Stuck in the middle of the hatchback rivalry.

Introduction

The A-Class is Mercedes’ take on a five-door family hatchback and it’s a far more conventional machine in its third-generation guise than it had been previously. As it wears a prestigious badge on its bonnet, the A-Class is not one of the more affordable cars in the class, and it’s not absolutely huge on the inside either, but it comes with attractive interior design, some big-car luxuries, and decent engines. It also features appealing styling, improved by a midlife facelift in 2015, with the popular AMG Line cars looking particularly good. Power comes from an exclusively four-cylinder line-up of petrol and diesel engines, with drive going to the front axle as standard, with an option to have 4Matic all-wheel drive on some models. Transmissions are a six-speed manual or a 7G-Tronic dual-clutch automatic, and there’s also a performance model in the form of the A 250 AMG. We'll deal with the fire-breathing AMG A 45 in a separate review.

 

Body Style: Hatchback Seats: 5  MRP from £20,670 - £36,155

  

Did you know? The A-Class was penned by British designer Mark Fetherston, who was also responsible for the gullwing-doored SLS supercar.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8.15/10)

The Mercedes A-Class might not quite be the class leader in the premium hatchback market – that accolade goes to the proficient Audi A3 – but it’s a very strong contender, nonetheless. Its strengths are its looks, interior finishing, and of course its prestige status. The Merc’s failings are that it doesn’t drive as entertainingly as the older BMW 1 Series, and it’s not as comfortable as the Audi, leaving it kind of between two dynamic stools. However, we’d always recommend family hatch buyers to give the Mercedes due consideration, especially the unfairly overlooked A 250 AMG model, which is an adept rival for the ubiquitous Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Specs & Trims

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

 

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

We Like

Elegant exterior

Dash design

Appealing A 250 AMG model

We Don't Like

Cramped rear seats

It’s expensive

Noisy 2.1-litre diesel

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

While the original two generations of A-Class were much vaunted for their maximised interior space and ‘sandwich chassis’ (a safety innovation that meant the engine and gearbox would slide underneath the passenger compartment in the event of an accident), their very construction meant they were strange, unattractive machines, upright and similar looking to small MPVs.

For the launch of the third generation in 2012, the company abandoned that premise, the A-Class turning into a handsome hatchback in the process. It’s certainly a little better resolved than a BMW 1 Series and more interesting than the overly-familiar Audi A3, while a vanishingly small facelift in 2015 – bringing in new light clusters, bumpers, and the diamond-pattern grille – polished the appearance. Like so many German cars, it looks best in higher specifications, such as the AMG Line, where the beefed-up bodywork and large alloys suit its lines well.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

The dashboard of the Mercedes A-Class isn’t extravagant, yet there are a few suitably classy touches, like the five round air vents with an aeronautical look, the number pad control panel on the console, and nicely finished climate control switchgear. In the main, it’s made of top-grade materials too, although there are one or two plastics that leave something to be desired in a Mercedes-Benz.

The chief issues with the A-Class are the infotainment screen, which looks like an aftermarket afterthought perched on top of the dash, and the same niggle that pertains to nearly every modern Benz: the company’s idiosyncratic ergonomics. On models with electrically adjustable seats, the switches to control these are on the door cards, not the seats themselves; it’s not the worst idea in the world, but it does feel alien for those used to other brands to not have the adjustment physically on the seat.

The one that draws most ire, though, is the column-mounted shift-lever on automatic models, with some key controls (wipers, main beam, and indicators) on a solitary stalk to the left of the steering wheel. No other manufacturer does anything like this, so it can come as a shock to the system if you’re used to other layouts, but familiarity does make it all work slightly more intuitively.

Practicality

While space up front is fine, headroom in the rear is limited. The A-Class also doesn’t have the largest boot going, and the rear-light clusters cut into the aperture to turn loading larger items into a spatial awareness puzzle. However, the rear-seat backrests fold 60:40 on all cars, increasing the boot space from 341- to 1,157 litres, which is useful. There are also plenty of storage cubbies dotted throughout the interior.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

No matter which A-Class specification you pick, you’ll benefit from a six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, two USB ports, the Mercedes Me connected assistance package, and smartphone integration incorporating Apple CarPlay. Rather surprisingly, DAB radio is an option on every A-Class, and it’s not inexpensive, either. Garmin Map Pilot preparation is fitted to all cars, but actual satnav functionality is reserved for the A 250 AMG alone. Base SE cars have a seven-inch screen for the infotainment, while all other models have a display enlarged to eight inches. The ultimate in-car connectivity is represented by the Comand Online option and an optional Harman Kardon sound system (rated at 450 watts, with 12 speakers, a nine-channel amp, DTS 5.1 surround sound, and Logic 7 technology) can be fitted if you don’t like the standard Audio 20 set-up.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

The big introduction during the 2015 facelift was the adaptive damping option. It’s not standard on any regular A-Class, and indeed it’s not available at all on the SE and Sport models, but it’s an optional extra on the AMG Line, 250 AMG, and WhiteArt Editions. We’d definitely recommend having it fitted, because it has two settings – one geared towards comfort, the other towards handling – and these make more of the A-Class’ dynamic talents, delivering a sharper drive when you want it and a more supple ride for day-to-day driving.

The standard passive suspension set-ups change from model to model. The Sport, weirdly, has comfort suspension, while the AMG Line and its attendant WhiteArt Edition have lowered 'comfort' suspension (a 20mm drop front, 15mm rear). It’s only the 250 AMG that benefits from lowered sports suspension, but that does make its ride the firmest and least pleasant of all the A-Class models, a trait exacerbated by its 18-inch alloy wheels and low profile tyres.

The A-Class is not a very thrilling car to drive, but it is refined and the engines do, largely, make the most of that characteristic. For the petrol line-up, a Renault-Nissan-sourced 1.6-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine handles the bulk of the work. It comes with either 102hp as the A 160 A-Class entry point, 122hp as the A 180, or 156hp as the A 200. All feature the six-speed manual as standard, with the seven-speed 7G-DCT auto an option that improves performance and economy, and all of them operate smoothly – but the 200 auto’s 7.8-second 0-62mph time is more befitting of a premium machine like this.

Above that is the brand’s Volkswagen Golf GTI rival, the A 250 AMG, which has a 218hp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It’s a cracking car, but it’s costly, and the BMW 1 Series with a comparable engine drives in a more involving manner.

For the diesels, there’s another Renault-derived engine, the 1.5-litre turbo unit, which is fitted to the A 180 d. It makes 109hp. Above that is a 2.1-litre powerplant, which comes with either 136- (A 200 d) or 177hp (A 220 d). It’s a perfectly punchy engine, but it’s an old motor that is relatively noisy and rough, compared to prevailing class standards. The A 180 d and A 200 d are again manual as standard, with auto an option, while the A 220 d is automatic only.

On the A 220 d and the A 250 AMG, 4Matic all-wheel drive is offered, but to be honest, we don’t think it appreciably improves the driving experience of either car, so it will only be if you truly need maximum traction in poor conditions that you’d buy it.

Recommended engine: A 200 AMG Line 7G-DCT

0-62 MPH

7.8 seconds

Fuel economy

52.3 mpg

Emissions

126g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

With a five-star Euro NCAP rating already in the bag, the A-Class is a safe car. Standard equipment includes Active Brake Assist, no fewer than seven airbags, the Attention Assist driver fatigue monitor, two ISOFIX seat mountings in the rear, Brake Assist with Hold function and Hill-Start Assist, and a tyre-pressure monitoring system. Options include Lane Tracking and Driving Assistance Packages; the former has Blind-Spot Assist and Lane-Keeping Assist, while the latter features these two items, along with Distronic radar cruise control and Mercedes’ Pre-Safe anticipatory safety system.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

Colours

No-cost, solid paints are Cirrus White or Jupiter Red, with the metallic options amounting to Elbaite Green, Cosmos Black, Polar Silver, Mountain Grey, Cavansite Blue, Canyon Beige, and Orient Bronze. There’s one further choice, which is the pricey, special order 'designo Magno Mountain Grey' paint, and it’s exclusive to the 250 AMG.

Trim Levels

There are four key trim levels, which are SE, Sport, AMG Line, and then the 250 AMG as a model alone. After that, the AMG Line and the A 250 can both be specified as WhiteArt Editions. And, further, three equipment bundles – Executive, Premium, and Premium Plus – can be added to most of the range, with Mercedes effectively listing 12 different specs.

SE begins with 16-inch alloys, cruise control, push-button start, a reversing camera, a multifunction steering wheel, and air conditioning. Sport enlarges the alloys to 17s, brings in Dynamic Select drive modes, automatic wipers, a plusher steering wheel, and climate control.

AMG Line is all about the look inside and out, and it’s a popular trim. With a body kit and 18-inch wheels are perforated brakes with Mercedes-Benz-branded callipers, Sports Direct Steer, sports seats, carbon fibre-look trim, and an AMG-look steering wheel.

The WhiteArt Edition ramps up the style factor, with a Night Package, body graphics, black 18-inch wheels, striped seats to echo the exterior look, plus toys like LED lights, Parking Pilot, ambient lighting, Garmin satnav, and heated front seats. The A 250 AMG has pretty much the same list, minus the eye-catching styling, but then the A 250 AMG WhiteArt Edition brings back the decals, the Night Package, and 19-inch alloys in black.

All A-Classes come with a man-made material called Artico covering the seats. This looks like leather, but isn’t, although it doesn’t feel cheap. Despite this, proper cow hide is an option on higher models.

Size and Dimensions

The A-Class is not a huge car and shouldn’t present any real problems in terms of parking or driving through narrow streets.

Length

4,299mm

Width

2,022mm (including door mirrors)

Height

1,433mm

Max towing weight without brake

From 685kg (1.6-litre manual petrols) - 750kg (A 220 d 4Matic/A 250 AMG)

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

Strong residual values promised by that Mercedes badge, Benefit-in-Kind rates of anything between 20 and 30 per cent, and A-Classes sitting in the 13-29 insurance group bracket make it a fiscally tempting machine, before you look at the fuel economy figures. No front-wheel-drive diesel returns anything less than 65mpg combined (even the 4Matic 220 d does 59mpg) and the petrol cars all return in excess of 41mpg – and yes, that includes the 250 AMG. These figures are achieved because the turbocharged engines are designed for frugality, the A-Class’ lean body is aerodynamically excellent, and all models have an Eco Start/Stop function to stop the idling engine in stationary traffic.

Reliability and servicing

A mixed bag on the reliability, as some owners report repeated trips to the dealerships to get niggling faults fixed. Nevertheless, Mercedes does have a good reputation for making sturdy cars and a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty offers good cover. The A-Class has the 'Assyst' service indicator system, which means the car signals when it needs to go into the dealership to be looked at – rather than adhering to a fixed-interval service schedule.

Petrol models

No fixed servicing schedule – Assyst variable maintenance plan.

Diesel models

No fixed servicing schedule – Assyst variable maintenance plan.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class

Compared to the ‘core’ bulk of C-segment hatchbacks – cars like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308, Seat Leon, and more – the A-Class is comparatively dear. It even manages to make a Volkswagen Golf look like a bit of a bargain. But the Mercedes is priced to compete with premium models like the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, and Lexus CT, and it’s broadly on a par with such rivals. The cheapest and costliest A-Class cars are petrol powered, the A 160 SE manual coming in at less than £21,000, while the A 250 AMG 4Matic retails in excess of £36,000. The diesels start at around £23,000 for the A 180 d SE manual and climb to a shade over £34,000 for the A 220 d 4Matic WhiteArt Edition.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Company Car Buyer

With emissions of just 89g/km, the A 180 d SE manual is the clear choice for the business user.

Car Enthusiast

No doubt about it, the A 250 AMG is the most vibrant steer of the A-Class family – and you can have it with a six-speed manual gearbox, too.

Luxury Seeker

An A 200 Sport 7G-DCT with the optional adaptive dampers will offer the best ride quality and refinement of the A-Class range.

Rivals

Audi A3

The current class leader, because it does so many things extremely well – shame it’s not a bit more interesting to drive, though.

BMW 1 Series

Has the A-Class and the A3 covered for driver thrills, but it’s getting on a bit now and it has some packaging compromises.

Infiniti Q30

Infiniti is Nissan’s luxury arm and the Q30 its premium hatch. Look at its interior closely… and you’ll realise it’s a re-bodied A-Class.

Lexus CT

Lexus continues to doggedly stick with CVT-equipped hybrids – leaving the unusual CT with a very narrow and unappealing range.

Volvo V40

Not a bad car and has lovely, comfy seats, but the V40 – like the BMW – is due for replacement in the near future; wait for the next car.

What others say

What Car?

“A stylish car with some nice features but most rivals are better value, better to drive, and more practical.”

Car Buyer

“The Mercedes A-Class is an upmarket family hatchback that can be surprisingly cheap to run, but its quirky styling won’t suit everyone.”

 

2017 Mercedes-Benz A Class