Mercedes A-Class hatchback
Price £21,410 - £35,425
- Premium badge
- Cheap to run
- Hi-tech kit
- Pricey to buy
- Uncomfortable ride
- Not particularly practical
At a glance
“Although it’s very much a premium product, the Mercedes A-Class is nonetheless reasonably cheap to run.”
You won’t find a smaller car in the Mercedes-Benz range than the Mercedes A-Class. It's intended to take on rivals like the sporty BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, both of which offer stern competition, while the Infiniti Q30 shares much of its mechanical underpinnings with the A-Class.
Meanwhile, further down the pecking order, rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra do similar jobs to the A-Class, but for much less money. Granted, they don’t quite have the brand appeal of the mini-Merc, but you don’t have to shell out quite so much money for those cars, either.
Although in many ways the Mercedes A-Class is an entirely competent entry into the premium small hatchback class, there are some issues. While there's no doubting its styling is distinctive, it won’t be to everybody's taste and the price you pay for those nifty angles and high window line is a pretty poor view out – especially over your shoulder. The small glass area also means not a lot of light makes it into the passenger compartment. Combine this with the fact the interior is fairly dark anyway and it can be a little murky inside.
Nor does the A-Class feel quite up to the mark in terms of interior quality, especially when compared to the superb Audi A3. Despite these quality concerns, the interior is nicely designed, with neat styling touches and an ergonomic, easy-to-use layout. It suffers a little in terms of interior space, too, especially in the back. The swooping roofline means headroom is a little restricted, while you’ll struggle to fit three in the back for anything other than the shortest journeys. Getting into the rear seats can be a struggle, too, even though the A-Class has five doors. The rears don’t quite open wide enough, while even though the boot is a decent size, it's not a particularly practical shape and the prominent lip makes getting heavy items in and out difficult.
One area where you won’t find the A-Class wanting, however, is running costs. The most efficient version – the A180d – returns a hugely impressive 80.7mpg, which equates to CO2 emissions of just 89g/km. This means it's exempt from road tax and sits in the 18% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax band.
These numbers are only achievable with the six-speed manual gearbox, however. Go for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and the best you’ll get is 76.4mpg, while CO2 emissions jump to 98g/km, which means the car is still exempt from road tax for private buyers, but the BiK rate jumps to 19%.
If you’d prefer a petrol, the least expensive model to run is the automatic A160, which’ll return around 54mpg on average. This equates to 121g/km of CO2 and a £110 annual road-tax bill. Even the most expensive A-Class to run – the AMG A45 hot hatchback (which we’ve reviewed separately) will still manage just over 40mpg, however, with CO2 emissions of 162g/km.
It's pretty well equipped, too, with even the entry-level SE model coming with alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, part-LED tail-lamps, Bluetooth and a seven-inch infotainment screen. However, if you head up the trim levels, or get a bit too enthusiastic with the extensive options list, then the A-Class can get very expensive pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, the A-Class isn’t quite as good to drive as most of its rivals, either. It doesn’t entertain as much as the rear-wheel-drive BMW 1 Series – the steering is a bit too vague and there's too much body lean – but neither is it as comfortable as the Audi A3. In fact, specify larger 18 or 19-inch wheels, or go for the slightly sportier AMG-Line trim level and the ride can be very firm indeed.
Safety shouldn’t be much of a concern if you’re looking at buying an A-Class. Euro NCAP awarded it the full five stars for safety and standard equipment is as comprehensive as you’d expect from a Mercedes. Reliability shouldn’t be too much of a worry, either, with the A-Class coming 59th out of 150 cars in this discipline in our 2016 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey.
The Mercedes A-Class diesel range returns impressive fuel economy
Good to drive, but the Mercedes A-Class doesn’t engage its driver like a BMW 1 Series
The Mercedes A-Class has a stylish interior, but can’t match the Audi A3 for quality
Compact shape makes the Mercedes A-Class feel less spacious than rivals
Mercedes A-Class offers five-star safety and decent build quality