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BMW 1 Series vs. Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which is better?

The battle of the German hatchbacks continues as we put the Mercedes A-Class up against its BMW 1 Series rival

yellow bmw 1 series on the left and white mercedes a-class on the right

Sure, the Golf and the Focus are nice cars, but when you move up the field to more premium hatchbacks, that’s where things get interesting.

The two main players in this category are the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

These are both well known for their luxurious interiors, astonishing all-around build quality, and great styling. 

Plus, you can get a great deal on a used BMW or used Mercedes model if you shop pre-owned.

Find out exactly how they measure up in our A-Class vs. 1 Series comparison.


left is a yellow bmw 1 series' wheel and on the right is the front grille and headlight of a mercedes a-class

Speaking of styling, the BMW 1 Series is a very handsome car that has changed quite a lot over the years but still retains its fundamental overall shapes and curves.

Older models are available as both three-door and five-door variants, but newer models from 2019 are only available with five. 

The Mercedes A-Class is also a very stylish and smart-looking hatchback.

This now-timeless design has come on a long way from the older slab-sided look it had in the early 2000s.

It’s available as either a saloon or hatchback, whereas the BMW is only available in hatchback form. 

What are they like to drive?

on the left is a yellow bmw 1 series driving towards the camera and on the right is the rear of a mercedes a-class

When it comes to driving, both brands are historically known for offering a superb experience – and the 1 Series and A-Class are no different.

Okay, you’re not going to be greeted by a supercar killer, but what you will get are two very capable and very determined little cars. 

The BMW 1 Series has the DNA of the larger M2, M3 and M4 in it, which makes it darty and light on its feet around a country road but very planted.

But when you don’t want it to be so lairy, it is just as capable around a town or city, or even on a longer motorway drive

Similar to its rival, a used A-Class can also be quite frisky when it wants to be, but for the most part it's a calmer, more relaxing drive.

To help this, the newer A-Class's suspension is better engineered, and while the body moves around a little bit over bigger bumps, the ride quality is decent. 

Interior and technology

on the left is a black and blue mercedes a-class interior and on the right is a black mercedes a-class interior

Moving inside, the A-Class offers one of the best interiors of any hatchback because it shares the same components as the rest of the Mercedes range.  

A-Class models sold up to 2018 feature a tablet-style screen mounted high up on the dashboard, while later models have a large widescreen display that extends in front of the driver.

The rest of the interior is very roomy, with later models featuring more space in the rear seats.  

The BMW 1 Series features a clean and minimalist interior – something that the brand has been impressive at making for decades.

Newer models get a more stylish dashboard with uprated gauges and screens, whereas older models receive a more traditional look. 

Other features that are available in both models are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which makes it easier to hook up your phone instead of getting to grips with the car’s in-built infotainment system.  

It's worth taking a look for used 1 Series or A-Class models to find higher-spec options at a lower price point. This means you can get more bang for your buck with a kitted-out car that isn't as pricey.

Bootspace and practicality

on the left is a bmw 1 series interior and on the right is a mercedes a-class interior with sports seats

When it comes to overall practicality, both the 1 Series and A-Class offer similar levels of interior space throughout.

The BMW 1 Series offers lots of different cubbyholes and cupholders in the cabin, which makes it much more tolerable on a long road trip with a full car.

Moving to the rear of the car, the BMW features between 360 and 380 litres of boot space, which grows to 1,200 litres when the rear seats are folded flat. 

The A-Class is very similar to its rival, offering up to 370 litres of boot space and lots of cupholders and storage compartments.

When it comes to rear legroom, this is good too, with the saloon offering greater space because of its change of layout.  

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Safety and reliability

Being modern German cars, you shouldn’t need to worry about any reliability issues, especially with the help from cinchCare, which ensures your car is kept in tip-top condition.

Both cars come with industry-leading safety tech, including features such as cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, automatic headlights, and plenty of airbags throughout. 

It's also worth mentioning that both hatchbacks received a full five-star crash testing rating by Euro NCAP, with very high levels of adult and child occupant safety.  

When it comes to repair costs for both the A-Class and 1 Series, you might find these to be pricier. With premium cars, you're paying for high-quality parts and specialist engineering. An advantage of this is that your repairs are likely to last longer, making it a good investment.


BMW 1 Series

Length: 4219mm

Width: 1799mm

Height: 1434mm

Boot space: 380 litres

Mercedes A-Class

Length: 4419mm

Width: 1790mm

Height: 1400mm

Boot space: 355 litres

Verdict: BMW 1 Series or Mercedes A-Class: which should you buy?

We’re sure you’ve come to your own conclusion after reading this comparison, but here’s a quick summary to help you make the right choice. 

Both the 1 Series and A-Class are fantastic run-around hatchbacks that are great for long-distance driving and cruising around town.

However, if you want something that is a little sportier, we’d suggest going for the 1 Series because of its impressive suspension set-up and sporty pedigree. 

If you like more comfort or a saloon option, then the A-Class is better suited to you – and it’s more of a tech fest inside, if that’s what floats your boat. 

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