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Everything you need to know about buying a third-generation (W176) Mercedes-Benz A-Class

04 March 2022 - 10:37
The W176 marked a radical change from its predecessor.
The W176 marked a radical change from its predecessor.
Image: Supplied

Every model lineage has its game-changer. The iteration that heralded a new direction for the breed.

For the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, that step came in the form of the third-generation W176 model. It ditched the pram-shaped, multi-purpose vehicle template of its predecessors and instead took on a more conventional hatchback format, gaining a healthy dollop of stylistic verve in the process.

Finally, the three-pointed star brand had a convincing alternative to its fellow German rivals, the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series.    

Visual stunner   

At the local launch of the A-Class in April 2013, held in Cape Town, we had an opportunity to chat with designer Mark Fetherston. He cited interesting muses for the model, including the physique of a shark and the ripples in sand dunes.

Lending further credence to his design abilities was that he was responsible for the breathtaking SLS AMG supercar. Sentiment around the striking aesthetics of the W176 seemed unanimous: it was a looker.

An interior that matched the sporty exterior.
An interior that matched the sporty exterior.
Image: Supplied

Initial launch   

Introduction saw the release of five derivatives, with pricing ranging from R275,000 to R395,000 before options. The A180, A200, A180 CDI and A220 CDI wore the Blue Efficiency suffix, which some might recall, denoting a greater emphasis on economy and environmental friendliness.    

Indeed, green marketing in the automotive world was still gaining momentum at that time. Transmission choices included a six-speed manual or the seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic option – most opted for the latter of course. And at the top of the pile, before the A45 AMG arrived, was the A250 Sport.    

The A180 and A200 used the same 1.6-litre, turbocharged-petrol units. Output for the former was quoted at 90kW and 200Nm, with the latter delivering 115kW and 250Nm.

The A180 CDI, propelled by a Renault-sourced, 1.5-litre turbocharged-diesel motor, was credited with 80kW and 260Nm. The A220 CDI delivered a stout 125kW and 350Nm. If you picked the A250, you had 155kW and 350Nm at your disposal, thanks to a boosted 2.0-litre with four cylinders.  

General criticisms    

The snug interior might border on claustrophobic for larger occupants. Fascia design and cabin layout matched the pizzazz of the exterior, with turbine-inspired ventilation slots and an upper dashboard said to be inspired by an aircraft wing.

Tactile quality seemed to be among criticisms: it was good, but certainly not in the league of the equivalent Audi A3 of the day, with its abundance of soft-touch materials.   

Another gripe expressed by evaluators was the harsh ride quality. Some descriptors were less than flattering, in referencing the overly firm character of the suspension. Perhaps it was a case of poor adaptation: the hard setup might have lent a sporty sense on pristine German asphalt, but the real-world conditions of South African roads revealed deficiencies.

Some testers advised buyers to stick with the smaller alloy options, with plumper rubber sidewalls, for a more compliant drive. Obviously, most preferred the visual swagger afforded by the larger rollers, even if that compromised ride.    

Sharp pleats and a squatting stance created a mean look.
Sharp pleats and a squatting stance created a mean look.
Image: Supplied

Potent AMG lands    

Adding sizzle to the A-Class range was the A45 AMG, which landed in August 2013. It was billed as a hyper-hatch, wielding a mighty 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine delivering 265kW and 450Nm. That made it the most powerful example of such a configuration in series production, in the world, at that point. It used a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission and power was sent to all four wheels.    

Even by modern standards, the quoted 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.6 seconds is nothing to be sneered at. With uprated cooling, gearbox software borrowed from the SLS AMG and a standard exhaust system that would make the current, meeker crop of performance hatchbacks wince, the baby AMG was a bona fide brute. It came in with a basic price of R599,500.    

The updated A45 gained even more power.
The updated A45 gained even more power.
Image: Supplied

The life-cycle refresh    

In February 2016 the updated A-Class W176 arrived in South Africa. It gained minor design tweaks, with subtle upgrades front and rear, updated alloy wheel options, additional colours and subtle interior updates which included new trim choices. The company also did not shy away from criticisms about ride quality, which they sought to remedy with the facelifted version.    

“As comfortable as never before, as dynamic as always,” was the tagline the brand punted at the launch. Underpinning the claim was the addition of adaptive suspension, with various modes linked to a Dynamic Select button on the fascia, allowing selection between driving modes that would either sharpen or soften the on-road character. The technology was standard on the A220d, A250 Sport and A45 AMG.

The facelift also saw a slight revision of nomenclature: those A180 and A180 CDI monikers were cut, in favour of A200 and A200d. The A45 AMG gained a power bump too, packing 280kW and 475Nm. Pricing for the range kicked off at R389,200 (A200) and topped out at R683,600 for the A45.   

When the A45 landed, it tore up the performance hatch rulebook.
When the A45 landed, it tore up the performance hatch rulebook.
Image: Supplied

Pre-owned pricing today   

Our classifieds research showed that buyers could expect to pay upwards of R219,900 for a tidy-looking 2013 A180 automatic, with 138,000km on the odometer. Trade value is R161,700, retail is R187,200.

At the same Johannesburg dealership, an A200 (2013) automatic with 123,000km on the odometer was priced at R229,900. Trade is R175,900 and retail is R202,500.    

Fancy a manual diesel? We found a 2013 model, with 82,000km, advertised at a franchised dealership supported by a well-known financier, going for R244,995. Trade is R183,200, retail is R208,600.    

Expectedly, pricing jumps when scouting specimens of the A250 Sport. A 2013 model with 112,000km was found for R309,900. Trade is R203,700 and retail is R236,300.    

A 2015 A250 model with 55,000km was seen priced at R399,900. Trade is R276,200 and retail is R308,300.

And what about the fiery A45? A 2014 car with 89,012km was spotted for R429,995. Trade is R310,400 and retail is R357,900.  

A mid-life refresh brought subtle styling tweaks, new shades and suspension enhancements.
A mid-life refresh brought subtle styling tweaks, new shades and suspension enhancements.
Image: Supplied

Low-mileage (less than 70,000km) models were seen selling for R499,900, in the case of one particular 2015 car. Trade is R378,100 while retail is R426,500.   

These trade and retail values were provided by TransUnion and its FirstCheck service, which delivers vehicle and customer information in real-time. A note that the values are general and do not factor in the optional extras of each model referenced here, nor the condition of the vehicles.  

What to look out for   

We approached JF Auto, a Johannesburg specialist in Mercedes-Benz established in 2010, for insight on what prospective buyers should consider when inspecting a potential W176 purchase.    

“With regular maintenance and adherence to any lights that may feature on the instrument cluster, vehicles can clock in excess of 350,000km on the odometer,” said operations manager Danelle Fourie.

“The thermostat has an electronic switch, which controls when it opens or closes, with a temperature reading – these can fail and will require replacement,” she said. While doing this, it is advisable to inspect the radiator bottle, which has a tendency to swell and crack.

Pay attention to the oil pipes supplying the turbocharger: leakages can occur, directly onto the alternator, causing failure

Pay attention to the oil pipes supplying the turbocharger: leakages can occur, directly onto the alternator, causing failure. A faulty fan belt tensioner is responsible for noisy operation.    

Fourie advises inspection of the timing chain and chain tensioner in the A45, A200 and A250 petrol engines, adding that replacement would be required during the lifetime of the vehicle.

“The chain stretches, causing the engine to slip timing, the cam adjusters can also lose their ability to keep oil pressure, making a noise on cold start – this will cause the ‘check engine’ light to flash.”   

The transmission in the A45 has been known to exhibit clutch and gear issues. Examples with higher mileage could potentially suffer from problematic differentials. Have a technician look at the turbocharger transducers, on both the petrol and diesel versions. “This controls the vacuum to the turbochargers, failure results in limited boost.”   

Between the two diesel choices, Fourie suggests opting for the M651 motor (A220 CDI and A200d) rather than the Renault-sourced engine from the A180 CDI.

Fourie warns: “The Renault engine is riddled with faults, from faulty injectors, problematic engine control units, problematic turbochargers and in general are a nightmare to work on, as the Mercedes-Benz software struggles to give accurate fault codes.”   

“The Mercedes M651 has few issues, the most common is that the diesel particulate filter can block, but this is easily repairable.”   

“In general, the electronics on the range are very stable and well designed.”


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