The A-Class is the Ant and Dec of the compact car class - the older version (sold up to 2018) is the Ant, with slightly more rounded features, while the newer model is the Dec, with a sleeker, sharper face and a more pert posterior (sorry Ant!).
Just like the nation’s favourite TV duo, the Merc A-Class has broad appeal – arguably more than rivals such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, and the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf.
The original A-Class, launched well over 20 years ago, was a different beast, with short overhangs and clever packaging, but also rather awkward looks. The newer examples you’ll find for sale on cinch are more in tune with other hatchbacks and are much more interesting to look at.
Just like the nation’s favourite TV duo, the Merc A-Class has broad appeal
What’s it like to drive?
The previous-shape, pre-2018 A-Class had a particularly firm suspension, which you’d naturally think would make it feel sporty to drive. And while that’s true of the A45 AMG, it’s not necessarily so for the rest of the range. This version of the Merc is still a capable thing, though.
The newer A-Class suspension is better-engineered, and while the body moves around a little bit over bigger bumps, the ride quality is decent.
Whichever shape you’re looking at, the lower-powered petrol engines need to be worked little harder if you want to get a move on, but the rest are up to the task – the hybrid A250e pairs an electric motor with its petrol motor for particularly spritely performance. Meanwhile, the A35 and A45 AMG models are like rocket ships.
The A35 and A45 AMG models are like rocket ships.
You’d expect a Mercedes-Benz to excel on interior design - and the A-Class doesn’t disappoint (let’s just say it’s very Instagrammable). Everything’s nicely put together with the materials varying according to your choice of trim level. Most of the plastics are at least as good as you’ll find on rival models.
The A-Class sold up to 2018 gets a tablet-style screen mounted high up on the dashboard while later models have a slick widescreen display that extends in front of the driver.
If a roomy interior is a priority, opt for the newest A-Class, which has more space in the rear seats. The slightly narrower rear pillars also make reversing easier in newer models.
The entry-level trim is the SE and gets you air-con, cruise control, a reversing camera, sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity. The luxury goodies such as heated front seats, automatic wipers, figure-hugging sports seats, climate control and fancier dashboard materials are fitted to higher trims.
The built-in infotainment system on the newest model is particularly impressive. It sounds great and the system can be controlled by touch, mouse or voice. You can even seamlessly connect your phone to your vehicle using Apple’s CarPlay in models from 2016 or Android Auto in 2017-onward models.
Despite the earlier A-Class not being as roomy as the later car, the glovebox and a storage bin under the central armrest provide enough space for all your knick-knacks. The more recent model has better cup holders, perfect for your favourite coffee and somewhere to store your smartphone.
The hatchback’s boot is slightly larger on the newer A-Class (up to 370 litres, or four standard-sized suitcases, with the rear seats in use), but both cars are reasonably competitive for the class and those seats fold flat. The saloon’s boot capacity is larger again, but the smaller aperture that’s typical of this body style makes it trickier to load bulky items.
The A-Class’s rear seatbacks are split 40/20/40, which boosts practicality – some models even have storage beneath the floor. Bear in mind the A250e plug-in hybrid loses some boot space to make room for its battery.
Running costs and reliability
There’s an engine to suit all pockets in the A-Class range. With a pure-electric range of 45 miles, the A250e plug-in hybrid battery is great for short trips around town. Of the diesels, the A180d is the most economical with close to 60mpg on average. The A180 petrol will give you economy in the 40s. As you’d expect, you’ll be lucky to get something in the 30s with the A35 and A45 AMGs.
What cinch loves
We love the A-Class’s quality interior and the latest model’s widescreens and slick infotainment system. We also love the fact that both versions of the A-Class were awarded the maximum five stars by crash safety experts Euro NCAP, with at least six airbags, collision prevention assist and an electronic stability programme.
It’s also perfect for young families, with Isofix mounting points on two of the rear seats, which split three ways for clever folding.