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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For It makes very clever use of space and is the cheapest way to buy a Mercedes

Against The build quality is questionable, and the over-firm ride irritating

Verdict The packaging may be incredible, but there are too many day-to-day irritations

Go for… The A160 has the power you need, and buy a LWB version for the extra space

Avoid… The A190 and A210 are too expensive, and too powerful for their own good

Mercedes-Benz A-Class MPV
  • 1. It may be only as long as a supermini, but there's as much space inside as in a family car
  • 2. It's considerably less reliable than both the Audi A3 and VW Golf, and takes more time and money to put right
  • 3. The most important area to check is the car's suspension, which is to blame for almost half of all problems
  • 4. Of all the various choices, our favourite engine is the 1.6-litre petrol
  • 5. We'd go for the cheapest Classic trim, but opt for Elegance if you want air-con
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Mercedes-Benz A-Class MPV full review with expert trade views

The amount of space Mercedes has engineered into what is a very small car is the single most impressive thing about the A-Class. It may be only as long as a supermini, but there's as much space inside as in a family car. Buy the long-wheelbase model and there's more legroom in the back than in an S-Class.

Throw in folding, removable seats and it can even double as a mini-MPV. Perhaps the only real downside is the odd, straight-legged driving position, which takes some getting used to, and the thick pillars which limit visibility.

However, there is a big problem, and that's due to an elk. After a journalist rolled an early A-Class in the now infamous 'elk test', the suspension had to be completely reworked and stability control fitted. The result was an amazingly safe car, but one with a terribly dull drive and, thanks to its lower, stiffer suspension, a horribly firm ride.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Large numbers around especially A140 Classic, Avantgarde spec best to sell

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The best engine is the 1.6, which has useful extra power over the 1.4, making it a lot less hard work on the open road.

There's no point buying either of the more powerful petrol engines, the A190 or A210 - all they do is cost more and show up the limitations of the chassis.

Of the two diesels, the A170 CDI is far better than the unrefined and sluggish A160 CDI, introduced in 2003. However, it's more expensive to buy than the petrol A160, so only makes financial sense if you do lots of miles, when the better fuel economy will help it pay for itself.

Like most Mercedes, the trim choice covers Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde, with Classic SE introduced in 2003. Pound for pound, Classic is the best bet, but you'll need to upgrade to Elegance to be sure of getting air-con.

It's also worth buying a long-wheelbase model, introduced in April 2001. They're only a few hundred pounds dearer, but much more spacious.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Poor reliability makes the A-Class a risky purchase

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

There are two ways to look at the A-Class. Either it's a cheap Mercedes or it's an expensive, if prestigious, alternative to a conventional small hatchback. It's even dear compared with a VW Golf, traditionally one of the most expensive small hatches.

That said, it should have good resale values when you sell it on, and that helps to keep long-term running costs down.

Fuel economy, too, looks good. The A140 and A160 petrols should manage 40mpg, and even the A190 and A210 have economy in the mid-30s. The real stars, though, are the diesels, both of which return around 60mpg, better than any VW Golf or Audi A3.

Insurance and servicing costs are pretty much level with the VW Golf's, but much better than for the Audi A3. The sting in the tail, though, is the cost of labour. Both at Mercedes dealers and at independents, you'll find the rates among the highest for any manufacturer.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Large numbers around especially A140 Classic, Avantgarde spec best to sell

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The suspicion always was that the A-Class wasn't up to the standards that previous Mercedes had led us to expect, and our experience only goes to show our instincts were right.

In both the 2005 Reliability Survey and 2006 JD Power Survey, for example, the A-Class was the lowest-placed Mercedes, with its mechanical reliability singled out by owners as below average.

Online reader reviews and figures from Warranty Direct confirm the statistics: the A-Class suffers from a higher number of problems than average. Not only is it considerably less reliable than both the Audi A3 and VW Golf, it takes more time and money to put right. In other words, it's vital you pick a good example.

The most important area to check is the car's suspension, which Warranty Direct says is to blame for almost half of all problems. However, there are also reports of clutches and gearboxes being prone to failure after 50,000 miles.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Poor reliability makes the A-Class a risky purchase

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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