Mercedes A-Class AMG Line review
The Mercedes A-Class AMG Line hatchback offers sporting looks, premium technology and a wide array of engine options
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has created a family of upmarket small models. There’s the basic hatchback, which has a trio of German rivals with the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. Then there’s a saloon version, a coupe-like CLA with either saloon or ‘Shooting Brake’ estate bodies and, while it may have a different name, the GLA SUV with its raised ride-height and rugged exterior styling is also based on the same mechanicals.
It's Mercedes’ way of stealing as many possible slices of the popular small, premium car market. Here, we’re going to concentrate on the AMG Line hatchback, which is similar to Audi's S line and BMW's M Sport trims, and proves very popular with UK buyers.
The A-Class AMG Line hatchback aims to add a little bit of the glamour from Mercedes’ flagship AMG performance models to a range with more sedate engines and lower running costs. An enthusiast isn’t going to mistake the humble A180 for the high-performance AMG A45, but there’s no doubt that the AMG Line body styling gives it a more distinctive and sporting look than the SE trim.
The package includes bigger, deeper bumpers at the front and rear with chrome trims, AMG side sill panels and visible exhaust tailpipes. The diamond-pattern radiator grille has a single louvre to look sportier while 18-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels give a more premium look.
Inside, the AMG Line includes sportier seats trimmed in fabric and material which looks like leather but is actually ARTICO, an artificial alternative. It may not sound particularly luxurious but it actually feels better quality than many other carmakers’ real leather.
The three-spoke steering wheel is covered in real ‘Nappa’ leather, though, and has a flat-bottomed section, mimicking racing cars and making it a little easier to get in and out, especially if you have long legs.
That interior is one of the A-Class’s biggest selling points It manages to make most rivals look out of date, but the latest Audi A3 has taken a leap in technology to bring the fight back to Mercedes. Mercedes’s latest MBUX infotainment system places two digital displays in a continuous sweep across the top of the dash. Other features, like the turbine-style air vents and climate toggle switches, look and feel great, too.
In the AMG Line, the MBUX system uses a seven-inch touchscreen beside digital dials shown on a seven-inch display. Upgrade to AMG Line Executive for around £1,500 and the central screen is upgraded to a 10.25-inch item with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rear-view camera is added along with all-round parking sensors. Upgrading again to AMG Line Premium adds a 10.25-inch instrument display for the full 'widescreen' MBUX experience. Buyers also get keyless entry, 64-colour ambient lighting, an upgraded sound system and augmented navigation.
The final, range-topping AMG Line Premium Plus (for another £1,500), adds adaptive LED headlights, a panoramic glass sunroof, adjustable memory front seats, aluminium interior trim and traffic-sign recognition that displays speed limits and warnings in on the dashboard.
As with any other A-Class model, it is reasonably spacious inside, especially in the front. The boot space and cubby storage is an improvement over the old A-Class, but it is still not as roomy as an Audi A3, especially in the rear which can be tight for taller passengers.
The cheapest way into an AMG Line A-Class is with the A180, priced from £26,755 and powered by a 134bhp petrol engine. If you need a little more economy (and can cope with less power) there’s the 114bhp A 180 d, starting at £28,105. The claimed economy of 60mpg is impressive, but the lacklustre performance will always remind you that this is far from an AMG model, whatever the badge on the back says.
The A 200 petrol and A 200 d are much more interesting, with the latter having the option of coming as standard with an eight-speed dual-clutch auto. Move up to the A 220 d and A 250 and you will find improved performance, with 188 and 221bhp respectively – decent figures that get the A-Class from 0-62mph in around seven seconds.
Out on the road, the A-Class turns into corners with more enthusiasm than an A3, and remains flatter, with less body roll, as the weight loads up. The new BMW 1 Series feels slightly better balanced, though, despite the switch to a new front-wheel-drive chassis.
The 1 Series is more comfortable when equipped with optional adaptive dampers, too, and can round off little bumps which the A-Class on its big AMG wheels jiggles over. However, at motorway speeds, the A-Class manages to settle, despite those low-profile tyres, and the slippery body shape generates barely a whisper of wind noise.
That’s not something that can be said of the A 250’s engine. Whether it’s the diesel-like clatter at idle or the harsh, thrashy sound it makes at higher revs, the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine seems rather out of place in a Mercedes. And while performance is strong – a 6.3-second 0-62mph time is well within hot hatch territory – it’s hampered by a seven-speed gearbox which is slow to kick down and surges on upshifts.
Whichever body style of the A-Class you choose, the AMG Line versions are certainly the most attractive looking, thanks to styling additions inside and out which take their inspiration from Mercedes’ most exotic models. The interior is class-leading and if you tick a few boxes in the option list, it has some clever technology available too.
It's worth noting that he low-profile tyres and big wheels, which are part of the AMG Line pack, do hurt the refinement slightly on broken road surfaces. We’d also steer clear of the entry-level engines, as they only get you the sporting looks without any of the performance. The mid-range A 200 and A 200 d are the best all-rounders.