Impressive optional in-car tech, but prioritises style over substance
- Striking interior
- Effective voice controls
- Strong petrol economy
- Refined diesel engine
- Steep initial PCP finance costs
- Interior quality underwhelming
- Coarse A 200 petrol engine
- AMG Line models could ride more smoothly
- Some practicality and visibility issues
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the smallest and least expensive model in the manufacturer’s range and comes exclusively in five-door hatchback form. Rivals in the premium hatchback market are few and far between, however the Audi A3 Sportback and BMW 1 Series Sports Hatch both provide stiff competition, as do – to a lesser extent – the Volvo V40, Lexus CT, Infiniti Q30 and Volkswagen Golf.
Now in its fourth generation, the A-Class is playing the baby Benz card more than ever, with a raft of high-tech equipment – though much of it is optional and pricey – which makes the cabin generally feel more upmarket than you’d normally expect for a car of this size and a more eye-catching design. Is it enough to put the A-Class at the top of the premium hatchback pile? Read on to find out.
Striking Mercedes-Benz A-Class cabin and impressive optional onboard tech
Mercedes has sharpened up the style of the A-Class’s interior, ditching the previous model’s analogue dials for a digital driver display plus a new media system, named MBUX.
Bear in mind that Mercedes offers small-screen and optional large-screen versions on both of these systems, however, so if you want the most up-to-date A-Class, you’ll have to dig deeper into your wallet.
Entry-level models get 7.0-inch displays for both, with the large surrounding bezels making the screens appear even smaller. Spend more, though, and you can upgrade to a much more substantial looking 10.25-inch version of the central media screen, with further cash getting you a similar 10.25-inch display for the dials.
The interior itself is dominated by the dual screen set-up and these control almost all of the car's auxiliary functions. It’s similar to the set-up you’d find in a more expensive E-Class or S-Class, and gives the cabin a high-tech feel.
The touchpad controller that comes with these systems isn’t as easy to use as the rotary dial found in the A-Class’s main rivals, however.
Improved Mercedes-Benz A-Class cabin and bootspace
A slightly cramped cabin was a common complaint levelled at the previous generation A-Class, with Mercedes working hard to change the perception for the new model.
As a result, there’s noticeably more room in the front and back, meaning you can seat four adults plus a child in comfort.
The bootspace has also grown and the loading aperture widened, making it easier to load awkward, heavy items.
As with the previous model, oversized, non-removable headrests for the rear seats cancel out some of this practicality, as the front seats have to be quite far forward to leave enough space to fold them down.
Three Mercedes-Benz A-Class engines on offer from launch
More petrol and diesel engines (and a hybrid) are on the way, but until then the engine line-up is very straightforward. It consists of two petrols (the A 200 and A 250) and one diesel (A 180 d). The biggest seller is likely to be the 116hp 1.5-litre turbodiesel, although the 163hp 1.3-litre A 200 petrol is also set to prove popular.
All engines come with a seven-speed dual-clutch DCT automatic transmission as standard. It’s a good gearbox and, once you’ve got used to the steering column-mounted selector, is a doddle to operate.
Out on the road, the A-Class is focused more towards comfort than handling, though the lowered suspension and big wheels of AMG Line model detract from comfort on rough UK roads.
It’s not the last word in fun, but does provide a reasonable amount of cornering grip; there’s decent promise on display for the AMG model.
Find a smooth road and the A-Class’s suspension provides a pretty comfortable ride. Rougher stretches and scarred tarmac – sadly a common occurrence in the UK – confound the Mercedes, though, with the car often failing to settle quickly.
Three Mercedes-Benz A-Class trim levels, all are reasonably well-equipped
All A-Classes get a reasonably long list of standard equipment including sat-nav, cruise control, a reversing camera, 7.0-inch digital dials and media screen, a DAB radio and a suite of advanced safety systems.
You have to pay more for dual-zone climate control, however, which only features as standard on Sport and AMG Line cars, along with automatic windscreen wipers.
Meanwhile, parking sensors, heated seats and electric-folding door mirrors are all missing from even AMG Line models and you’ll have to pay substantially more to add these to your car.
In fact, to get the best out of the A-Class, it’s worth diving into the options list for a couple of select additions. The Premium equipment line increases the size of the dual displays to 10.25 inches, while the Smartphone Connect package enables Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.
Add any of this equipment and the already pricey A-Class becomes an even more expensive prospect – whether you’re financing through Mercedes’ PCP scheme or paying cash.
The Parkers Verdict
Mercedes has dramatically improved the A-Class with a slick interior complete with sophisticated large-screen media system – provided you specify several expensive options – a raft of standard safety kit and a genuinely useful voice control system.
Yes refinement levels have been improved and it drives better than before, but the new A-Class is neither the most comfortable nor the sharpest driving car in the class, though it now provides stiffer competition to the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.
However, with the launch of their replacements just around the corner, it remains to be seen just how competitive the A-Class will be in the long run. For now, however, it’s an attractive proposition, though you’ll have to be willing to pay a steep price to put one on the drive.