basic installation space advantage of the front-wheel drive. Passengers in the rear are still sitting cramped and have to shimmy backwards over narrow door openings.

But that has been the case before and has done nothing to damage sales. Thanks to additional variants such as CLA and GLA, Mercedes now sells more than twice as many front-wheel-drive cars than before. The A-Class alone grew by 60 percent and reduced the average age of its buyers by 13 years. There will definitely be no going back to old virtues with a 'd' at the rear.

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