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A-CLASS APART; MERC'S SMALL HATCH IS BOWING OUT IN STYLE.

I'VE just driven 500 miles in the soon-to-be-replaced Mercedes A-Class, and thought it an absolute cracker.

I was slack-jawed to see up to 50mpg on the trip computer of this A160 CDi BlueEfficiency, which is the sort of economy you'd expect from a hybrid Toyota Prius.

Smooth-riding, refined and voluminously roomy, these last-of-the-line A-Classes really are the best ever. Even the manual box on my version felt slick, positive and velvety.

And unlike other small hatches, Stuttgart's millimetric build quality shines through.

There's an unerring engineering precision to everything that even the Japanese can't match.

Given the choice of a host of small Hondas, Toyotas and Kias, I'd have the Merc every single time. But here's what you really want to know: prices of low-mileage late-plate A-Classes are ridiculously keen.

Expect to pay virtually trade money in a retail sale from an independent outfit and maybe even less if you're dealing with a private seller.

The 07/08-platers with less than 30k are buyable for pounds 6,500 in Auto Trader. That really is no money for such a solid and accomplished supermini. And you'll feel special.

Mercs are engineered like no other cars. In an A-Class you're a breed apart. I'm off to see if I can get that trip computer up to 55mpg.

WHO'D DRIVE IT Aficionados of excellence TECH FILE ENGINE 1498cc diesel POWER 93bhp 0-60 12.2 MAX 109 PRICE pounds 17,125 new IN A WORD A-Class act

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That rump is really roomy
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 15, 2012
Words:250
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