Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9
  • A wide range of petrols and diesels in the A-Class
  • Plug-in hybrid offers 40+ miles of battery range
  • Manual and automatic gearboxes available

What engine options are there?

There's a wide range of engines and transmissions available in the A-Class hatchback, all of which provide an improved driving experience versus the previous model.

Petrol engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
A 180
136hp, 200Nm
9.2secs
132mph
A 200
162hp, 250Nm 8.2secs
140mph
A 250
224hp, 350Nm 6.2secs
155mph

View full specs

The base petrol engine on offer in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a 1.3-litre turbocharged unit, badged A 180. Despite being the entry-level engine we still enjoyed driving this model of A-Class. It’s not the smoothest engine but it feels pretty muscular for its size, and combined with the slick manual gearbox it’s good fun.

Next up is the A 200. Again, this is a 1.3-litre engine that belies its small capacity by delivering reasonable real-world performance on all roads, though it is coarse and loud when worked hard – which feels a little out of place for a car that wears the Mercedes badge and the corresponding premium price. Still, there’s enough oomph to dispatch A-road overtakes or get up to speed quickly on a motorway slip road. 

If you’re in need of something a little quicker, a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol badged A 250 delivers Volkswagen Golf GTI-rivalling pace.

Diesel engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
A 180 d
116hp, 260Nm
10.6secs
126mph
A 200 d
150hp, 320Nm 8.1secs
132mph
A 220 d
190hp, 400Nm 7.1secs
146mph

View full specs

Of the diesels, the most powerful A 220 d is the most fun to drive, though not as quiet as the A 200 d and A 180 d. With 190hp driving the front wheels via a standard-fit automatic transmission, the A 220 d certainly doesn't hang around, feeling even more potent than those figures suggest on the road.

It's marred by a hair-trigger response to the accelerator in even the regular driving mode that we found ourselves switching to the Eco setting to dampen its spirits enough to stop passengers complaining - the hyperactiveness prone to inducing motion sickness in some people. This does little to reduce the outright performance - it's got real wallop in the useful 30-70mph zone - but stops it behaving like a child that's had too many e-numbers.

The A 200 d is also a 2.0-litre turbodiesel automatic, and is quick and economical enough to be the best compromise of all the diesels. The A 180 d on the other hand, is a 1.5-litre model, and is the least powerful A-Class you can buy. It's quick enough when unladen, but steep hills and a full loads soon take their toll.

Electric and hybrid engines

The Mercedes-Benz A 250 e is aimed at turning an increasing number of buyers on to the notion of buying a plug-in hybrid. As with all PHEVs, this one has the potential for some impressive fuel economy but only if you keep it charged up. It'll run for 44 miles on battery only (which is notably further than all of its current PHEV rivals), and benefits from big tax savings for company car drivers.

Driven by a 1.3-litre petrol bolstered by electrical assistance, it can do 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, making the plug in A-Class the second fastest in the standard range behind the 2.0-litre A 250 petrol. Like the punchier diesels, the hybrid gets an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as standard.

Still, this isn't a car designed for hot hatch thrills (although strangely it is able to deliver them if you want) and is all the more satisfying to waft around in without using fossil fuel at all. Our only complaint really is that the brake pedal is a bit vague - feeling a little dead at the top of its travel and bitey lower down. We reckon you'll get used to this reasonably quickly, though.

High-performance engines

Mercedes-AMG A35

The Mercedes AMG A 35 hot hatch performance model has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 306hp and 400Nm of torque – enough for 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. It’s an undeniably rapid engine, yet it's short on outright excitement. There’s nothing wrong with the power delivery or throttle response, plus the quick-shifting gearbox does its part, too, it just doesn't add up to an experience that's genuinely thrilling.

The engine note feels artificial, and while it revs well, you rarely feel encouraged to explore much beyond 5,000rpm thanks to the torque on offer. Effective, yes; exciting, no.

Handling

  • Not the sharpest or most comfortable hatchback
  • Plenty of grip but could be more fun to drive
  • Pleasant town car

The A-Class isn’t as focused towards sporty driving as a BMW 1 Series, but it still conducts itself well out on the road. Bear in mind that the A-Class comes with different types of rear suspension, depending upon which version you go for. Pricier AMG Line models come with more sophisticated suspension, while SE and Sport trims use a cheaper configuration that doesn’t offer as accurate control of the back wheels. Mid-corner bumps can upset the latter ones, but it’s still fun up to a point - chiefly because the lack of outright power means you won’t overcome the chassis and trying to maintain momentum can be an interesting challenge.

There’s not a world of difference between the two – especially as the more sophisticated suspension of the AMG Line models is offset by larger alloy wheels, which make the ride firmer. However, you can expect AMG Line versions to do a slightly better job of separating driver and passengers from rough tarmac than Sport models.

Around town, the automatic gearbox options help in heavy traffic, while the car’s exterior dimensions are still compact enough (this generation A-Class is longer and wider than the previous model) to thread through most narrow city streets. The turning circle is reasonably tight, and the steering light at low speeds, giving good overall manoeuvrability.

A rear-view camera is standard, and the large, fixed, solid rear headrests and broad rear pillars mean you have to rely on it to see where you’re going when reversing. Automatic parking with a 360-degree camera view of the car is available as an option and works very well, even if it’s not strictly necessary.

Gain a little more speed on a twisty country road and the A-Class displays ample stability and grip, even if the body does develop a little roll at higher speeds. It’s not up there with some of its rivals for sheer responsiveness, but there’s enough feel and enthusiasm from the chassis to have some fun if you really want to.

A significant part of this is thanks to the well-weighted steering which provides a good sense of how much grip the front tyres have.

It’s likely that most of the time, however, the A-Class will be driven in town or on motorways and this is where it feels most at home. Cruising at high speed, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were driving a larger vehicle thanks to the very low wind noise from around the windscreen – though it does produce a lot of noise from around the rear windows.

AMG A 35 handling

Boasting Mercedes-AMG’s 4Matic all-wheel drive with variable torque distribution, AMG Ride Control adaptive dampers and Dynamic Select drive modes, the AMG A 35 has all the tools to make it a full-on corner crusher. And thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint. Traction is immense and the all-wheel drive system feels very active as it quickly distributes power between the front and rear axles.

The front wheels produce a huge amount of grip when turning into corners. This makes the A 35 an easy car to place when hurtling from challenging bend to challenging bend, especially in wet-weather conditions, but while all of the above is great for getting from A to B as quickly – and safely – as possible, it could do with being a little more fun.

When driven smoothly, you pick a line through a corner, and it goes exactly where you point it, regardless of speed. There's a lack of steering feel compared with its best rivals, so it’s not as appealing as the Honda Civic Type R, or even Volkswagen Golf R for enthusiastic drivers. The steering is too light and feels more like an SUV, leaving you with no sensation as to what the front wheels are doing.

There is a solution around this though. First of all, if you cycle through the drive modes into Sport+, the A 35 feels a little more alert in its responses. If you drive the A 35 in a more aggressive manner on more challenging bends, it begins to unearth its more fun side - and this performance hatch comes out of its sensibly-behaved shell and starts to be a little more playful.