Review

Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Price  £21,410 - £35,425

Mercedes A-Class hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Premium badge
  • Cheap to run
  • Hi-tech kit
Cons
  • Pricey to buy
  • Uncomfortable ride
  • Not particularly practical

At a glance

Our Pick
A 200 d SE 5dr £23,560
The greenest
A 180 d SE Executive 5dr £23,480
The cheapest
A 180 SE 5dr £21,410
The fastest
A 250 AMG DCT 5dr £30,805
Top of the range
A 220 d 4MATIC Motorsport Ed Premium DCT 5dr £35,425

“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.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4 / 5

The Mercedes A-Class diesel range returns impressive fuel economy

Engines, drive & performance

3.5 / 5

Good to drive, but the Mercedes A-Class doesn’t engage its driver like a BMW 1 Series

Interior & comfort

2.9 / 5

The Mercedes A-Class has a stylish interior, but can’t match the Audi A3 for quality

Practicality & boot space

3 / 5

Compact shape makes the Mercedes A-Class feel less spacious than rivals

Reliability & safety

3.8 / 5

Mercedes A-Class offers five-star safety and decent build quality

What the others say

3.1 / 5
based on 4 reviews
4 / 5
"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."
2 / 5
"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."
8 / 10
"Mercedes says this new A-Class is vital to its future fortunes. Good job it's so impressive then."
5 / 10
"The Mercedes A-class is one of the most striking hatchbacks around, but rivals such as the Audi A3 and VW Golf are both cheaper to run and far more capable."
What owners say 
3.2333333333333
3.2 /5 based on 9 reviews
44%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
13 Jun 2016
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