Review: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Simple to drive and cheap to run car

24 Aug 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Great steering and road handling

  • Smart looking with stylish interior

  • Very hi-tech

Cons

  • Smallish boot

  • Not very comfortable for long drives

  • Optional extras are pricey

Our expert rating

When the A-Class first arrived on the market in 1997, it probably wasn't to the level of refinement that Mercedes-Benz is known for. Nonetheless, it did sell. Mainly because it was affordable compared to other Mercedes-Benz cars.

It was also practical for parents on the school run desperate to roll up outside the school gates.

Then the A-Class was completely re-thought for 2013. It rolled off the production line a totally different car. Not just one that had undergone plastic surgery, it was poles apart from the old version.

Mercedes-benz A-class front

Performance

The entry-level Mercedes-Benz is now truly fascinating and a machine you want because of its alluring aesthetics. A used 2013 onwards model will seduce you, with the A 200 CDI AMG Sport model being especially appealing. The car comes with a gutsy turbo diesel powerhouse that gets you to a respectable speed quickly, if not sensationally.

Ride and handling

The dynamic handling package on the A 200 CDI AMG Sport keeps you planted to the road. Indeed, road holding is phenomenal, steering is well-weighted and precise, and the car’s six speed gearbox is slick, quick, and easy on your left hand.

You will also stop very quickly, thanks to perforated disc brakes. As well as this, the Merc has athletic body-styling, 18 inch alloy wheels and a silver grille. It also has a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, red stitching, sports seats, rain sensors, ambient lighting and a stereo system boy-racers would be jealous of.

mercedes-benz a-class boot

Interior space

In some ways, as of 2013, the A-Class lost its no-nonsense practicality because the boot, although conveniently rectangular, is nothing to shout about space-wise. Also, a slanting roof means headroom in the back is tighter for adults than it would be in rivals, such as the Audi A3.

What to know before you buy

The A-Class from 2013 has had a good reliability record so far. Unfortunately the older model A-Class had a terrible reputation. Defects were very common and expensive to put right. However, there has been a huge leap forward in Mercedes-Benz reliability in the last few years, so the later model A-Class is obviously a far better bet.

If you can’t quite stretch to a 2013 model and you still want the little Mercedes, then get an expert pre-purchase inspection because suspension and electrical faults are rife and not always easy to spot on your own.

mercedes-benz a-class alternatives

Alternative cars

The A-Class’ competitors are other German-made small premium hatchbacks. The two key opponents are the BMW 1 Series and the aforementioned Audi A3. The BMW is even more fun to drive than the Merc, and the Audi feels better screwed together inside, and offers more rear head and legroom as well as a larger boot.

Overall verdict

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class delivers, thanks to its smart looks and stylish interior. Its diesel engines are cheap to run and the car is simple to drive. It’s also safe and offered with lots of standard kit.

Indeed, the A-Class has the vim and vigour that's required to punch its weight in a highly competitive market. The 2013 onwards model is an all-round performer and just the car that Mercedes-Benz needs to tempt fresh customers into buying new or used cars.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall