Is the A-Class really a work of art?
It was in Wakefield's The Hepworth art gallery that I realised Mercedes-Benz would succeed with a radical new A-Class.
You may recall the original version, a boxy car which was successful enough but not really in the Merc mould. It suffered an ambush by some European motor hacks who somehow contrived to make it topple over in the so-called elk test.
That's a swerving manoeuvre carried out for Scandinavian markets where such wildlife is abundant and where avoiding action is often required.
Anyway, the A-Class was swiftly swapped for the model we revere today, a car with all the elegance which was missing in the original. Now we have an A-Class worthy of the three-pronged badge.
I first saw it at a press driving day at the Wakefield gallery and was immediately impressed that Mercedes-Benz had accepted it had to rip it up and start again. Not many manufacturers have the guts for such radical action.
The result is stunning. The first new-look A-Class was good but the latest is sublime.
It is a car which fits better into the ranks. You might imagine starting off with this one and then moving upmarket via C-Class, E-Class and so on as funds or career progression allows.
I'm impressed. Plus points for this car are many - the ride and handling are brilliant, the engines are excellent and the cabin is arguably the best I've seen for the money. Mercedes-Benz - you can see why the brand inspires songs.
I'm not totally convinced with the access via the very narrow aperture of the front doors. And give me a real handbrake and gear lever in place of these computerised buttons. A week on and I'm still not properly got the hang of it.
But the cabin a glitzy, stunning set up which works fantastically well. The huge screen - one huge one divided into two sections - is fabulous and the switchgear has the quality you expect from Mercedes-Benz.
It looks like a work of art, from the upmarket upholstery to the engineered air vents which look like something of a fighter jet.
It is a sporty car, with a 0to 60mph time of 6.6 seconds yet because it is a hybrid you can in theory get 256.8mpg out of it. It can charge from zero to 100 per cent in 90 minutes and you can get 44 miles of electric-only driving.
At the heart of the cabin is a mouse-type affair which controls the radio, satellite navigation and other functions. It looks complicated but it is surprisingly easy to operate.
The car is spacious with lots of room, especially in the back seats, and it has a great boot of 310 litres rising to 1,125 litres with seats down.
This model is a sporty one but not outrageously so. It is neat and modest and there is very little by the way of AMG badging.
It has wonderful air condition - quick to operate and quiet - and a brilliant satellite navigation system. It feels more upmarket and sporty than the original A-Class could ever have managed.
Another A-Class model has joined the line up of late. the new A-Class Exclusive Edition is now available to order, with prices starting from £31,305 on the road for the A 200 and £34,005 for the A 200 d. The A 250 Exclusive Edition Plus costs £37,320, while the A 220 d is priced from £38,095.
The Exclusive Edition is based on the AMG Line Executive equipment line which already comes as standard with the innovative MBUX infotainment system, including ‘Hey Mercedes’ virtual assistant, and a 10.25-inch high-resolution media display.
The Exclusive Edition adds Night Package including privacy glass; ‘edition’ badging; ‘edition’ floor mats; a black radiator grille; new black upholstery in ARTICO man-made leather and DINAMICA, finished with contrast stitching in light grey.
Highlights also include 19-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels painted in titanium grey with a high-sheen finish; panoramic sunroof; and 64 colour ambient lighting.
Exclusive Edition Plus – available on A 220 d and A 250 engines – is based on the Premium Plus line; and adds mountain grey magno paint; 10.25-inch digital instrument display, illuminated door sills, KEYLESS-GO, rear arm rest multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist; Augmented Navigation; Advanced Sound System; front memory seats and 19-inch AMG cross-spoke light-alloy wheels painted in black.
Mercedes-Benz A250 e AMG Line
Engine: A 1,332cc four cylinder petrol engine
Performance: Top speed 146mph and 0 to 60mph in 6.6 seconds
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with sequential system via front wheel drive
Insurance: Group 27E
Warranty: Three years, unlimited miles