New Beginnings - Project A Class
As much as I have written about other people’s cars, I have hardly gone into what I personally drive. After all, what is an automotive media creator without their own pride and joy? So with that in mind, I thought I would provide my own car - a moment in the spotlight for this week.
If you remember from my days on Oahu, my pride and joy was a 2014 Nissan Juke. It was a great college runabout and I loved it as my first car. Despite having looks that divided observers and Nissan’s infamous CVT transmission, I do not regret it as my first ever car. Not only was it my personal freedom on four wheels, it got me to various photoshoots, and more importantly, car meetings which helped establish various relationships with the car community on the island.
But sadly, with my residence on Oahu coming to an end, I had to find it a new home.
In between the time I sold it and before I officially moved off-island I had been relying on DriveHui rentals as means of personal transportation. Sure it was fun getting to drive around in someone else’s Prius, Camry, and on the rare occasion, Lexus. But nothing matches the freedom having your own car gives you, especially when it comes to customizing it your way; whether it be a few slap stickers to a set of forged wheels.
Though I will miss not having to pay for gas (since Servco Toyota prepays for it on all of their rentals).
As part of moving back most of my life back home, began the process to find the next car to call my own. When researching possible choices, a focus was made on European hatchbacks. Being my second car out of college, I still wanted it to be practical yet not too much of a gas hogger; and be engaging to drive. After all, given the economic conditions thanks to Covid-19, I don’t exactly have the budget to finance my dream Altezza just yet.
My dad would also be using this time-to-time; at least for awhile before he began to retire from driving altogether. So it also had to be at least comfortable for him to drive on a daily basis.
Volkswagen Golfs were considered. An Alfa Romeo Giulietta too. At one point, so was an Audi A3 Sportback and Sedan. After multiple searches on online car marketplaces, Whatsapp messages, and back to back phone calls, we found one. But I never thought I would be making the move to one of these already.
Without further ado, here it it is. Meet my next project:
It’s a 2017 Mercedes Benz A Class A200 AMG Sport.
Those from the U.S might not even know that Mercedes produces this model. The A-Class sedan may have just entered the shores over there, but the truth is: the A-Class has served as the ‘baby Benz’ within the Mercedes range since 1997.
If you wanted to enter the brand in the most affordable way possible, the A-Class was your entry into the world of Benz. Between the first and second generations, the W168 and W169, it was in the form of a MPV-focused hatchback. No one could deny it was practical and very spacious inside, but the looks for what you were paying for a entry-level Benz, divided many. It also didn't help that in its first generation, it had a major safety recall over how likely it was to rollover in certain 'swerve and avoid' moments.
It wasn’t until its third generation, the W176, that Mercedes rewrote the model from scratch, for the better. Like how a band geek in high school is suddenly a supermodel after college, the A-Class was a ugly duckling no more. It was now based on a new chassis, engine, and design language all from the ground-up, aiming to capture younger owners into the Mercedes family. This Mercedes was now trendy and cool. And it worked.
It’s quite a looker for a hatchback, isn’t it?
Our model is the mid-life refresh that was introduced in 2017: that brought the curved and diamond-grille front fascia - first seen in the C-Class - that Mercedes began rolling out amongst its sedans. It also brought an updated COMMAND infotainment system, instrument cluster, and ambient interior lighting; previously only available in its sedan counterpart, the CLA.
It also was the first model year that introduced this very green: Elbaite Green, that mine comes in. It pays to be unique from the usual sea of white, silver, and black most Benzses go for. Benz fans reading may also agree, the green resembles the press color associated with the 'Green Hell'- infamous AMG GTR supercar.
Note that even though this has ‘AMG’ in its name, don’t let it fool you; there is nothing AMG in regards to its performance found here. Similar to the ‘N Line’ by Hyundai or Volkswagen’s ‘R-Line’, the AMG Sport is Mercedes' answer to offering the looks and little touches that bring you close to the real thing - without the expense.
In AMG Sport trim, that gives you wheels, body styling, sports seats and interior trim, 'inspired' by the AMG models.
In other words, ‘all show - but no go.’ But that is not necessarily all bad.
Sure, it might not have the exhaust crackles on upshifts it’s true AMG brother has, but the powertrain in the A200 isn’t too much of slouch. Its two-litre, turbocharged M270 four-cylinder unit, does the job fine. It only produces 154 hp in stock form, but it picks up from a standstill quite quickly and there is plenty of torque across the rev range.
I also appreciate that I finally have a 'proper' gearbox to control now; with paddle shifters to boot! No more elastic-like sensations like the CVT I had to live with in the former Nissans. Thank you 7G-DCT.
The suspension is also fine-tuned by the AMG department as well - probably the most 'AMG' thing about this model apart from the sports seats and steering wheel. You also get upgraded brakes from the standard A-Class range, along with Mercedes' 'Direct Steer System'; aka, the small button that allow you to switch between regular 'Eco' and 'Sport' driving settings.
With just 40,000 km and only one previous owner on its belt when we picked it up, its not bad for a three year old car. We even got some discounted goodies thrown in with the deal: like a BlackVue dashcam that was heavily discounted from its usual retail price.
Even before the car was delivered, the modifications got a head start. The stock AMG Sport alloys have been swapped for a set of low-profile Kyowa Racing Wheels, with some decent Pirellis tires to boot. (One day Rotiforms, one day..)
We also had some subtle paint-touchups of the front and side spoilers, and the door mirrors done in black to improve the aesthetics.
With that being said, "What's next?" is a question that is likely on everyone's mind, for what my moves next are for this car.
For now: I'll aiming first to enjoy it and get acquainted with the new platform. I still need to learn how to operate the cruise control stalk for one.
But eventually, I'll be looking into some more aesthetic improvements for the A Class. Carbon splitters, skirt extenders, are my first mods to consider next. I also do want to change out the front 'diamond' Mercedes grille for an AMG GTR inspired one.Maybe some carbon bits here and there? Once funds can allow it, possibly some lowering springs to help with the fitment?
I'm also still part of my itasha club back on Oahu (Akiba.HNL); maybe I could also look at getting a wrap design done for this car too?
Who knows what this new project will bring. I'm excited for the journey I am about to take with this.
Aside from myself giving updates on this car, along with my initial reflections on what I like/dislike about it in stock form, what are some things you would like to see me write about this project? Feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments below.