What is the Mercedes-Benz A-Class?
After toying with the idea of a smaller, less expensive range of cars since the mid-1980s, Mercedes-Benz finally took the plunge with the A-Class, which first reached UK shores in 1998.
We’re now into the fourth-generation of models sold under the A-Class banner, with numerous offshoots sold under different names. Those core models are direct rivals to other posher compact family cars such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Volvo V40 and higher-spec versions of more mainstream offerings such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
- Top speed: 126-155mph
- 0-62mph: 4.5-10.3 seconds
- Fuel economy: 32-68mpg
- Emissions: 108-67g/km of CO2
- Boot space: 370-1,210 litres
Which versions of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class are available?
Appearing to be a svelte styling evolution of its predecessor, the Mk4 A-Class made its debut in 2018.
Sales of the five-door Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hatchback (the W177 if you’re into your internal codenames) began in time for the summer, with a new bodystyle – the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon (V177) being available to order from the end of the year.
As before, there will be a number of other models released based on the A-Class including Mk2 iterations of the CLA Coupe and Shooting Brake, the third-generation B-Class, a replacement for the GLA and a further new line in the shape of the longer GLB crossover.
As the fourth-generation model is relatively new, the range is still to be expanded, but so far it comprises of the petrol-powered A 180 and A 200 (both 1.3-litre), plus the A 220 and A 250 (this pair have a 2.0-litre motor), while diesels are the A 180 d (1.5-litre), with the A 200 d and A 220 d (2.0-litre) topping the range.
Trim levels follow Mercedes’ usual SE, Sport and AMG Line hierarchy, and although most A-Classes are front-wheel drive, 4Matic all-wheel drive is available on certain versions.
What are the Mercedes-AMG A 35 and A 45?
There’ll be two tiers of high-performance Mercedes-AMG A-Classes in time, but so far we’ve in Mk4 guise we’ve only seen the less powerful A 35, although it still packs over 300hp of performance from its 2.0-litre engine.
Before the end of 2019 the replacement for the A 45 will also be available – while details are as yet unconfirmed, we expect a development of the A 35’s engine, but cranked-up to produce over 400hp and a sub-4.0-second 0-62mph time.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class styling and engineering
Underneath the A-Class’s bodywork is a platform known by Mercedes as MFA2 (Modular Front Architecture 2), with two types of rear suspension, with more expensive models using a costlier multi-link arrangement.
Smaller engines are sourced from Renault – and consequently also appear in various Dacia and Nissan models – but the larger 2.0-litre units are Mercedes’ own design.
While the exterior might look similar to the A-Class it replaced, the interior is a breath of fresh air, the dashboard dominated by two screens, of varying sizes depending upon how much the buyer spends on it.
Is the Mercedes-Benz A-Class good to drive?
It’s significantly better than the firm-riding Mk3 A-Class, but it still lacks the balance and finesse of BMW’s 1 Series, although the gap is nowhere near as pronounced as it was.
While its dynamic credentials aren’t up to BMW standards, it can be made to ride with greater compliance than its arch-rival, although Britain doesn’t get all of the adaptive suspension options offered to European markets.
Pricier A-Classes have multi-link rear suspension that benefits both comfort and roadholding, but specifying larger alloy wheels will counter this benefit.
How much does the Mercedes-Benz A-Class cost?
Whether you’re looking to buy an A-Class outright or finance one on a PCH or PCP scheme, you’ll find them to be expensive, despite strong resale values.
If you can afford to wait until they drop significantly, you’ll find better value-for-money with either its Audi or BMW rivals.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class Model History
Third-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2012-18)
On sale from 2012, the Mk3 A-Class was a radical departure from the first two generations – it’d gone all normal.
The only bodystyle available was the five-door Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hatchback (the W176 to use its development name), with more conventional proportions bringing it more into line with its A3 and 1 Series rivals.
An MPV-like B-Class was again derived from it, but additional variants – the CLA Coupe, CLA Shooting Brake and GLA SUV – were also spun from the A-Class featuring similar, but not identical, styling.
Front-wheel drive continued to be the norm with 4Matic all-wheel drive optional on a handful of versions. Smaller petrol and diesel engines came from Renault, while the larger ones were Mercedes-built.
Topping the range with up to 381hp was the Mercedes-AMG A 45, with a twin-turbo 2.0-litre powerplant, not a 4.5-litre motor as its badging suggests.
Find out what drivers of the Mk3 A-Class think of their vehicles with our owners’ reviews and find used examples for sale.
Second-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005-12)
For the Mk2 A-Class, Mercedes continued to go against the grain of convention by releasing a model that was again more akin to a small MPV than a family hatchback. That in spite of it spawning the even more MPV-like B-Class.
All versions of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hatchback (the W169 was still officially referred to as a hatch despite its shape) rode on a wheelbase closer to the longer version of its predecessor. A range of smaller-capacity petrol engines joining 2.0-litre units (petrol and diesels) were shared with other models within Mercedes range.
The biggest change for the Mk2 was that it was also offered in three-door form, a somewhat unusual move given it didn’t look lower or sportier than its more practical sibling.
It seems that buyers weren’t convinced to the extent that Mercedes hoped that would be, meaning the brave new A-Class world was about to become less unusual.
First-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class (1998-05)
In some regards, the Mk1 Mercedes-Benz A-Class (the W168) was one of the most technically advanced front-wheel drive small cars ever launched.
Its tall, MPV-like body was graced with unusual styling, with its occupants sat high on a false floor – so designed that in the event of an accident, the engine would be pushed beneath rather than into the cabin.
Sadly for the A-Class, infamy was to follow within days of the earliest ones finding European homes in 1997 when it failed the ‘elk test’ – a lane-changing manoeuvre championed by a Swedish car magazine. During the test, the A-Class toppled over.
All the sold models were recalled and developments were quickly ushered in, revising the suspension and fitting Electronic Stability Control (ESC) as standard. It worked and gradually this unusual new Mercedes won new fans.
Some lamented the tight cabin, but this was improved in 2001 when the A-Class was facelifted and a new long-wheelbase version was introduced. The stretch was 170mm, all for the benefit of rear-seat passengers’ legroom.
None of the A-Classes were particularly quick, but the 140hp A 210 Evolution appeared in 2002 to redress the balance a little.
Are Mk1 A-Class drivers fans of their Mercedes? Find out with our owners’ reviews and find examples for sale.