Mercedes-Benz A-Class Review: Everything You Need To Know About Mercedes’ Best-Selling Compact Car

Date Posted 29th April 2021
Read Time 12 min read
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Before 2012, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was seen as a bit of an odd car. It was horrible to look at, awful to drive and not what you’d consider a Mercedes in today’s world. 

Then, the revolutionary designers at Mercedes thought to themselves: “Hey, why don’t we make a good car?” And they did. 

The third-generation A-Class, also known as the W176 for all you alphanumerical fans out there, sent shockwaves through the compact car world. For quite some time, Volkswagen, BMW and Audi had cornered the prestige small car market. But that was all about to change. 

A-Class Front Facing

The third-gen A-Class sold in huge numbers both here in the UK and across Europe, and gave us adaptations such as the CLA, GLA and A-Class saloon. 

And in 2018, we finally got the follow up we were waiting for; a new A-Class. But, does it have what it takes to be as successful as its predecessor? Well, let’s find out. 

Overall verdict

The current A-Class had the luxury of starting with a good base in the previous model. And for the most part, it’s been about fine-tuning and addressing some of the less-impressive elements from the one that came before. 

The ride, for example, is much improved, providing a smoother, more Mercedes-esque feel behind the wheel. The automatic gearbox is also better, giving you less janky shifts both up and down. 

But by far and away the biggest improvement to the A-Class is the interior. The old model was a little cramped and busy. It didn’t really feel like a prestige vehicle towards the end of its life, with rivals such as the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, as well as the Volkswagen Golf and others alike, producing higher-quality cockpits. 

A-Class Interior Cabin

But that’s all changed in the fourth-generation A-Class, with its MBUX (or Mercedes-Benz User Experience) dash and minimalist console contributing to by far and away the best-looking interior in the class, especially with the wider panoramic screen in the higher specs.

It really symbolises a step up from Mercedes, which is continued in the engine range, with the A-Class offering nine powertrain options in differing petrol, diesel and hybrid forms, including a pair of performance variants in the A35 and A45. 

So then, the A-Class does exactly what Mercedes wants it to do. It evolves the much-loved car of before into a more refined, more prestigious model. And from that, you really see the benefits. 

What’s great about this car

  • Class-leading interior
  • Huge engine range
  • Lots of improvements on the previous model

What’s not so great about this car

  • Front and rear styling isn’t coherent
  • Can get very expensive with add-ons

Design and styling

The overall silhouette of the A-Class hasn’t changed all that much from what came before. If it ain’t broke, right? 

But there are tweaks that give the Mercedes a more modern feel. 

For example, the front still starts low but swoops towards a more sleek and refined back end. The headlights are more narrow and aggressive, while the overall vehicle appearance looks lower and more planted. 

A-Class Side View

That’s partly down to the A-Class’ new building platform, which is shared with the B-Class, CLA, CLA Shooting Brake, GLA and GLB, and adds an extra 12cm in length.

But the styling elements mentioned above and a more condensed design, such as slimming down the taillight footprint, give the A-Class an extra executive feel. 

Whether you prefer it comes down to personal opinion. For us, both the front and back of the A-Class look better than its predecessor, but there seems to be a contrast of styling between the two. They don’t look like they belong. And it’s a shame, because despite being a good-looking car, we still prefer the previous model’s exterior. 

MPG, running costs and environment

In today’s world, it’s not just styling or performance that’s a key buying motive. MPG, running costs and environment also factor in for most, and the Mercedes A-Class holds up pretty well in this department. 

In the A180 entry-level petrol, you can expect to record just under 48mpg, while in the diesel, that rises to almost 59mpg. 

There’s not too much fluctuation in the rest of the petrol and diesel range, and even the hardened A35 and A45 clear 30mpg both in manual and automatic. 

A-Class Rear View

But if thrifty driving is of utmost importance, we’d recommend the A250e hybrid, which returns a massive 282.5mpg. 

No matter which A-Class engine you choose, you’ll be getting more miles for your money than you would in either a comparable BMW 1 Series or Audi A3.

Running costs 

Thanks to the more economical engines in the Mercedes, running costs remain relatively low, with the A180’s monthly fuel cost being around £95 if you’re covering an average of 10,000 miles a year. 

Even in the more powerful A35 auto, fuel costs only rise by only around £35 a month. Although, in the hybrid models, it drops sharply to less than £5 a week. 

Environment

If the environment is front of mind when choosing your next car, and as you can see by the direction most manufacturers are heading, it very well may be, then the A-Class’ A250e is the model you have to choose. 

With a 1.3-litre petrol internal combustion engine combined with a 15.6kWh battery as its power source, it produces just 25g/km in CO2 and comes with a 7% benefit-in-kind rate for company car drivers. 

Engine, drive and performance

As we mentioned earlier, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class comes with a wide selection of engine options, covering petrol, diesel and hybrid. 

No matter what kind of power you’re looking for, there’ll likely be an A-Class to fit. The entry-level A180, for example, produces an assured 136bhp. Meanwhile, the top-spec A45 boasts a monstrous 421bhp; which is good enough to take you from 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds. 

Even the petrol-electric hybrid comes with a good amount of power, producing 218bhp, which takes you to 62mph in just over 6.5 seconds – not bad going for an eco-drive. 

Handling

A fairly noticeable issue with the previous A-Class was its handling. But the latest incarnation has addressed that somewhat. 

The steering feels a lot more nimble and light; however, you don’t get the feedback received behind the wheel of a BMW 1 Series. And in the corners, a VW Golf is more precise. 

Suspension

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class comes with two suspension types, depending on which model you choose. 

The lower-spec models come with what’s called a torsion bar, which is a more basic style of suspension. On motorway journeys, it’s more than comfortable. However, around town things can get a little bumpy. 

Meanwhile, further up the A-Class food chain, your vehicle features multi-link rear suspension, which offers a noticeably more comfortable ride.  

Interior 

As we mentioned at the beginning, the A-Class’ interior is really what sets this car above all else in its field. 

Cheap scratchy plastics of old have been replaced with softer, plusher materials, and there are even some real metal components that help add to the prestige feel. 

But the most eye-catching element of the vehicle is the dual digital display. Now, in the entry-level A-Class, those screens are only seven inches wide, which, in all honesty, doesn’t suit the vehicle’s persona. 


However, if you go higher up the spec list, to AMG Line, for example, those screens become 10-inch, and they help transform the cockpit. 

No matter which size of screen you choose, though, you’re guaranteed a crystal-clear display, and the MBUX “Hey Mercedes” personal assistant integrates very well. 

Elsewhere inside the A-Class, quality and technology are at the forefront of the design. Even in the most basic model, there’s a 180-degree reversing camera, heated front seats and keyless go. 

Meanwhile, as the trim levels escalate, there are a lot more features to be had, such as smartphone integration, wireless charging, sports seats, LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof and augmented navigation – which we’d recommend adding to your A-Class no matter what spec you choose. 

Practicality and boot space

On the practicality front, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is as you’d expect; pretty good.  

The current version seems a lot more spacious in the front than its predecessor, and extras such as adaptive headlights, augmented navigation and memory seats really sell its prestige persona. 

More improvements come in the form of the A-Class’ boot, which is a lot easier to load in its current guise compared to the third-generation model, where its taillights would cut into the boot’s opening. 

A-Class Boot Space

And there’s a little more room, too, with the Mercedes now featuring 350 litres of boot space with the seats up, and almost 1,200 litres with them folded flat. Although it’s worth pointing out that the Audi A3 Sportback has the A-Class beat in the boot department. 

In the back, there’s also plenty of head and legroom, and Isofix points are easily accessible. 

However, it’s not all good news. If you choose to have the sports seats – which come as standard in the AMG Line – then it can feel a touch cramped for your rear passengers.

Also, getting in and out of the vehicle isn’t the easiest task, meaning it may become problematic for elderly relatives or those who struggle with low seats. 

And if you want to charge your phone on the move without wireless charging, you’ll need to invest in some USB-C converters, as they’re the only ports in the vehicle. 

Reliability and safety

Mercedes-Benz has a bit of a chequered past when it comes to reliability. However, the A-Class in its modern form seems to show little signs of unreliability. 

It’s also safe too, with all A-Class’ featuring an active bonnet, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, auto headlights, and several airbags as standard.

The MBUX system also acts as a communicator should you ever suffer a breakdown or need the emergency services. 

And all this contributed to its EuroNCAP maximum five-star safety rating when tested in 2018.

Model variants

SE

Highlights include:

  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Diamond grille in black
  • LED daytime running lights
  • MBUX multimedia system
  • 180-degree reversing camera
  • Heated front seats
  • Keyless start

Sport

In addition/replacement to the SE:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Chrome weather strip
  • LED high-performance headlights
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Multifunction sports steering wheel

Sport Executive

In addition/replacement to the Sport:

  • 10.25-inch touchscreen media display
  • Smartphone integration
  • Wireless charging
  • Active Parking Assist
  • Ultrasound parking sensors
  • Electronic folding mirrors
  • Auto-dimming internal and external mirrors

AMG Line

In addition/replacement to the Sport:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • AMG body styling
  • Diamond radiator grille
  • Privacy glass
  • Sports seats
  • Nappa leather multifunction sports steering wheel

AMG Line Executive

In addition/replacement to the AMG Line:

  • 10-25-inch touchscreen media display
  • Smartphone integration
  • Wireless charging
  • Electronic folding mirrors
  • Auto-dimming internal and external mirrors

AMG Line Premium

In addition/replacement to the AMG Line Executive:

  • Keyless entry
  • 10-25-inch digital instrument display
  • Ambient lighting in 64 colours
  • Illuminated front sills
  • MBUX augmented navigation
  • Advanced sound system
  • Rear armrest with two cup holders

AMG Line Premium Plus

In addition/replacement to the AMG Line Premium:

  • LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Electronic memory seats
  • Traffic sign assist

Exclusive Edition

Highlights include: 

  • 19-inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheels
  • Night package
  • Edition badging
  • LED high-performance headlights
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Heated front seats
  • Keyless go
  • MBUX
  • Smartphone integration
  • Wireless charging

Exclusive Edition Plus

In addition/replacement to the Exclusive Edition:

  • 19-inch AMG cross-spoke light-alloy wheels
  • LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist
  • Exclusive grey Magno paint
  • Upgraded keyless go system
  • Electronic memory seats
  • MBUX augmented navigation
  • Upgraded sound system
  • Traffic sign assist

A35 

Highlights include: 

  • 18-inch AMG alloy wheels
  • AMG body styling
  • AMG radiator grille
  • LED high-performance headlights
  • Keyless go
  • 10.25-inch touchscreen media display
  • MBUX
  • Smartphone integration
  • Wireless charging

A35 Premium

In addition/replacement to the A35:

  • 19-inch AMG five-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels
  • Keyless entry
  • Night package
  • 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
  • Ambient lighting in 64 colours
  • MBUX augmented navigation
  • Advanced sound system

A35 Premium Plus

In addition/replacement to the A35 Premium:

  • 19-inch AMG multi-spoke alloy wheels with matt black finish
  • AMG aerodynamic package
  • Multibeam LED headlights
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Burmester sound system
  • Electronic front memory seats
  • Traffic sign assist

A45 S 

Highlights include:

  • 19-inch AMG five-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels
  • AMG high-performance brake system
  • AMG Dynamic Select
  • AMG Driver’s package
  • AMG Drive Unit
  • AMG performance seats and steering wheel
  • MBUX augmented navigation
  • Advanced sound system

A45 S Plus

In addition/replacement to the A35:

  • 19-inch AMG forged alloy wheels
  • Multibeam LED headlights
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Adaptive damping suspension
  • AMG aerodynamic package
  • AMG Performance Seat High-End package
  • Blindspot assist
  • Burmester sound system

Cost and deals

Running costs

The entry-level Mercedes-Benz A-Class is not only comfortable to live with, but it’s also quite cheap to run. 

We spoke earlier about its fuel economy – costing around £95 a month to fill up driving an average of 10,000 miles a year – and the insurance premiums are also relatively low. 

The A180 petrol falls into Group 19, while the diesel is cheaper to insure; residing in Group 17. 

A-Class Models

Even some of the more powerful models remain reasonable, with the A200 AMG Line Premium Plus sitting in Group 24, and the A250e only a few groups higher – the difference of around £10-£70 a year, depending on your age. 

Not until you reach the performance models; the A35 and A45 do you see a sharp rise, with the A35 sitting in Group 37 and the A45 Group 43. 

Deals

When it comes to finding the best deal for your Mercedes-Benz A-Class, that’s where we can help.

Here at Hippo Leasing, we have hundreds of offers available across the entire A-Class range, including brand-new, nearly-new and Approved Used models. 

You can browse a selection of our new and used A-Class deals below.