Mercedes A-Class hatchback
Price £21,065 - £35,030
- Stylish looks
- Very hi-tech
- Economical engines
- Options are expensive
- Smaller boot than rivals
- Sport models are uncomfortable
At a glance
"The Mercedes A-Class is one the most luxurious hatchbacks you can buy. It’s good looks and premium cabin make it a real rival to the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3."
The Mercedes A-Class is the smallest car in the prestige brand's range, but Mercedes has by no means skimped on premium feel and build quality. The A-Class needs to be good, though: rivals like the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Volvo V40 mean competition at this end of the hatchback class is tough. More everyday propositions like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus are excellent cars as well, despite not having quite the same cachet as the Mercedes.
The previous-generation Mercedes A-Class was a somewhat ungainly-looking, boxy car, but Mercedes has styled this latest version in a more conventional manner, so the A-Class is now a seriously good-looking hatchback. In terms of power, A-Class customers can choose from a variety of petrol and diesel engines, all of which are reasonably economical and perform well.
The star for efficiency is the A180d, which manages 80.7mpg and is road-tax-exempt if specified with 16-inch alloy wheels. There's also a performance-orientated model, called the Mercedes A45 AMG, which we’ve reviewed separately.
If you don’t do enough miles annually to justify the higher initial price of a diesel A-Class, the petrol A180 automatic manages a reasonable 55.4mpg and costs just £30 a year to tax. If you cover a lot of miles though, the extra power of the A220d propels it from 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds, while returning 67.3mpg and incurring a road tax bill of just £20 a year.
This performance and the Mercedes A-Class’ good looks aren’t quite matched by its handling. The A-Class feels planted and solid on the road and is pleasant enough to drive, but the BMW 1 Series is more engaging and the lowered suspension of higher-specification A-Class models can be overly firm and uncomfortable.
One area where the A-Class appears excels is inside. It has similar design cues to models higher up the Mercedes range, meaning the cabin gives the impression of being a premium product. This isn’t quite matched by build quality, which falls behind rivals like the Audi A3.
The Mercedes’ cabin space is also compromised: that sporty styling makes for a cramped interior, especially in the rear. Access to the back seats is also problematic, as the rear doors don’t open wide enough. Similarly, while the A-Class has a good-sized boot, its opening is an awkward shape, completing the sense that style has taken precedence over practicality.
Mercedes fits a generous amount of equipment to even the entry-level A-Class SE, which comes with alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a colour infotainment display and all-round electric windows. Higher-specification Sport and AMG Sport trims get more equipment, although optional extras and those higher trim levels make the A-Class an expensive car.
The A-Class should be a reliable and well-built car: Mercedes has a good reputation in this area, although look closely and you may be a little disappointed by some of the cabin materials used. The A-Class scored the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash safety tests, thanks to myriad airbags and electronic stability programmes, as well as driver tiredness monitoring and collision-detection systems.
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