Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If you're after diesel power, the A180d is your best bet. It earns its spurs with a progressive power delivery that’s spread evenly through the rev range, and while it isn't spectacularly quick outright (0-60mph takes around 10 seconds if you pick the automatic gearbox) it still has more than enough oomph to sit happily in the outside lane of the motorway. The A200d is also a cracker, feeling quite a bit nippier and worth considering if you have the money, but the faster-still, yet pricey, A220d falls foul of the law of diminishing returns.
What about your petrol engine options? Avoid the A180, because it needs to be worked quite hard to keep up with traffic. The more powerful 161bhp A200 is much pokier, and our pick of the range. In our test, it covered the 0-60mph sprint in 7.5sec – far quicker than the Audi A3 35 TFSI and BMW 118i managed – and it has effortless oomph for relaxed cruising. The A250 is also a belter. It uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine that packs an impressive 221bhp – enough to take you from 0-62mph in just 6.2sec, which isn't far off the Ford Focus ST hot hatch's time.
Suspension and ride comfort
The A-Class, even the sportier AMG Line trims, takes a different approach from the generally firmer A3 and 1 Series. Its softer set-up makes it one of the comfiest family cars over pockmarked town roads and sleeping policemen; the trade-off is more float and bounce along crests and falls tackled at speed than its two premium rivals and more of a thud when you hit a pothole. If you really value a cosseting ride, the best car in the class is the Volkswagen Golf, but only when fitted with optional adaptive suspension.
Is it the best-handling premium family car? No, because the A-Class isn't as agile as the Audi A3 S line. The A250e is the least fun version to drive; at around 200kg heavier than the rest of the range (due to its big battery) it exhibits the most lean in corners and runs out of grip the soonest. If you’re looking for a fun plug-in, we’d point you towards the Audi A3 TFSIe.