In-depth reviews

Mercedes-Benz A-class review – high-tech hatch takes aim at 1 series and A3

Now in its fourth generation, the Mercedes A-class is unrecognisable from the car that kicked things off two decades ago.

Evo rating
Price
from £22,195
  • Class-leading tech, luxurious interior, rapid A35
  • Poor ride, some unimpressive engines

The first two Meredes-Benz A-class iterations were clever and sold well, but the tall and narrow styling caused Mercedes some stability headaches at the first car’s launch. Like the Audi A2 it was a brilliantly packaged machine that aimed to combine the tradition Merc traits of space and quality, but in a package that was more VW Golf in its size and running costs. While it sold well, conventional rivals sold even better.

By the time the second-generation A-class had arrived, Audi and BMW’s own small cars - the A3 and the 3 series compact (and later 1 series) had nailed the balance of a premium feel and compact size that an increasing number of customers craved. leaving the intelligent but ungainly A-Class out of favour buyers now more concerned with image than intelligence.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. The third-generation A-class ditched the sandwich floor and lofty seating position and went down the conventional two-box hatchback route. Sales went gangbusters (particularly in the UK, the world’s biggest A-class market) and diversification into saloons and estates (with the CLA line), mini-MPVs (B-class) and hot hatchbacks (the AMG A35 and A45) strengthened its position further.

> Audi A3 review

With this fourth-generation A-class, more technologically advanced and sleekly styled than ever, Mercedes is hoping to replicate that feat. With sharper looks, a striking cabin, new engines and E-class levels of technology it works on paper, but it also has to impress on UK roads.

Initial impressions suggest it’s a more appealing car in the showroom than it is on the road, with solid but otherwise dull handling and a sometimes choppy ride quality make it feel ultimately a car that's less about the driving experience and more about how big of a Mercedes badge you can fit onto the nose. Still, as you go up the range, the A-class steadily gets more and more impressive, and there's also no doubting its efficiency which will almost certainly be a consideration for many buyers. 

Mercedes-Benz A-class in detail

  • Engine, gearbox and technical specs - A wide range of four-cylinder units, both petrol and diesel. Six-speed manual, and seven- and eight-speed autos are available depending on the model.
  • Performance and 0-60 time - In performance terms the A35 is a proper hot hatchback, even if it's not as wild as some. Lesser models have competitive performance but no unit truly shines, and the 1.3-litre petrol is disappointingly harsh.
  • Ride and handling - Handling is competent and grippy but uninspiring, while a poor ride harms refinement on most models. Smaller wheels may help improve matters. A35 is poised, grippy and decent fun, and actually one of the better-riding A-classes - or at least more acceptable due to its performance.
  • MPG and running costs - Just over 60mpg (on paper) from the A180d, with low rates of tax as a result.
  • Interior and tech - Slick cabin design once made some rivals look old, bulky and clunky, but now rivals have caught up, you notice the harsh plastics and so-so build quality
  • Design - A refined version of the old car’s styling, with fewer uncomfortable lines, and neater details. An aero kit for the A35 bumps up the aggression.

Prices, specs and rivals

A combination of manufacturing constraints, low supply and high demand has made all A-classes shoot up in price with the entry level A180 Sport coming in at a whopping £30,750, putting it way above mainstream rivals and nearly £8000 more than when it was launched in 2018.

Cough up an extra £1350 and the entry-level A180d diesel is available at £32,100, also in Sport trim. Climbing the range, the 160bhp A200 Sport will set you back £32,300 the diesel A200d Sport almost £33,360. The more popular AMG-line cars begin at £31,150 for the A180, and top the range off at £37,500 for the ridiculously named A200d AMG Line Premium Plus Night Edition. A more recent addition is the A250e which starts at £36,395 in its simplest AMG Line Executive form, and tops out at £40,095 for the Night Edition. As for the AMGs, the A35 starts at £41,540, the full-fat A45 is now an eye-watering £58,725.

To take full advantage of the tech on offer, you’ll want to spend a bit extra to equip the dual 10.25-inch screen infotainment system as opposed to the 7-inch units fitted as standard. The Premium packs offer the same upgraded infotainment screens alongside 64-colour ambient lighting, keyless go, an upgraded sound system and a few other toys too. Pricing is higher than for many rivals, with the admittedly lower-specification Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Technik starting at £26,070, or a BMW 118i SE at £27,245.

More on A-Class

Mercedes-AMG A35 2020 review – AMG’s shot at the VW Golf R
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Mercedes-AMG A35 2020 review – AMG’s shot at the VW Golf R

Mercedes-AMG’s A35 successfully feels like a first step on the AMG ladder, but as the A45 S proves, the A-class has plenty more to give
24 Jan 2020
Mercedes-Benz A-class (2012-2018) review
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Mercedes-Benz A-class (2012-2018) review

A conventional hatch now, the A-class fights hard in the premium hatchback class
20 Nov 2019
Mercedes-AMG A35 saloon revealed
Mercedes-AMG A35 saloon - rear
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Mercedes-AMG A35 saloon revealed

AMG directly targets Audi’s S3 with the first A35 saloon
26 Mar 2019
Mercedes-AMG A35 UK prices revealed
Mercedes-AMG A35 live - front quarter
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Mercedes-AMG A35 UK prices revealed

Will AMG’s all-new A35 have the goods to rival the success of rivals like the S3 or Golf R?
31 Oct 2018
New Mercedes-AMG A35 teased before Paris debut
Mercedes AMG A35 - front
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

New Mercedes-AMG A35 teased before Paris debut

Mercedes-AMG will aim its new A35 AMG at the Audi S3, but don’t worry, the RS3 rivalling A45 is still on its way
17 Sep 2018
New 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-class saloon revealed
Mercedes-Benz A-class saloon – front quarter
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

New 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-class saloon revealed

Mercedes A-class family grows with a new 4-door saloon mirroring the high tech approach of the hatch
26 Jul 2018
New Mercedes A-class L saloon launched
Mercedes A-class saloon - front quarter
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

New Mercedes A-class L saloon launched

The new A-class L saloon may be for Chinese consumption only, but it’s a hint at the Euro-spec A-class saloon we’ll get later this year
24 Apr 2018
New 2018 Mercedes A-class review
Mercedes A-class - turning
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

New 2018 Mercedes A-class review

It may be loaded with technology and top-quality trim, the Mercedes A-class is no hot hatch and rivals are better to drive
17 Apr 2018
New 2018 Mercedes A-class revealed: full details
Mercedes-Benz A-class – front quarter
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

New 2018 Mercedes A-class revealed: full details

Boasting advanced tech and higher levels of luxury the Mercedes-Benz A-class promises to challenge for class leader.
3 Apr 2018
Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan revealed
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan revealed

Sporty compact saloon points the way to future A-class and CLA models
19 Apr 2017
Mercedes-Benz A-class review - does facelift bring the fight back to rivals?
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Mercedes-Benz A-class review - does facelift bring the fight back to rivals?

A conventional hatch now, the A-class fights hard in the premium hatchback class
20 Sep 2016
Mercedes A-class AMG
Mercedes A-class A25 AMG
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Mercedes A-class AMG

The A25 AMG is a turbocharged, four-wheel drive Mercedes hot hatch with over 335bhp. Exclusive details here
13 Apr 2012
Mercedes-Benz A200
Mercedes A-Class hatchback

Mercedes-Benz A200

Much improved A-class is still no hot hatch
28 Apr 2005