The A-Class name has been around for 20 years now, but whole the original A-Class was a marvel of packaging, effectively a supermini with executive car passenger space, the car has evolved to be something more conventional and in-tune with what compact executive car buyers desire.
It’s now a style and tech-laden five-door hatchback, which competes alongside the likes of the BMW 1-Series and Audi A3, but with slightly less in the way of performance and sporting pretensions (AMG models excepted) and pitches itself as a more upmarket, more luxurious alternative.
Whichever model you go for, you’re guaranteed a car with plenty of style, some really neat tech features and a high-class cabin, along with excellent residual values. Refinement is good, too, and while the range is much simpler than some rival brands, there are engine and transmission choices to suit all.
The A-Class is lower and leaner than most of its contemporaries, with a sleek profile and low-slung roofline that manage to make it look larger than it actually is.
The sides and rear are wide and curvaceous, while at the front the A-Class greets you with a bold three-pointed star in its grille, and smart LED headlamps.
It’s a great looking car from any angle, and also one that’s refreshingly different, for while the formula may conform to the norms of the compact executive hatchback class, the execution most certainly doesn't.
In the desirability stakes, there are very few hatchbacks than can hold a candle to it.
Inside, the A-Class truly excels. It has smart dark plastics and fabrics, offset by splashes of chrome on the vent surrounds, steering wheel and switchgear, all of it discreet and tastefully laid-out.
But it’s more than just an exercise in style, as ergonomically the A-Class is excellent, too. All of the major controls are within intuitive reach, while the cabin wraps around the driver and passenger to give a feeling of comfort and security.
The centrepiece of the dash is the digital display screen, through which you can control all the infotainment, climate and drive mode settings. It’s simple to use, looks like a scaled-down iPad and includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring.
The long wheelbase means there’s good legroom in the rear, too, while it has one of the most spacious boots in its class, the only criticism being that the low roofline hampers headroom for taller adult passengers.
Driving and practicality
Luxury and refinement are key to the A-Class’s appeal, and it isolates its passengers from wind noise, road noise and surface imperfections admirably.
It doesn’t have the sporty edge of rivals such as the BMW 1-Series and Audi A3, but for many this will be a selling point rather than a disadvantage, as it trumps both of them for its overall luxurious and calm passenger environment.
For drivers who like to push-on, it’s not far off the pace, and dynamically it’s more than competent if you wish to hustle along quickly, so overall it’s a fine and predictable package - good to drive without being overtly sporty, and with impressive ride and acoustic characteristics, matched by one of the best stereos in its class.
There are two suspension set-ups, according to model. The more expensive variants have a sophisticated multi-link rear end, while the lesser models have a more conventional torsion beam, but you have to be pressing hard to even notice the difference, as the less advanced models are still perfectly competent in the twisty bits.
All of the engines are willing and able, with the stars of the show being the small capacity 1.3-litre turbo petrol units, with either 134bhp or 160bhp - quite an output for such a small engine.
There’s a bigger 2.0-litre, too, with 180bhp or 220bhp, while those seeking a diesel can go for a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit that offers almost 80mpg combined fuel economy.
Keeping the range simple and the option book well packed means that the personalisation options for the A-Class are multiple, and that’s how Mercedes-Benz buyers like it.
It means that, like their owners, no two A-Classes are often the same, so make sure you swot up on the option availability before you buy. The Executive Pack, in particular, is highly desirable as it upgrades the cabin to get a larger and more comprehensive touch screen system.
The A-Class is a car that oozes class and professionalism, yet in a compact and affordable package, which makes it an especially big hit with upwardly mobile younger drivers who enjoy the cachet of the Mercedes-Benz badge as much as they do the cossetting driving experience.Search Mercedes-Benz A-Class