The Mercedes A-Class is a small car that looks great and is available with economical engines but isn’t as good to drive nor as practical as similar cars
The A-Class first came out in 2012 and was updated in 2015 with new front and rear bumpers – and it’s fair to say it prioritises form over function in several areas. It’s not quite as practical as the Audi A3 Sportback or BMW 1 Series, for example, and both those cars are better choices if you regularly carry passengers in the back, or frequently carry big loads in the boot. If Porsche-beating performance is top of your wishlist then check out our Mercedes-AMG A45 review.
Hop in the A-Class’ driver’s seat and you’re greeted by an interior that looks posh but lacks the quality feel and modern design of the A3’s cabin. The Mercedes’ insides actually harbour some surprisingly naff bits, including the way the tops of the doors don’t line up with the edges of the dashboard, but at least all models get realistic-feeling man-made leather seats.
The A-Class’ infotainment system looks like a tablet that’s been stuck on the dashboard, and it’s not very easy to use. Still, you get Apple CarPlay as standard, meaning you can mirror your iPhone on the car’s screen and use your phone’s media and sat-nav apps through it. This is preferable to forking out the £495 Mercedes wants to add its own sat-nav – which also isn’t very easy to use and looks dated.
The A-Class is a bit of a mixed bag – it's not as comfortable as a Mercedes should be, and in places it even feels a bit cheap. But just look at it…
Does the A-Class make up for these shortcomings out on the road? Well, not really. The first thing you’ll notice is the A-Class’ low driver’s seat, which, combined with the car’s firm suspension, makes the small Mercedes feel sporty. However, that firm suspension also means bumpy roads will test your patience. The A-Class is a safe car though – it got a five-star crash-test rating from Euro NCAP in 2012, and is available with active safety systems to help avoid collisions.
If you do lots of city driving go for the A180 with its 1.6-litre petrol engine – it’s smooth, fast enough and returns a claimed 50mpg. If you do longer journeys then go for the A200d with its 2.1-litre diesel engine – it averages a claimed 71mpg and, although it sounds noisy when you put your foot down, you just can’t argue with that economy. Whichever you get, it’s worth paying for the automatic gearbox – it’s smooth and changes gears quickly, whereas the manual gearbox is notchy and not very nice to use.
Overall, the A-Class is a mixed bag. There’s no denying it looks fantastic, and it’s good on fuel if you go for a diesel version. It’s just not as good as an all-round, day-to-day car as the BMW 1 Series or Audi A3 Sportback – you can see why in our video group test.