Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback performance
Right now, there are just three engines to pick from: a lone diesel (badged A180d), a 1.3-litre petrol (A200) and an altogether sportier 2.0-litre petrol badged A250. There will be more engine options further down the line, including a warm AMG model (potentially badged A32) and a sizzling version to replace the outgoing and very excellent A45l.
The 114bhp diesel isn’t very quick (0-62mph takes 10.5sec) but that's similar performance to the equivalent Audi A3 1.6 TDI, while it feels quicker on the road than a BMW 116d. And the A180d has a very handy slug of mid-range poke that is perfectly adequate for general commuting and, unlike some diesels, it delivers its power progressively rather than in one big rush as the turbocharger kicks in.
The 161bhp A200 is much nippier, but unlike the more flexible diesel you do need to work it quite hard to get the very best from it. Meanwhile, the range-topping A250 packs an impressive 221bhp and can sprint to 62mph from standstill in just 6.2sec. That means it’s actually slightly faster than aVolkswagen Golf GTI. Although it loves to be revved to its redline, it still feels pleasingly brisk when you’re not thrashing it.
All versions of the A-Class currently come with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. In automatic mode, it can be slow at selecting the right gear, but it shifts quickly if you take control by tugging on the paddles behind the steering wheel.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback ride
The previous-generation A-Class wasn’t exactly famous for its smooth ride but, thankfully, this latest model is a lot more comfortable.
Is the A-Class as comfortable as the smooth-riding Golf? Not quite – the Golf's softer set-up sees to that – but the differences in ride comfort between the A-Class in AMG Line trim and the Audi A3 seem to be fairly minor; the A-Class is a little less settled at high speeds but generally more supple over patchy town roads. Either way, the margins are relatively small and, indeed, the A-Class feels much smoother over any road than the choppy-riding BMW 1 Series.
That's even on larger 18in wheels (standard on AMG Line trim). And don’t feel too worried about going for the A250; it may be moderately sporty, but the ride is still very pliant for everyday use. There is one caveat, though; curiously, despite having the smallest wheels that usually would improve a car's ride, our experience of the A200 Sport has been that it has a slightly lumpier ride than the other versions, so make sure you test drive the exact trim you're thinking of buying to check you are happy.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback handling
Judging by the versions we've tried so far, the A-Class handles pretty well. Yes, there’s a bit of body lean through faster corners, but this happens so progressively that things never feel unstable during quick changes of direction. It runs out of front grip quicker than the sharper-handling A3, but we'd happily recommend the A-Class to keener drivers over the 1 Series.
Even the steering impresses; it builds weight in a very natural way as you turn in to corners, and the fact that it’s always accurate allows you to place the car just where you want it on the road. It’s also light enough to ensure town driving isn't a chore.
The A250 and AMG Line version of the A200 get a more sophisticated rear suspension set-up that’s designed to improve handling. Our experience of the A250 is that it corners flatter, grips harder and is less troubled by mid-corner bumps.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback refinement
This isn’t the A-Class’s strongest suit, although it’s hardly a horror show, either. Wind noise is very well suppressed, helped by the car’s superb aerodynamics, so you aren’t plagued by a constant whistling and fluttering at motorway speeds. And while there’s a noticeable amount of road noise at speed, it's no worse than you'd get in an equivalent A3. It's worst on models with 18in AMG wheels, but even cars with 17in wheels still emit some background drone.
The engine in the A180d is smooth and quiet by the standards of most rivals' diesels; it's smoothest at low-to-mid revs but does sound a little strained higher up. However, the A200’s 1.3 petrol unit is rather boomy and generally a bit uncouth, especially when you work it hard – something that you’ll need to do to get the best from it. The A250 certainly has the more cultured petrol engine, proving smooth at low speeds, with a fairly sporty rasp if you work it hard.