+ Stylish design
+ Premium interior
- Firm ride
- Small boot
The first two generations of the A-Class weren’t a massive hit, and looking at their awkward, top-heavy design it’s easy to see why. Mercedes changed the recipe for the third generation and created a smart and stylish car that still looks good on the road today.
Ever the master of getting people to spend money on trims and optional extras, Mercedes offered a large range of options for the A-Class, which means there’s probably a great deal out there that is just right for you. We discuss trims in more detail below.
The petrol engines on offer are all peppy and smooth, and matched with the A-Class’s sporty handling dynamics make it a fun car to open up on a B-road. It’s a confidence-inspiring hatchback to drive at speed, with plenty of grip from the front wheels and a lightness in corners.
The interior matches the understated classiness of the exterior: it’s not got the same flair as the latest generation but it’s a good-looking environment to spend time in. And the infotainment system is slicker and more intuitive than many newer systems from other manufacturers: in-car tech has always been one of Merc’s fortes.
All of the above is underpinned by excellent build quality, and as long as it has been well looked after you are unlikely to encounter any major issues with a second-hand example.
While we’re a fan of the petrol engines, the diesel options are not especially refined, especially compared to diesel versions of the VW Golf and BMW 1 Series. This means you’re better off looking at those if it’s a mileage-munching diesel you need.
The A-Class’s sporty handling comes at the cost of ride comfort, it can feel quite harsh when the road isn’t smooth which, let’s face it, is most of the time in the UK. It has a tendency to crash over speed bumps and potholes, and there’s a lot of noise from the wheels and suspension inside the cabin.
Finally, the A-Class is behind the competition in terms of interior space. Its 340-litre boot is smaller than that found on the VW Golf, BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, and leg and headroom in the back is a little cramped.
If you want a diesel model you’ll need to look for the A180d or the A220d. The A180d is pretty sluggish, taking over 11-seconds to cover 0-62mph, but the A220d offers brisker performance, doing the sprint in 7.5-seconds.
There are four petrol engines to be had, two 1.6-litre units and two 2.0-litre units. The entry A160 petrol does 0-62mph in 10.6-seconds so won’t exactly set your drive to work on fire, but the range-topping (not including AMG models) A250 offers a hot hatch-worthy time of 6.3-seconds.
The basic SE trim is pretty well specced for an entry trim level, offering 16-inch alloys, cruise control, a reversing camera, plus sat nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via the 7-inch infotainment screen. Moving up to Sport trim gets climate control and a bigger infotainment screen.
AMG Line trim level adds some sporty styling cues, such as bespoke alloy wheels, a body kit, sports seats and a sports steering wheel.
The BMW 1 Series is serious competition to the A-Class, offering class-leading infotainment and fun driving dynamics. The Audi A3 is equally good to drive and offers more space in the back seats than both the Mercedes and BMW.
You could save some money by shopping for a VW Golf instead, which is one of the best all-round cars on the market. You’ll get more space and more kit for your money, and it still has the German build quality and reliability.
It isn’t as premium as the A-Class though, and it is less likely to make your neighbours green with envy.