Mercedes A-Class hatchback
Price £20,715 - £38,195
- Stylish looks
- Economical engines
- Very hi-tech
- Smaller boot than rivals
- Options are expensive
- Sport models are uncomfortable
At a glance
"The Mercedes A-Class is one of the most stylish premium family hatchbacks on the market and is a real rival to the likes of the BMW 1 Series."
The Mercedes A-Class is the cheapest model in the Mercedes range and offers buyers an alternative to premium hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, and BMW 1 Series. It has smart looks and a practical hatchback body style.
Although the Mercedes isn’t as fun to drive as the BMW 1 Series, it is still enjoyable, although AMG models suffer from stiff suspension that can be uncomfortable on poor roads.
Counting in the car's favour is an excellent range of engines and the most economical diesel version can get more than 70mpg, while the 220CDI offers excellent economy and performance. The Mercedes A45 AMG performance variant offers more power than any of its competitors, and is fitted with four-wheel drive for excellent levels of grip in all weather conditions.
As hatchbacks go, the Mercedes A-Class is not cheap, but even the basic SE model comes equipped with a 5.8-inch colour display, 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear electric windows, a Bluetooth phone connection, air-conditioning and leather seats. Sport models add cruise control, auto wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels and twin exhaust pipes. Both the top-of-the-range A45 AMG and the Engineered by AMG model offer sporty looks, but the latter has much cheaper running costs.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Diesel engines are very cost-efficient, with high economy and low emissions
The cheapest Mercedes A-Class to run is the diesel A180 CDI, which records economy of 78.5mpg and low CO2 emissions that mean it is exempt from paying road tax. Choosing the A200 CDI diesel means a useful hike in performance, yet it still manages 62.8mpg and emissions of 118g/km for road tax of just £30 per year. Even the fast C220 CDI diesel can return 64.2mpg and also costs £30 to tax every year.
The most economical petrol model is the A180, which is capable of 51.4mpg, while road tax will set you back £110 annually. Running costs and performance steadily increase until you get to the very fast A45 AMG model, which can only manage 40.9mpg and CO2 emissions that mean it will cost £180 to tax.
Interior & comfort
Comfort levels are a bit disappointing especially on high-spec models
The Mercedes has a stylish interior that looks and feels well built, however some of the plastics used are not up to the standards of the Audi A3.
At least it is easy to get a comfortable driving position thanks to a good range of adjustment. The controls are also well laid out and the driver sits low for a sporty feel, although visibility out of the back could be better.
Comfort is compromised by the model's firm suspension, which is noticeable even in the basic SE model and only gets worse the further you go up the range.
Practicality & boot space
Reasonable interior space but boot is smaller than rivals’
The downside of the A-Class’ sporty looks is that the low roofline makes the interior feel quite claustrophobic inside, even though head and legroom are good. Getting in the back can be a bit of a squeeze because the Mercedes’ doors don’t open as wide as they do on some other models. There should be no such problems in the front seats, with wide-opening doors and lots of space. There are also plenty of cubbyholes and cupholders.
Load capacity falls short of the best in class thanks to a 340-litre boot that is smaller than the one you’ll find in the BMW 1 Series (360 litres), Audi A3 (365 litres) and the Volkswagen Golf (380 litres). Folding down the rear seats means you get a total load capacity of 1,157 litres. Annoyingly, to do that you have to remove the parcel shelf completely, plus the high boot lip and small opening mean that you’ll struggle to get heavy items loaded easily.
Reliability & safety
Five star safety and Mercedes gets a big thumbs up from customers
As the new Mercedes A Class is a brand new model it didn’t feature in our 2014 Driver Power survey. Mercedes does have a good reputation for reliability however, and the A-Class feels well constructed, although some of the interior plastics can feel a bit cheap. Mercedes finished 9th out of 33 firms in our manufacturers’ rankings, which seems to confirm the A-Class’ decent build quality.
The A-Class scored five stars for safety when it was tested by Euro NCAP. All models come with a full array of airbags, stability control, anti lock brakes, ISOFIX child seat mounts and Attention Assist, which stops the driver falling asleep at the wheel. Collision Prevention Assist warns the driver when it senses an imminent collision and prepares the brakes for an emergency stop. Optional safety features include active cruise control, which keeps a safe distance from the car in front, and a blind spot warning system.
Engines, drive & performance
It performs well on the road but it’s not quite as good to drive as the BMW 1 Series
The diesel A180 CDI isn’t very quick, with a 0-62mph of 11.3 seconds, while the A200 CDI gets there in 9.3 seconds. The quickest diesel is the C220 CDI, which gets from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and has a top speed of 137mph. For a solid mix of performance and economy, it is the model to go for.
The basic A180 petrol model can get from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, while the A200 is plenty quick enough with 0-62mph taking 8.4 seconds on the way to a top speed of 139mph. Fastest of all is the A45 AMG. If you can live with its stiff suspension, it can get from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds and has grippy four-wheel drive for excellent performance in all weather conditions.
Price, value for money & options
List prices are higher than rivals, and options are expensive
The BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf all undercut the Mercedes on price, but the basic Mercedes A-Class SE does come with a generous equipment list. It includes alloy wheels, air-conditioning, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. All models also get a 5.8-inch colour display.
Sport models and above add cruise control and ambient lighting, while AMG Sport and Engineered by AMG models get a leather interior, large alloy wheels, and a sportier exterior appearance.
Options include equipment such as sat-nav, a surround-sound premium stereo, and park assist that can park the car autonomously. As with all Mercedes models, ticking too many additions on the options list can massively increase the price of the car.
What the others say
"Great to look at, wide range of engines and lots of clever tech, but a narrow boot, firm ride on sport models, and expensive options."
"Although running costs are competitive, the A-Class isn't anywhere near as comfortable or refined as the Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series. Ultimately, it's a disappointment because of this."
"If you're looking for a snappy rival to the BMW 1-Series, look elsewhere; this is a superbly built, cosseting little hatch. Lovely."