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Mercedes A-Class hatchback (2005 – 2012) expert review

By Stuart Milne, 22nd August 2007

The verdict

The Mercedes A-Class offers the sort of space and refinement you’d expect from bigger machinery, but in a much smaller package.

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Expert rating:

3.8

Pros

  • High quality interior
  • Spacious interior
  • Strong residuals

Cons

  • Expensive options
  • Unusual automatic gearbox
  • Questionable reliability

Full Review

1. Exterior

The second generation Mercedes A-Class has a sportier stance than its predecessor – especially the three-door version. It has a pair of sweeping headlights up front, a bolder grille and flowing lines along the side. The edges of the rear screen flow into the sides of the taillights, which in turn drops to form a low boot sill, which makes loading luggage simple. We tested the Elegance model, the second in a range of three, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels, body coloured door handles and wing mirrors, front fog lamps and bits of chrome over the entry-level Classic model.
Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The A-Class’ interior is immediately recognisable as a Mercedes. High quality materials and an excellent fit and finish are employed throughout. Only the faux wood trim flanking the centre console cheapens the look. Virtually every surface on the A-Class feels tactile and the controls are all clearly labelled and fall to hand. Only the single stalk control on the left of the steering column requires some getting used to. Until it becomes second nature to use, our roadtesters had to take their eyes off the road and peer around the thick steering wheel spokes.
Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

The A-Class offers a saloon car-sized cabin in a supermini-cum-MPV-sized package. Shoulder, head and leg room in both front and rear is excellent. Its boot capacity of 395 litres is 21 per cent more than the previous model. Loading luggage is easy with a low boot sill, although a lower boot floor can make loading bulky objects tricky. The rear seats can be folded to produce a flat loading area, which creates 1,340 litres of space. Mercedes’ Easy-Vario system allows the removal of the rear and front passenger backrests, increasing luggage volume to a class-leading 1,955 litres.
Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

Despite the A-Class’ lofty driving position, the car’s ride and handling are more than competent. There’s plenty of feel through the steering wheel, and body roll is strangely absent. Mercedes has employed a host of technology to reach this end, including a body roll-reducing clever rear axle and a ’selective damping system’ which adjusts the suspension depending on how the car is driven. Under normal conditions it optimises the set-up for comfort, but stiffens to stabilise the car during high speed cornering.
Our rating: 4

5. Performance

The 2-litre diesel produces 109bhp and 185lb/ft of torque, meaning a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds and a top speed of 115mph. The power  is transferred to the front wheels via Mercedes’ Autotronic automatic gearbox. This option changes the gear ratios constantly, eliminating the interruption of power found with a conventional auto ‘box and allowing the car to reach its maximum power range more quickly. Under hard acceleration, particularly, the sound of one gear from tickover to the rev limiter is strange. More satisfying is to select one of its seven ‘gears’ via the semi-automatic mode.
Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

The diesel engines offer the best fuel economy and superior used values; but the smaller petrol engines shouldn’t be discounted on that basis. The A150 petrol-engined entry-level model can manage 45.6mpg. Our test car was covering 45.3mpg on average – less than Mercedes’ official 54.3mpg figure – and its emissions of 142g/km of CO2 (137g/km for the manual version) place it in tax Band C. Insurance is group 7E, although the smaller-engined models are just group 5. Residual values are among the best in the hatchback class, thanks to Mercedes’ impeccable reputation.
Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

Mercedes are often bought for their perceived reliability, and the A-Class does a lot to cement that reputation. The car feels solid, and free from squeaks or rattles. The A-Class scores below average for the cost and frequency of breakdowns, largely due to its repair costs.
Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The A-Class scored a full five stars for adult occupant protection in the EuroNCAP crash test programme, its sandwich chassis helping to prevent injury by forcing the engine under the floor – rather than into the cabin – in the event of a collision. Other standard equipment includes two-stage airbags which deploy differently depending on the severity of the collision and head/thorax airbags which replace the side airbags (they’re in addition to driver and passenger airbags).
Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

Despite the A-Class’ high starting price, basic models are poorly equipped – the entry-level Classic does without air-con and alloys. Our Elegance test car is the second model in the range and adds electric rear windows (five door only), air-con, alloys, a cooled glovebox, a 12v socket in the rear, automatic headlights and wipers and a bulb failure indicator. You’ll need to upgrade to the Avantgarde to receive brighter projection headlights and Artico (a man-made leather) upholstery.
Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

Combining Europe’s love of small cars with Mercedes’ iconic badge was a very smart move. But looking beyond the badge, the A-Class is a superb space package which could be considered against far larger cars.
Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.8stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:
A160 BlueEFF Classic SE
The cheapest A-Class to buy and run.
Best-seller:
A160 Elegance SE
Smallest petrol engine is also a great one.
Blow the budget:
A180 Avantgarde
Avantgarde model offers plenty of

The A-Class is superbly packaged and could be considered against far larger cars