Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The Essentials

  • Price from £18,945
  • What Car? says: 2 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 70.6mpg
  • What is it? The A-Class is a premium hatchback to rival the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.

Great

  • There are some cracking engines on offer
  • Comes packed with safety equipment
  • Refinement is pretty good most of the time

Gripes

  • The ride is unsettled on all versions
  • It could be more practical
  • Many rivals have a higher-quality feel
  • Drive

    Glue your dentures in before you hit any rough roads

  • Inside

    An adjustable driving position, but the controls are distracting

  • Safety

    Lots as standard and some very clever optional extras

  • Reliability

    Other premium hatchbacks feel posher

  • Space

    Short boot and acess to the rear seats isn't great

  • Standard and extras

    Competitive, if not exactly generous

  • What's it like to drive?

    There are three petrol engines and four diesels. The 168bhp 2.1 diesel in the A220 is particularly good: it pulls strongly from just 1500rpm so it remains relaxed and refined, even at motorway speeds. The 154bhp 1.6 petrol in the A200 is pretty smooth, too, but it becomes rather vocal on the motorway. You can also hear some wind noise down the sides of the car at motorway speeds, but it's not that bad.
    The standard 'comfort' suspension doesn't give you as smooth a ride as you get in rival hatchbacks. There's the odd thunk over bumps and the ride never really settles, even on the smallest wheels available. Go for one of the lowered, stiffened AMG Sport models, and the ride becomes positively bone-shaking on all but the smoothest surfaces. It's a huge pity, then, that the superb A220 diesel engine will be available only in AMG Sport format.
    All versions have steering that's precise and well weighted, but the A-Class isn't as enjoyable on a twisty road as other hatchbacks.

  • What's it like inside?

    There's plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, so most drivers should be able to get comfortable. Head- and legroom is on a par with rivals', but access to the rear isn't as easy as in a Golf, for example.
    The dashboard looks swish but the rotary climate controls feel rather lightweight and most of the lower-down plastics are hard, so the cabin isn't as classy as an Audi A3's.
    You operate many functions by scrolling through menus with a single control dial; unfortunately, these menus aren't especially well laid out, so the system can be distracting to use on the move.
    The boot is shorter than most rivals' and it isn't especially deep, but at least there's some extra storage space beneath the floor.
    Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, Bluetooth and air-conditioning.

  • How reliable is it?

    The A-Class is too new to have featured in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but other Mercedes owners generally reported that mechanical reliability is above average.
    Every A-Class comes with Attention Assist (which monitors driver fatigue) and a radar-controlled collision-prevention system, while the options list includes a wide range of other compelling safety technology. Not surprisingly, the A-Class achieved the maximum five-star rating in crash tests by Euro NCAP, including 93% for adult protection and 81% for child occupants. Deadlocks and an engine immobiliser help guard against theft.

  • Should I buy one?

    The A-Class models is competitively next to rivals such as the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. The manual A180 diesel SE is definitely worth considering if you want to keep costs down: it claims an impressive 74.3mpg with just 98g/km of CO2, which means no road tax and a lowly company car tax rate. All models should boast good residuals. It's just a shame that you can't combine our favourite engine with the better suspension set-up.