What's the used Mercedes A Class hatchback like?
Innovation is no guarantee of sales success. Despite the first and second iterations of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class being very safe and space-efficient, with their clever ‘sandwich’ floor layout, neither was a smash hit. Meanwhile, rivals like the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series were lapping up buyers looking for a family car with a premium badge and a sporty image.
So, a radical rethink was in order. The third generation A-Class, launched in 2013, was longer, lower and infinitely more stylish, while conforming to the class norm, unlike its upright and stubby predecessors.
It offered a choice of four petrol engines – two 1.6-litre units and two 2.0-litre units – and three diesels: a 1.5-litre unit and two 2.1-litre units. The diesels offer the best blend of performance and economy, but their refinement units isn’t great compared with rivals'. The petrols are definitely smoother, and the higher-powered versions are much quicker, but at the expense of needing significantly more juice.
There are also five trims to choose from, with the entry-level SE models coming with 16in alloy wheels, comfort suspension, cruise control and a rear-view camera, while inside there's a 7.0in infotainment display, complete with Garmin sat-nav and smartphone integration, including Apple CarPlay. Sport trim gets bigger alloys, automatic wipers, an 8.0in infotainment screen and climate control. AMG Line gets you an aggressive bodykit, sports seats and a sports steering wheel, while full-blown AMG adds LED headlights, lowered sports suspension and heated front seats.
The A-Class grips well and feels flat and stable – a stark contrast to the preceding models. What really lets it down, though, is 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 are even firmer, and as such definitely best avoided.
The interior is of unalloyed sportiness. The firm seats grip you securely and the driving position is low and fairly adjustable to suit all sizes. However, there’s not a great deal of space up front.
The impression given by the style of the dashboard and surroundings gives the A-Class a distinctly classy feel, even if the quality of materials don’t stand up to the plushness of the Audi A3 upon closer inspection.
Space in the rear is in rather short supply, with limited head room and three people abreast being an uncomfortable squeeze that could be 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 load into it.
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