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Used Mercedes A-Class review: 2012 to 2018 (Mk3) - Engines, drive & performance

The Mercedes A-Class is pleasant enough inside, but is neither as comfortable nor as good to drive as many of its rivals

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Drive the Mercedes A-Class in isolation and it comes across as a solid performer. It has plenty of merits, including direct steering and – when fitted with smaller alloy wheels – it’s acceptably comfortable. However, it’s overshadowed by rivals in each key area, as some alternative models are more fun to drive, others are more comfortable, and some, such as the BMW 1 Series, are better in both ways.

What is the Mercedes A-Class like to drive?

Unlike the BMW 1 Series, which is rear-wheel drive, most Mercedes A-Class models are front-wheel drive, which means they are less fun than the BMW.

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Like many front-wheel-drive cars, the Mercedes can suffer from torque steer – a writhing sensation through the steering wheel under hard acceleration – although this is more pronounced in the A-Class than in rivals such as the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. You can specify 4MATIC four-wheel drive on most models in the range and this makes the car feel planted, but not any more fun to drive.

The Mercedes' biggest downfall is its ride, which isn’t as good as it should be. You expect a Mercedes to be really comfortable but the A-Class is only acceptable on versions with smaller alloy wheels. The Sporty AMG Line models are too stiff and bouncy, so they’re a bit unpleasant on bumpy roads.

Which engine should I choose?

While the A180d diesel is undoubtedly easy on fuel, it’s not quick – the 0-62mph sprint takes a leisurely 11.3 seconds – a figure beaten by its direct rivals from Audi and BMW. Spend a bit more and things get significantly better: the 2.1-litre diesel A220d can dispatch with 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, which makes it well suited to making swift and safe A-road overtakes.

On average, the petrol engines are much more sprightly from 0-62mph. The slowest petrol, the A160, does it in 10.6 seconds with a manual gearbox. Naturally, the more powerful petrols accelerate quicker, with the A250 hitting the magic number in 6.3 seconds, which is a similar time to the Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch. The powerful A45 AMG has a 4.2-second launch time that rivals that of a Porsche 911.

The best engine will be the one that balances the amount of performance you want with the best fuel economy. For many people, this will be the A200 petrol model, although anyone doing a lot of motorway miles will be better off with one of the 2.1-litre diesel versions (A200d or A220d).

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