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It's an 'A' for classy saloon

The new Mercedes is a diesel and Campbell Spray finds himself in a spin over saving the planet and road tax


LOW-SLUNG QUALITY: The Mercedes-Benz AI80d is a premium small family saloon

LOW-SLUNG QUALITY: The Mercedes-Benz AI80d is a premium small family saloon

LOW-SLUNG QUALITY: The Mercedes-Benz AI80d is a premium small family saloon

It's a bit of a quandary. You let the garden go a bit wild, encourage the bees with some strategic planting, buy a reusable water bottle and ride a bike when you can.

As part of this gig, you look at the latest technology to cut emissions, save fuel and order the future in the most sustainable way. Meanwhile, manufacturers take great effort to show us their new cars and tell us how they are improving their green credentials.

Unfortunately this is often done abroad and the companies assemble a group of journalists, pack them on a flight - often very early in the morning - and take them for a day-and-a-half to somewhere like Frankfurt, Lisbon, Barcelona or further afield and let them test drive the car, subject them to press conferences and "workshops", fill them full of food and drink before decanting them back in Dublin late the next day.

But, as my son points out, is it really economically or environmentally worthwhile? Could I spend the time better and just how many extra carbon emissions have I put into the atmosphere with my flights? We'll see.

I have trips for the Skoda Kamiq, Kia Xceed and Peugeot 208 coming up. I had better get planting trees.

I was thinking of all this when considering the new version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class saloon; the second edition of the company's entry level model since it reverted from being a very boxy upright model to a low coupe-like saloon.

That seems to have worked and the new model is a very tasty small family saloon stuffed with technology - some rather nanny-like - and brings Mercedes-owning almost within touching distance. The A180d saloon, with a 1.5 diesel engine, starts at €34,220 (the range begins at €31,455) but add on stuff like the Advantage package, AMG line styling, metallic paint, etc, and you are up to €41,733.

Now this is still on par with the special anniversary three-door Mini I write about on the right. There are petrol engines available across the range but the car is really suited to the diesel which is in the very low Band 3 for yearly road tax of €190. And this is where it all relates to my earlier quandary. We are still left with the mess of the 2008 road tax changes which was based on CO2 emissions.

This enabled good diesel manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes to produce gargantuan vehicles powered by massive engines that attracted very low tax - often far less than a small petrol car bought the year before.

It meant a massive push to diesel which was very wrong for low mileage users. People thought they were doing the right thing then and as motoring correspondents we were complicit. Now there are major cities banning their vehicles. And unwanted ones from Britain are arriving on these shores.

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Anyway, back to the Mercedes; it is a rather polished machine. A bit low for me and doesn't look anything special from the side but brilliant from the front. I'd like a bit more wood touches inside, but there's no doubting the build quality. Recent buyers are some of the most contented on the road.

The EQC, the first Mercedes fully electric-powered passenger car based on the mid-sized GLC SUV, is being launched here tomorrow week at Palmerstown House Estate. At least that is just a dash down the Naas Road. I could and should cycle but won't.

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