Mercedes-Benz A-Class VS Mini 5D Hatch
- Ride comfort
- So-so warranty
- Okay only rear headroom
- Tight rear door apertures
Mini 5D Hatch
- Potent engine
- Tons of grip
- Funky cabin ambience
- Ride can be harsh
- Jittery drive experience
- Cabin tech overly user friendly
Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.
Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.
|Engine Type||1.3L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Mini 5D Hatch
That the 2020 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works is the most powerful Mini to have landed in Australia isn’t all that surprising. After all, parent company BMW has squeezed the thumping four-cylinder engine from the M135i under its bonnet, and that thing creates a snarling beast of any vehicle it finds a home in.
What is a surprise, though, is that having now driven this angry, crackling, snarling hot hatch, what with its burbling exhaust and properly rapid acceleration, is that it took Mini this long to get around to doing it.
So does the engine upgrade now put the Clubman JCW on the same pedestal as the best European hot hatches? There's only one way to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.
But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.
Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.
The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.
A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.
Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.
The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.
Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.
Mini 5D Hatch8/10
It's no real secret that earlier iterations of the Clubman were, well, a little challenging on the eye (Mini itself says “It was cool - if you were built that way…").
But this face-lifted version is much easier on the eye, if not as a cute a package as the three-door hatch variants. It's dimensions - long, smooth sides, a squared-off rump and bulging grille - somehow work as one to create car that is undoubtedly unique, but also rather fetching.
Inside, it’s all pretty familiar Mini, what with the circle screens and jet-style switches. And it is a stylish space in the cabin, with a good material mix and the addition of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto making the centre screen far more functional.
The only downside is that, for mine, it favours that style over substance. It’s not the most user-friendly space I’ve ever sat in, though I imagine you’d get a little more used to it the more time you spent in there.
At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.
The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.
In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.
One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.
But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).
Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.
That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).
At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.
Mini 5D Hatch7/10
The Clubman is super practical - for a Mini... This is not a Bunnings bandit, and nor will you be piling endless Ikea flatpacks into the boot.
It measures just over 4.2m in the length, 1.4m in height and 1.8m in width, and while they're not massive numbers, you might find yourself surprised by the room in the backset.
I'm around 175cm, and I could sit behind my own driving position with ease - thanks in no small part to the clever scalloped seas that give you extra leg room - and the headroom isn't half bad, either.
Yep, you can definitely fit two adults in the backseat (but never three), and those travelling back there will find air vents to help keep the temp down, as well as USB points and a pair of child seat anchors.
Up front, the cabin somehow manages to feel more cramped, with the steering wheel, centre console and controls on the driver's door all feeling like they're encroaching on your personal space a bit, but it's a comfortable place to sit all the same.
Step around to the barn-door style boot and you'll find what looks a little bit like a station wagon, only without all the space. Yes, it looks like a positive load-lugger next to the three-door hatch, but you still don't get that much space for luggage, with the official number at 360 - 1250 litres.
Price and features
The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.
We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.
Mini 5D Hatch7/10
Mini is rolling the dice on a new specification strategy designed to take the endless questions and options out of buying a new car.
And so the Clubman JCW is the first Mini to be offered in the Pure trim ($57,900), which seriously limits the personalisation options to get you out of the dealership and behind the wheel as quickly as possible. You can choose from two wheel choices, four exterior paint choices, a back roof or a sunroof, and, well, that's about it.
Outside, your money buys you 18-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin rubber, adaptive suspension, roof rails and LED head and taillights. Inside, expect cloth sports seats, an 8.8-inch screen that's both (wireless) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped, standard navigation, climate control with rear vents and push-button start.
If the Pure doesn't give you enough options, then the regular Clubman JCW ($62,900) will add 19-inch alloys, leather seats, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a head-up display and heated front seats. Oh, and all the personalisation options you shake your credit card at.
Engine & trans
Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).
Mini 5D Hatch8/10
This is a cracking engine; a twin-charge, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder weapon that sends 225kW and 450Nm thundering to all four tyres.
That power is funnelled through an eight-speed automatic transmission, and will see the Clubman JCW clip 100km/h in 4.9 seconds before pushing on to a 250km/h.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.
Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.
Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.
The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.
Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.
Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.
Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.
With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.
Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.
Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.
Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).
Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.
Mini 5D Hatch7/10
Yes, this is the most powerful Mini to have landed in Australia. And even better, it’ll remain so, or at least equal first, when the Mini GP arrives next year. That car gets this same thumping engine, and the outputs are the same, though the smaller, lighter hatch will no doubt be faster.
It means Clubman JCW shoppers aren't about to lose their street credit, with this engine likely to remain the king of the castle for some time yet.
The Clubman It might tip the scales at 1550kg, but the kilos don’t hurt its straight line speed much. Whack it in sport mode, which also adds this deep bass to the exhaust, plant your right foot and the Clubman positively pounces forward.
Better still, it feels - and sounds - quick, too, There’s this angry snap and crackle on the overrun, and the exhaust genuinely booms in the cabin when you really bury your foot.
You’ve heard the cliches before, of course, about Minis feeling like they’re on rails, and we won’t waste your time with those here. Suffice to say we have pushed Clubman around some pretty tight corners at some pretty decent speeds, and while it doesn’t feel like a featherweight, it also picks and sticks to a line with absolutely no nonsense from the tyres and very little in the way of body roll.
That’s the good, now the not so good. The impressive handling feels like it’s been achieved by hardening up the suspension as much as possible, and the downside of that is that it can feel plenty sharp and bouncy over big bumps. On the right road, it kind of adds to the experience, but I'd imagine the daily commute would start to fray your patience fairly quickly.
There’s also a kind of skittishness to the way it drives fast too, which I actually don’t mind, but others might say isn’t as natural and flowing as others in the segment.
But this is the hardest, fastest clubman you can buy, and so you’re going into it knowing there’s going to be some comfort compromises. And if you’re looking a loud and rorty hot-hatch experience, this thing delivers in spades.
And on the right stretch of road, it’s an absolute hoot.
Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.
The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
Mini 5D Hatch7/10
The Clubman JCW arrives with six airbags, a reversing camera, AEB, active cruise, forward collision warning and front and rear parking sensors and what Mini calls Performance Control, which it promises will reduce understeer and increase traction in corners.
The Mini Clubman was awarded the full five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2017.
That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.
Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.