WE put the latest Mercedes A-Class to the test.

Mercedes A 220 d 4Matic AMG Line (Price, on the road, £30,280)

ON THE ROAD:

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THE original A-Class was very much an ugly duckling, and that's doing our avian friends down.

Podgy and boxy, it was awkward on the eye and perhaps as far away from what you imagine a Mercedes to look like as possible.

Fast forward to 2017, and it's like the original never existed.

Stylish and desirable, the latest A-Class is Kate Moss with wheels in comparison.

Even without the AMG adornments my test car had, the A200 is bound to receive admiring glances.

Lower and wider, it is exactly the kind of car you would expect from the German marque, at least from an aesthetic point of view.

The latest car has a distinctive diamond grille, new tail lights, an angular front bumper and new rear bumper and integrated exhaust pipes.

With 29 models to choose from, encompassing petrol and diesel variants, there should be an A-Class to suit most ,if not all, requirements.

My car was powered by a 2.1 litre diesel engine, mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

It looks the business and is capable of nought to 62mph in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 139mph.

The engine is not the quietest out there and the ride is on the firm side, meaning speed bumps are to be taken with understandable caution.

Because of its low centre of gravity, it is the kind of car you can have some fun with on the twists and turns, its responsive steering adding to the experience.

ON THE INSIDE:

IT might not measure up to its grander siblings in the size stakes, but the A-Class does its best to match them when it comes to interior quality.

I cannot comment on the models further down the pecking order, but my car certainly made me feel like I had arrived. Leather, carbon effect detailing and chrome trim, allied to neat and precise clocks and dials ensured an upmarket feel. There are lots of sweeping lines that draw the eye around the cabin.

A tablet style screen dominates the centre of the dash. It takes some getting used to and requires a fair degree of patience, but stick with it and you should grow to like it.

WHAT DO YOU GET:

STANDARD equipment on the test car included AMG bodystyling, brake calipers with 'Mercedes Benz' lettering inscribed on them, electrically adjustable and heated mirrors, twin exhaust pipes in stainless steel, reversing camera, brushed stainless steel sports pedals, leather dashboard upper, electric windows, electronic key, sports seats and split-folding rear seat backrests.

On the safety front, the my A220 had, among other things, an active bonnet which detects impacts and raises the bonnet by 65mm, Adaptive Brake Assist, Anti-lock brakes, AttentionAssist which monitors steering behaviour, childproof locks, electric parking brake, Electronic Stability Programme with Acceleration Skid Control, rain-sensing wipers and rear fog lamp.

Inside, there was an 8ins media display, Media interface, Mercedes me connect system and smartphone integration, comprising Apple CarPlay.

There was also a leather interior with carbon-fibre look trim. Dynamic Select offered a choice of driving modes, while there was also an eco start and stop function, lowered suspension and three spoke multi-function steering wheel. The wheels were 18ins AMG alloys in a five twin-spoke design.

HOW PRACTICAL IS IT:

IF the original A-Class opted for practicality over style, then perhaps this latest version reverses the priorities a little.

The sleek design does come with a price and while you can still seat four big ones or five little ones, room in the rear is at somewhat of a premium.

Driver and front seat passenger shouldn't have cause for complaint, but my youngsters were very close together in the back, which is not always a good thing. The one who drew the short straw and had to sit in the middle had a very narrow seat on which to perch.

The boot has a useful 341 litres of space, but that 's somewhat short of its rivals and the entry is quite narrow. Folding the seats creates a flat area for loading larger items.

RUNNING COSTS:

MERCEDES say it's possible to get 68.9mpg on the combined cycle. I managed 51.3mpg. CO2 emissions are 107g/km.

VERDICT:

STYLISH and desirable but practicality suffers

ALTERNATIVES:

BMW 1-Series, Audi A3