Mercedes A-Class hatchback (2005-2012) review
"The Mercedes A-Class is spacious, well built and has low running costs. It's a desirable upmarket hatchback."
- Practical and spacious interior
- Low running costs
- Good safety record
- Automatic versions are costly
- Cabin comfort could be better
- Most engines aren't suited to motorway driving
Badge appeal counts for a lot when it comes to prestige hatchbacks - and the Mercedes A-Class has more than its fair share. The tall, boxy styling means it's not as attractive as its main rivals - the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 - but it's practical and spacious inside. Prices are high, yet running costs are low. The build quality is up to the high standard you would expect of a Mercedes, and the A-Class is easy to drive.
MPG, running costs & CO2
In manual guise, no Mercedes-Benz A-Class is expensive to run. The dearest of the lot is the A 180, with 44.8mpg and emissions of 145g/km, which means that Road Tax costs £125 a year - but that's not bad. The best of the range is the A 160 CDI, which offers 62.8mpg and 118g/km (meaning £30 annual Road Tax). Specifying an automatic gearbox increases running costs significantly. The A 180 automatic returns 41.5mpg and 159g/km, so you're looking at another £30 on top of the manual's Road Tax costs. The A 160 CDI automatic, though still not expensive to run in general, is a lot dearer than the manual - it averages 52.3mpg and 142g/km, so the annual Road Tax bill increases by £95. Insurance groups are fairly low and range from Group 10 to Group 15.
Engines, drive & performance
The 1.5-litre A 160 has a 94bhp petrol engine and is at its best around town. The 114bhp 1.7-litre A 180 is more capable on longer journeys, but it's the diesels that really shine - the A 160 CDI has a 2.0-litre diesel and is very cheap to run. However, our favourite is the 106bhp A 180 CDI. It’s a great all rounder - it has plenty of power and is best for motorway driving. Overall, the A-Class has light steering and good visibility, so it's very easy to drive around town. However, on twistier roads the steering doesn't feel as precise as that of the BMW 1 Series. All versions are available with an automatic gearbox.
Interior & comfort
Generally the A-Class provides a reasonably comfortable ride, but things can get bumpy when you venture on to country lanes. Petrol engines are smooth and quiet at low speed, but they make a quite a bit of noise when driven hard, while the diesels are quite loud all of the time. Wind and road noise are well shut out, though – which makes long journeys less tiring.
Practicality & boot space
The A-Class has a 435-litre boot, which is bigger than in many family cars. Fold the back seats down and there’s a mammoth 1,995 litres of space, which is very impressive. The interior is well laid out, and to save space, the rear seat squabs can be stored under the floor in the boot. There's plenty of head and legroom for front and rear seat passengers, too. The three-door model isn’t as easy to get in and out of, but it still offers lots of practicality, plus a large easy to load luggage area.
Reliability & safety
The A-Class was awarded five stars for adult occupant protection in the Euro NCAP test, which is a good result. There's also a double-layered floor that pushes the engine underneath the passenger compartment in the event of a heavy collision, so it avoids intruding into the cabin. Electronic stability control and four airbags are standard, but rear side and window airbags are an option. Build quality is typically excellent and reliability is also good. The A-Class finished 25th in the 2010 JD Power Satisfaction survey and 45th out of 100 in the Reliability section of the Driver Power survey, both of which are respectable results.
Price, value for money & options
Next to the rival BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, the Mercedes looks like decent value, but it's pricier than non-premium rivals like the Vauxhall Astra and Honda Civic. Basic SE cars come with electric front windows, air-conditioning, tinted windows and hill start assist to help you out when driving slowly uphill. Elegance SE models add electric rear windows, automatic headlights and wipers, plus alloy wheels.