- Stylish looks
- Good quality interior
- Great standard spec
- Poor handling and ride quality
- Lack of usable space
- No real eco-friendly option
Mercedes stylish compact hatchback offers practicality with a touch of class
Since Mercedes’ first entry into the compact hatchback market in 1997, the Mercedes A-Class has undergone radical changes. The first-generation A-Class was widely mocked for its handling and, rather strange looks. The second-generation (04-12) improved massively upon this, without really excelling. The current third-generation A-Class, released in 2012, is where Mercedes have finally managed to get it right. The new A-Class is stylish, practical, and features strong, efficient engines. Finally, after a few reincarnations, the A-Class has succeeded in being a great choice for small-family buyers who crave a little luxury in their lives.
High-quality finish is let down by a lack of space
One place where the A-Class really excels is in its interior. There’s all the quality that you’d expect from a Mercedes, with a high-grade finish throughout. If it’s space you’re after though, rivals do probably offer greater practicality.
The dashboard of the A-Class is a wonderful concoction of quality plastics and sporty-looking controls. High-class, soft-touch materials are used throughout, with the exception of the lower half of the dash, which disappoints slightly with hard plastics. This really shouldn't put you off, as the dash of the A-Class really is a thing of beauty to look at, taking styling cues from the more much more expensive CLC. What's more, controls are intuitive, straightforward and easy-to-use. When it comes to compact hatchbacks, there are few that can match the Mercedes A-Class.
One area that lets the A-Class down, however, is its space. Whilst there is decent space inside the cabin, the boot area isn’t the most practical. With just 340 litres, it can’t match its closest rivals; the BMW 1 Series offers 360 litres, and the VW Golf and Audi A3 offer 380 litres. It’s also not the deepest of boots, and the swooping design of the A-Class means it's not the most practical of spaces either. It still packs enough room to easily accommodate the weekly shop, but if space is at the top of your needs, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Equipment levels are impressive even for a luxury hatchback. The entry-level SE trim comes with air conditioning, soft imitation leather seats, a 7-inch display with Bluetooth connection, electric windows, and 16-inch alloy wheels. And climate control is standard on every trim up from SE, including the Sport model. A DAB radio is an option throughout the range, which is a little disappointing, as most rivals provide this as standard. Overall though, there’s enough to keep most buyers happy.
All in all, the interior of the A-Class is a very pleasant place to be in. Whilst space might be an issue, and the lack of a DAB radio as standard may upset some, the interior of the A-Class is perfect for those who want a high-quality, sophisticated finish.
Good handling, disappointing ride quality
Compared to its main rivals, the Mercedes A-Class falls behind when it comes to driving experience. Handling is, however, reasonably good, though on standard comfort suspension there is quite a lot of body roll, and steering isn’t as sharp as it should be. The option of adaptive dampers makes the A-Class an infinitely better car to drive, alleviating these issues. But for a car of this more premium price, you shouldn’t have to pay extra for great handling and, even with adaptive dampers, it’s still not as impressive as a VW Golf or an Audi A3.
Ride quality for a compact hatchback from a premium manufacturer is surprisingly poor. The suspension doesn’t handle potholes as well as you might expect, making for a slightly bumpy, somewhat jittery ride. Models further up the range, with larger alloy wheels, only make this situation worse. Adding the adaptive dampers improves things slightly, but it’s still not the greatest of driving experiences.
There are two gearbox options on the A-Class, a 6-speed manual, and a 7-speed twin-clutch DSG semi-automatic. The latter is one of the best gearboxes in its class but is only found on AMG-line models. The 6-speed manual is also of a quality that you’d expect from a Mercedes. Both transmissions are seriously good and definitely aren’t going to leave you disappointed.
Impressive diesels, and a lightning-fast petrol AMG
In terms of how you want to power your A-Class, you have two options - petrol or diesel. There’s no hybrid or electric available at the minute, which will disappoint eco-friendly buyers, but for most this won't be an issue.
For the petrolheads out there, Mercedes offers the absurdly fast A45 AMG. This option packs a 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces 360hp, and 450NM of torque, firing you from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds. For those who want speed, but not at quite this extreme level, there is another option. The 1.6-litre petrol engine in the A200 Sport produces 153bhp, getting you from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, which will be quick enough for all but the extreme adrenaline junkies.
If it’s an eco-friendly car that you want, the greenest option is the A180 CDI diesel. Producing just 98g/km of C02, this model just misses out on the free-tax boundary. This is a bit disappointing as some key rivals offer free-tax engine options, but it’s still fairly eco-friendly and light on the road tax. This model also happens to be the best in terms of fuel efficiency. The 76.4mpg offered by this engine is sure to attract the penny-pinching buyer, and you’re unlikely to see many more efficient engines than this in the luxury compact hatchback market.
Whatever engine you decide upon for you A-Class, you can be assured that it’s going to have enough punch in the city, on motorways, and on B-roads. Diesels are definitely the best options if you want value for money, and the A45 AMG offers eye-watering performance levels that are unbeatable at this level.
Full marks in NCAP safety tests with high amount of standard safety kit
Like nearly every car in its class, the A-Class easily reached the highest possible 5-star NCAP safety rating. Though results aren’t quite as impressive as the Audi A3 and VW Golf in both adult and child safety, the A-Class is still a very safe car. There’s also a string of exceptional standard safety features. With seven airbags, traction control, a radar-assisted collision prevention system, and a tyre pressure monitoring system, you can be assured of both your's and your passenger's safety.
Not cheap, some efficient models, and a high residual value
The A-Class can be a cheap car to run, but it depends entirely upon which model you choose to go for. The A180 CDI diesel is easily the best value - in terms of purchase price, efficiency, and tax band. Some models are, however, more expensive. Although, even the sporty A45 AMG model produces 40.9mpg, which really isn’t too bad considering how much performance it provides.
Insurance-wise, it entirely depends on which model of A-Class you go for. Starting at insurance group 15 for the A180 CDI SE, it ranges up to group 43 for the blisteringly quick A45 AMG model. These groups are roughly the same as the A-Class’s main rivals, so you won’t be paying any more than you should be.
Depreciation is a large factor with the Mercedes A-Class, but only if you choose to buy from new. With first-year depreciation as high as 40%, you’re better off opting for an inspected used equivalent.
The third-generation A-Class is a much-needed improvement on Mercedes’ previous attempts at luxury compact hatchbacks. Despite its limited space and slightly disappointing handling, it has a fantastic interior, classy styling, and a decent range of engines. This will be more than enough to convince some buyers to take the plunge on a used Mercedes A-Class.
Buying a used Mercedes A-Class online with Carspring
If you’re after a used Mercedes A-Class for sale, it can all feel like a bit of an ordeal. What, with long days spent around gigantic car supermarkets, or time spent trawling through classified websites, looking for that ideal used A-Class. Carspring makes it simple. Buy your next used Mercedes online with the touch of a button. Simply decide on the model you want and choose how you want to pay.
Looking to finance your used A-Class? Not a problem, we work with our carefully selected finance partners to ensure that, if you’re paying monthly for your used Mercedes A-Class, you know you’re getting the best rates. What’s more, with any Carspring used A-Class, you also get our 14-day money-back guarantee and 6 months’ free Carspring Warranty. Plus, you don’t have to leave your home. We’ll deliver your used Mercedes to you at a time and place of your choice.
*This is an approximate figure based on the range of the car’s list price and the AA’s average 1st year depreciation cost of 40%.