The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 2.6
The Mercedes A-Class impresses on interior quality and styling, and it’s as desirable as a Benz should be. It’s nowhere near good enough for ride or handling, though, and it also disappoints on refinement, ergonomics, practicality and value for money. There are much better cars out there for less cash.
Reasons to buy
- Good looking and desirable
- High-quality interior
- Good on safety
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
For the latest A-Class, Mercedes has ditched the boxy, MPV-like lines of previous versions and gone for something much more conventional. Stood alongside other prestige hatchbacks, the A-Class looks very smart, too, with big, angular headlamps, big air intakes and a grille-mounted three-pointed star. Cars in the base trim actually look quite anonymous with their small wheels and balloon tyres, but you get more and more spangly styling bits the further up the range you go, and range-topping version really do look very sharp indeed.
What's the interior like?
You expect a Mercedes, even a cheapish one, to have a classy interior. The A-Class doesn’t disappoint. The materials in your eye-line have a nice touchy-feely finish, there are some lovely metallic details, and the plastics lower down feel sturdy without being too functional. Ergonomically, though, the cabin is a mess, from the counter-intuitive way that the electric parking brake switch works to the dashboard that’s covered in similar-looking buttons, despite having most functions controlled by on-screen menus. Rear visibility is pretty poor, too.
How practical is it?
There’s enough headroom and legroom in the back of the A-Class to comfortably accommodate a couple of six-foot passengers, but the narrow cabin means that carrying three across the rear bench will be pushing it. Getting into the back takes some dexterity, too. The door openings are narrow, and because the rear wheelarches cut into them, they’re also an awkward shape. And, because the roof curves downwards at the sides of the car, you have to be careful not to bang your head. The boot is a decent size at 341 litres, but that’s not as much capacity and you get from rivals like the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series or Volkswagen Golf.
What's it like to drive?
This is where the A-Class really disappoints. Low-end models have a ‘Comfort’ suspension, while AMG Sport cars are lowered and Engineered by AMG versions are stiffer as well. All the versions we’ve driven have a ride that’s both crashy and unsettled at most speeds, and it gets worse the further up the range you go. The firm ride doesn’t translate into agile handling, either, because the body control is disappointingly sloppy. The steering is rather slow to react, too.
How powerful is it?
Aside from the A45 AMG hot hatch version of the A-Class, you have three petrol engines and three diesel engines to choose from. Two of the petrols are 1.6-litre turbos with 120bhp or 154bhp, while the 2.0-litre engine has 208bhp. The most powerful one feels very perky, but the other two are disappointingly lazy and have some flat spots in the power delivery. The 1.5, 1.8 and 2.1-litre diesels deliver between 107bhp and 168bhp, and again, the lower powered units feel a little flat. The diesel engines aren’t as quiet or as smooth as they should be, either.
How much will it cost me?
The A-Class has a range of brand-spanking new engines, so it’s right up there with the best cars in the class for fuel economy and CO2 emissions. You’ll have to keep a watchful eye on which trim you choose, though, because the bigger wheels on higher-spec versions increase the car’s official CO2 output, meaning you might have to pay more in taxes on your car. Purchase prices aren’t cheap, and crucially, they’re higher than those of other premium-badged rivals. At least resale values will be strong.
How reliable is it?
The A-Class’ interior quality gives you plenty of confidence about how well the car will stand the test of time, but Merc’s recent performances in various reliability surveys won’t back that up. The brand currently ranks in a disappointingly low position in Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings, for example. However, these results are based mainly on older Mercs, and the more recent models seem to be better built. Only time will tell.
How safe is it?
The A-Class has achieved the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, largely thanks to its seven airbags to protect occupants and the pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians. Stability control is also provided as standard, as are ISOFIX child seat mounts and a fatigue sensor. There’s also a range of more sophisticated safety kit available from the options list.
How much equipment do I get?
The entry-level SE car comes with a decent level of kit, including air-conditioning, alloy wheels, a stereo with USB port and Bluetooth, a leather steering wheel and seats partly covered in artificial leather. Sport versions get automatic lights and wipers, cruise control and a few more styling goodies, while AMG Sport versions have still more styling goodies and a lowered suspension. The Engineered BY AMG version has more styling goodies than you can shake a stick at, plus an even firmer suspension.
Because you like the sleek looks of the A-Class, the classy interior and the prestige image you get from that three-pointed star on the front. However, you get all that from an Audi A3, BMW 1 Series or Volkswagen Golf, all of which are considerably stronger than the A-Class in other areas.