Mercedes A-Class – First Drive

New A-Class; A New Class.

Mercedes A-Class

This is a radical car for Mercedes. It goes head-to-head with the BMW 1 and 3-series and the Audi A3 but also spins the heads of potential Golf and Focus buyers. It presents a strong argument.

While there are a few similarities to the old C-Class coupe this is an all-out hatchback, and in looks alone, a hot one.

The launch took place in the peak district and included the challenging Snake Pass.

Mercedes A-Class

Previous generations of the A-Class would have been a daunting prospect, and possibly banned from traversing that particular road, but this time, in this car, it was sheer pleasure.

The cars tested were –

  • A200 diesel manual (£23,270, 62.8 mpg, CO2 118 g/km, 136hp)
  • A220 diesel automatic (£27,170, 64.2 mpg, CO2 115 g/km, 170hp)

My first impression of the car was of a stretched Seat Leon, with shades of Focus at the back, but that is a disservice.

The wide and exaggerated front suits the car and carries the family features well. It also houses an anti-collision radar (standard equipment, NOT an optional extra) behind the largest 3-pointed star I have seen on any Merc’.

Side windows are mounted high with a low roofline; essentially they have given their hatchback the Evoque treatment. This continues at the back with a letterbox rear window that still gives an acceptable rear view. Lots of complex curves and twin exhausts complete the sculpting. Their designer describes it as “surface entertainment”. It is a handsome car from all angles, but I am more interested in the road-surface entertainment.

Mercedes A-Class

This is a very well equipped motor, as well as the Collision Prevention Assist; buyers are treated to bluetooth with 5.8inch tablet style display screen, Adaptive Brake Assist, and start/stop as standard across the range. Prices start at £18,945 for the A180 1.6 petrol model.

Where Mercedes lead others tend to follow and the inclusion of start/stop as standard kit seriously throws down the gauntlet to Ford and Volkswagen with their serious green offerings suddenly seeming a shade paler.

In many ways this car has moved the goalposts. Fleet buyers and user-choosers looking at £20k+ cars have to adjust their thinking and append every purchase thought with the words “…or the new A-Class?”

All variants are badged as BlueEfficiency models, with even the 211hp AMG version emitting a tiny 145g/km CO2. None of the cars feel “eco”, they just are.

I have to admit there is no car coming to mind that does everything quite as well as this pretty hatchback. For sure there are choices for similar money that do use a bit less fuel, or are a marginally better drive, or a tad more spacious or look a little better but they all have certain compromises too. This Merc’ scores 8’s and 9’s in every aspect and just might squeeze a 10 in value for money because of it.

Mercedes A-Class

sometimes have to go out of my way to find niggles, and it was the case with the A-Class. Once I’d found the needle in this wonderfully bejewelled haystack I still felt a tinge of guilt as it is truly minor.


Around town the car felt a little heavy and the steering somewhat wooden. This is however in comparison with a city car. As previously mentioned, this car does everything almost as well as one-trick motors pull their one particular hat out of a rabbit.

Once out of town I could let the latest Stuttgart beauty queen’s hair down. This was an absolute privilege. Despite my sometimes heroic, often shambolic driving exuberance the car never got upset or unsettled. As I settled into the road there was a marked increase in both my smile and my tourettes.

The car felt solid, planted and communicative at speed, the steering shedding the vagueness of its town driving other self. Braking into corners never had the front pushing wide as you would expect from front wheel drive.

A progressive throttle out of sharp bends also gave almost no hint of understeer and I left many a corner knowing I had pushed my own limits but not the chassis’.

After a blind curve came a one-lane bridge, filled with tractor, which gave me prime opportunity to try the brakes. The fact that I am writing this testifies to their effectiveness but I am also happy to report plenty of feel and feedback from the system too.

Mercedes A-Class

Having driven both auto and manual on the same route, the traditionalist in me would opt for the wiggly stick, but the motor writer in me must concede that the auto box was exceptionally smooth and quick, almost always in the right gear at any time, and certainly the sensible option for anything other than b-road silliness. Even then it still delivered but without the instant kick out of corners that you get from picking your own gears.

A section of motorway driving left two impressions. Firstly, this car will eat motorways. There is road-noise but little else intrudes and the audio equipment is very good quality. Secondly; the drivers’ seat is a revelation. I kept fiddling away with its positions from sit-up-and-beg to full fighter-pilot recline and all were exquisitely comfortable. If only Mercedes made furniture…

They don’t, but they do make trucks and vans. Despite this they still are regarded as among the most prestigious car manufacturers on the planet. There is clever marketing involved, but there is also an ethos of making the best, and of course charging for it.

With the A-Class they seem to have slipped up though, they seem to have made a bargain.

I won’t tell them if you don’t.

Tech Spec
1,796 cc turbodiesel engine 136 hp
0-62 mph in 9.3 seconds (9.2 seconds 7G-DCT)
Top speed 130 mph
Fuel consumption 62.8 mpg (65.7 mpg 7G-DCT)
CO2 118g/km (114g/km 7G-DCT)                                                             

words and pics – Mark Wolens