What's the used Mercedes A Class hatchback like?
To take all the qualities of the best Mercedes cars and wrap that up in a small and neat hatchback sounds like a recipe for instant success, but the life of the A-Class has always been a little bit chequered. The first iteration was innovative in its packaging but had its reputation sullied by stability concerns in the infamous ‘elk’ test, while the second-generation car never seemed to capture the public’s imagination. The third was very different, being more mainstream and it did sell well, but it wasn't a critical success. And so we have this fourth-generation car, which improves upon the third, ups the driver appeal and adds some extra pizzazz to the mix.
There’s a good choice of engines, particularly for petrol fans since there's three to choose from: the 134bhp 1.3-litre A180, the punchier 161bhp A200, and a 221bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine in the A250. On top of that, there are also two Tarmac-ripping hot hatches in the form of the 302bhp A35 AMG and 421bhp A45 AMG. Meanwhile, diesel lovers can choose the extremely economical 114bhp A180d, torquey 148bhp A200d or potent 187bhp A220d.
From 2020 onwards, a petrol and electric plug-in hybrid A250e became available with a combined output of 212bhp and an electric-only range of 44 miles. Gearboxes range from either a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto on most models, with an eight-speed auto reserved for the A200d, A220d and A250e.
Trim-wise, entry-level SE gets you most of the basics, including (relatively small) 16in alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control and keyless start. The next-level Sport gets you more attractive 17in wheels, more powerful LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and various styling enhancements. Range-topping AMG Line adds sportier touches and the availability of the more powerful engines., The Executive package can be found on Sport and AMG Line cars which gets you the larger 10.3in infotainment screen, front and rear parking sensors and heated front seats.
If you’re feeling flush, look out for the AMG Line Premium that adds all of that and more, including a 10.3in instrument cluster, keyless entry, an upgraded stereo and cool-looking ambient lighting, while the Premium Plus pack has matrix LED headlights, a panoramic glass roof and electrically adjustable front seats with lumbar support.
On the road, there’s just a hint, with the lower-powered petrol and diesel units under the bonnet, of gruffness. Certainly, the entry-level A180, but all the rest offer decent performance. What's more of a disappointment is that there is more road and wind noise than you’d want for a posh hatch. Both the seven and eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox can be slightly hesitant when pulling away from a standstill, as if it’s deciding which gear to use, and it can occasionally change down rather abruptly at higher speeds, too. For most of the time, admittedly, it changes gear smoothly and quietly.
The steering is quick and responsive, too, and well-weighted, and the car handles corners with aplomb, with good body control and reasonable levels of grip. It might not be outright fun, but it is stable and secure.
Whereas the previous A-Class was often criticised for its firm ride, the newer car rides well, most of the time. It’s quite supple over patchy roads, and generally nicely fluid and compliant over bigger bumps. The downside is that things start to get floaty at higher speeds, and potentially bouncy over more challenging, undulating country roads. Both the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf provide a more composed ride than the A-Class.
Inside is an interior of rare quality. It’s easy to find the right driving position, with plenty of manual adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, and the seats are supportive. All versions of the A-Class come with a 7.0in digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a 7.0in infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard. Tech-lovers may prefer the Executive or even Premium package for their larger screens, which, when combined together, look like one giant widescreen that stretches across more than half of the width of the dashboard. It’s impressive, as is the design of the interior, and with its lashings of shiny piano black plastic, leather, and metal in all the important places.
There’s plenty of space up front, too, although lanky passengers might find it a bit tighter in the rear, especially if sat behind a taller driver. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, and the boot is big enough for a large weekly shop or a holiday away for two. Fold the rear seats and the floor is nice and flat, although there is quite a high lip at the entrance to the boot that you’ll have to haul things over. Be warned though: The additional batteries in the A250e encroach into the cargo area and reduce it in capacity to that of a small car from the class below.
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