2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 15:44
The entry-level models from the two premium brands Mercedes and BMW are the company's great hopes for the future. In the comparison test, the A170 and the BMW116i are on the test bench.
By Stefan Grundhoff and Stefan Zaumseil
The premium brands Mercedes and BMW both have a problem. The customers are aging, young blood can often be found in other manufacturers. There are high hopes for the fresh entry-level models. BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class are considered dynamic, affordable and have a brilliant image. Who is the better one?
Image isn't everything
Cars in one class could hardly be more different. The BMW mimics the athlete with its compact, dynamic design, convex and concave lines and long bonnet. As the icing on the cake, it is the only one in the compact class to offer rear-wheel drive.
The Mercedes A-Class, on the other hand, is not positioned as sporty even as a two-door coupe version, but should still appeal to younger customers. The man from Stuttgart is much more satisfied than his legged predecessor. But dynamic is undoubtedly different. The four-door BMW attracts emotions, the two-door Mercedes the head. The distinction between the BMW 116i and the Mercedes A 170 could easily be transferred to higher classes. But image isn't everything. How do both models fare in everyday use? Do the youngsters have a chance? The look of the 116i already suggests: here comes a sports cannon. The look with the passenger cell placed far back is reminiscent of a roadster.
But anyone who thinks they can waggle dynamically through the country with the 1.3-tonne 116 will be extremely disappointed. The sluggish engine turns the curve robber into a tired warrior. The 1.6 liter four-cylinder has an output of 85 kW / 115 hp. Subjectively, it could also be 90 horsepower that laboriously push Bayern forward.
Pulling power, acceleration and higher freeway speeds - all of this is known from a BMW - this engine offers none of these. Nobody would have expected so much inertia from an emphatically dynamically positioned BMW 1 series. The maximum torque of 150 Nm is available at 4300 rpm. In the 0 to 100 km / h sprint in just under eleven seconds and a top speed of 200 km / h, the rear-wheel drive car still does quite well, but not much is possible at higher speeds or lower revs.
Even on the autobahn, you can't avoid shifting down to fifth or even fourth gear on longer inclines. Fast overtaking on the country road? No chance! If you turn the gears to the limit, you get a little more pepper. But the promised average consumption of 7.5 liters of super per 100 kilometers has moved a long way off. In practice, almost nine liters ran through the Bavarian injectors.
Mercedes more economical than BMW
Now the Mercedes A 170 with its coupestyling is anything but a sports fanatic. The output of the 1.7 liter four-cylinder engine is largely identical at 85 kW / 116 hp, but it has its maximum torque of 155 Nm from 3500 rpm. Small differences - big impact. The only 3.84 meters long A-Class drives much more sportily than the subjectively all too lame-looking BMW. 100 cubic centimeters more and the curb weight of the Stuttgart sandwich construction that is around 100 kilograms lower also contribute to this.
Even with top speed and sprinting ability, the two opponents are not worlds apart. The Mercedes takes eleven seconds from 0 to 100 km / h; the top speed is just under 190 km / h, however, well below the Munich one. On the other hand, the Swabian front-wheel drive is a whole lot more economical. Instead of the almost nine liters of the BMW, the A 170 is satisfied with 7.7 liters of Super per 100 kilometers.
A-Class collects plus points
While the A-Class driver sits enthroned over the road like in a van, the BMW also exudes real sports car charm inside. The seating position is excellent, the optional sports chairs provide the desired lateral support and unfortunately cost a lot more. After the Mercedes had already won the engine ranking, it left the BMW behind in terms of interior space and space, despite the significantly smaller exterior dimensions.
The seats of the Mercedes are also convincing, apart from the seating position that is too high. In addition, the dashboard is so clearly laid out and of such high quality as is otherwise almost only known from higher vehicle leagues. You can also sit very comfortably in the second row of the A 170. Entry via the front chairs that move far forward works without any problems. Headroom and legroom are no comparison to the here more than tight-fitting BMW.
Despite the standard four doors, only children can sit in the Bayern rear. Behind the wide-opening tailgate of the Mercedes is an easy-to-load trunk with a capacity of 435 liters. By folding down the rear seat it is 1370 liters. As expected, the 116i is left behind here too. But the 330 to 1150 liters should also be sufficient for most transports.
BMW in front in the chassis classification
The big hour of the 4.23 meter long BMW finally strikes in the chassis classification. The Mercedes A 170, which is also anything but disappointing, has no chance here. With the 50:50 weight distribution, the tight spring-damper coordination and the perfect combination of direct steering and crisp manual transmission, the BMW 116i clearly distances itself from its rivals. What is particularly noticeable about the Stuttgart offspring is the at best mediocre manual gearshift, which only has five gear stages. The crisp BMW counterpart has six of them.
The base price of the mediocre Mercedes A 170 is 20,648 euros. ABS, ESP, air conditioning and airbags are already on board. From the endlessly long list of surcharges you should at least order xenon light (957 euros), automatic air conditioning (574 euros) and navigation (from 2041 euros). It is absolutely incomprehensible that things like a front armrest (220 euros) or a comfort switch for the window lifters (80 euros) have to be ordered separately. But BMW doesn't do it better. In the basic price of 20,650 euros, in addition to the complete safety equipment, not even the bare essentials are included. Not included as standard: rear window lifters (370 euros), armrest (150 euros), cup holder (40 euros), automatic air conditioning (1500 euros) or fog lights (200 euros).
Better package from Stuttgart
The bottom line is that Mercedes and BMW offer two completely different concepts in one and the same vehicle class. The BMW appears sporty, but its disappointing 1.6-liter engine lets any dynamism fly away. That is why the significantly more compact Mercedes A 170 is the better package. It offers more space, a better engine and is much more useful in everyday life. For the driving dynamics it is also not the right one. A large part of the so hotly courted young clientele should therefore have a hard time with both models.