What's the used Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback like?
The first Mercedes-Benz A-Class was an innovative and iconoclastic small hatchback that pitched the premium firm into a whole new market.
It was reasonably successful, too, sales wise, although it wasn't without its controversies: there was a thought among many that its lack of sporting prowess diminished the brand, and it even famously failed a crucially important safety test not long after its launch. The second generation car followed the same theme, and it was left to this third generation car, launched in 2013, to radically alter the mixture: it was longer and lower and infinitely more stylish to look at, and conformed to the class norm rather more than its upright and stubby predecessors.
Under its sleeker bonnet there’s a choice of four petrol engines, two 1.6-litre units and two 2.0-litres, and one 1.5-litre diesel and two 2.1-litre versions. On paper, it’s the diesels that offer the best blend of performance and economy, although the refinement of these units is a cause for concern.
There are also five trims to choose from, with the entry-level SE models coming with 16in alloys, comfort suspension, cruise control and a reversing camera, while inside there is a 7.0in display infotainment system, complete with Garmin sat-nav, smartphone integration including Apple CarPlay, air conditioning and leather seats. Upgrading to the Sport trim gets bigger alloys, auto wipers, 8.0in infotainment system and climate control. The range-topping AMG Line and AMG trims come with an aggressive bodykit, interior details and sports seats and steering rack, while the latter comes with LED headlamps, lowered sports suspension and heated front seats.
On the road, the 1.5-litre A180d offers some outstanding claimed economy, up to 80.7mpg in some versions, and enough oomph to propel the car around adequately, while the 2.1 diesels in the A200d and A220d offer plenty of speed and reasonable efficiency. They can all let you know they’re oil-burners, however, with a gruff engine note. The petrols, which start with the A160 badging and work their way up to the hot A250 AMG, are definitely smoother, and the higher-powered versions are much quicker, but at the expense of needing significantly more juice to keep them going.
In terms of cornering, the A-Class grips well and feels flat and stable, in contrast to the preceding versions of the car. It handles well, then, if not in an invigorating way, but where it’s really let down is in the quality of its ride, which is unnecessarily firm. Over broken British roads, it can be unyieldingly uncomfortable and noisy, with bumps both large and small sending shock waves through the body. AMG versions of the car have a ride that is even firmer, and are definitely best avoided.
Inside is an interior of unalloyed sportiness. The firm seats grip you securely, and the steering wheel is small and grippy. The driving position is low and fairly adjustable to suit all sizes, but there’s not a great deal of space up front. However the impression given by the style of the dashboard and surroundings and the quality of the materials used give the A-Class a premium and distinctly classy feel.
Unfortunately, space in the rear is rather short, too, with limited head room for the rear seat passengers and three abreast would definitely be an uncomfortable squeeze endured only for short journeys. Perhaps surprisingly the boot is a good size, especially with the rear seats dropped, but access to it through the narrow aperture limits what you can put in it.