While the Mercedes A-class isn’t cheap, it is an immensely stylish, upmarket family hatchback that has shed its bulbous proportions in favour of a streamlined, dynamic silhouette. The latest generation is all about tech and connectivity, but there’s also a good range of petrol and diesel engines, plus the arrival of a plug-in hybrid powertrain in early 2020. If it’s hardcore performance you’re after, there are the AMG A35 and AMG A45 4MATIC hot hatches. Then there is the SUV version of the A-class, the GLA, and the CLA coupe derivative, but let’s stick to the humble hatch. We’ve tested the A180d, at the more popular end of the range.
What’s the spec?
This handsome hatchback is available in a mind-boggling array of trim levels: SE, SE Executive, Sport, Sport Executive, Sport Premium, Sport Premium Plus and AMG-Line with the Executive, Premium and Premium Plus choices. The AMG-Line range is the most popular in the UK: it gives you sporty design touches without going the full hog on the AMG powertrain. Engines are the 180d, 200d and 220d diesels, and 180, 200, 220 and 250 petrol units, and there’s a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed (and eight-speed for the diesels and AMG A45) automatic gearboxes.
The price ranges from £25,580 to over £40,000, if you buy the AMG A45 version and add some extras.
Tell me about the interior and exterior
With every generation of the A-class, it has got better looking, and this is now possibly the sexiest hatchback out there. Inside, the changes mean slightly more leg and shoulder room, although the price you pay for a sleek roofline is less headspace in the rear.
There are aluminium air vents, and some very smart options such as two-tone leather (quilted stitching on cream and black leather - we like) and the coloured LED lighting strips round the dash and centre console which you can change to any colour of the rainbow. We went for pink.
There’s lots of storage space up front and, usefully, the boot has a low lip which is great for loading dogs, buggies and awkward stuff.
You also get Mercedes’ infotainment touchscreen sitting proud of the dash, with the rotary controller beneath it, and touchpad for writing your commands with your fingertip (we’ve never found that very useful). There’s also voice control.
Options include the usual plethora of safety and comfort aids, such as blind-spot, braking, emergency-stop, steering and lane-change assitance systems. There’s smartphone connectivity and plenty of USB charging points.
How does the A-class drive?
Mercedes’ suspension is a thing of beauty, no matter whether you’re experiencing it on the A-class or S-class luxury saloon. It wafts around town but is also full of accuracy and pin-sharp feedback.
We’re less in love with Mercedes’ diesel engines: the A180 still sounds slightly agricultural when compared with a BMW diesel, and although we love its fuel economy, there’s not quite enough get-go for overtaking at speed on hills, especially when fully loaded. You have to change down a gear or two, which makes it even more raucous. Any of the petrols would be a better option.
In a nutshell:
This is an expensive hatchback, but then it’s a cheap Mercedes… it depends how much the badge matters to you. If you ignore the list price and go down the finance route, as 90 per cent of the British motoring public now do, it’s a far more attractive option.
We love the looks of this model; it’ll be a while before this car ages. And, if you spend enough money (and that’ll be quite a lot), the interior is a very stylish and comfortable place to sit, especially with that colourful ambient lighting. Just make sure you pick one of the petrol engines for the most refined experience the A-class has to offer.