Mercedes A-Class Saloon review

Category: Executive car

Executive car is comfortable and impressive inside, but rivals are better to drive

Mercedes A-Class Saloon front right driving
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon front right driving
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear cornering
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior dashboard
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior back seats
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior infotainment
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon right driving
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon front driving
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear cornering
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon right static
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon front static
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear right static
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon headlights
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon alloy wheel
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear lights
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior front seats
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior driver display
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior detail
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon boot open
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon front right driving
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear cornering
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior dashboard
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior back seats
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior infotainment
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon right driving
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon front driving
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear cornering
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon right static
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon front static
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear right static
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon headlights
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon alloy wheel
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear lights
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior front seats
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior driver display
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior detail
  • Mercedes A-Class Saloon boot open
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Introduction

What Car? says...

As hatchback family cars lost ground to fashionable SUVs in the sales charts, their traditional three-box counterparts proved more resilient – especially aspirational models as the Mercedes A-Class Saloon.

Much of the renewed interest came as executive car buyers turned to smaller cars in an effort to reduce tax and fuel bills. Those buyers will find the A-Class Saloon of considerable interest, particularly as it offers a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option as well as a good range of traditional petrol and diesel engine choices.

Mercedes offers everything from a fleet-friendly 1.5-litre diesel with low CO2 emissions and a modest 114bhp, right up to the AMG A35 with a thumping 302bhp. The entry-level engine has a manual gearbox but everything else is automatic.

As for rivals, you’ll probably be looking at the Audi A3 Saloon but there’s also the slightly sleeker Mercedes CLA too. Alternatively, you might want to consider the Hyundai i30 Fastback or Mazda 3 Saloon if your budget is a little more modest. It's also worth pointing out you can buy the much bigger Skoda Superb for the price of an A-Class Saloon.

So, is the Mercedes A-Class Saloon a worthy alternative to bigger executive cars? Read on to find out what it’s like inside, how spacious it is and how we rate its performance and handling. We also have a full review of the Mercedes A-Class hatchback.

Whichever car model tick the right boxes for you, you can make sure you get it for the lowest prices by searching What Car?'s free New Car Deals pages. They list plenty of attractive new executive car deals.

Overview

The A-Class Saloon is comfortable, with sophisticated infotainment and a very attractive interior, and company car users will find the plug-in hybrid A250e enticing. Keen drivers may find the sportier Mercedes CLA a little more rewarding, though, and the Audi A3 Saloon has the edge on quality.

  • Comfortable ride
  • Good infotainment system
  • Glitzy-looking interior
  • Boot smaller than in rivals
  • Dashboard flimsy in places
  • Rear head room could be better
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

Most will be perfectly happy with the diesel-powered A180d, which earns our recommendation with a progressive power delivery, rather than it all coming in one big surge like it does in some rivals. It’s not spectacularly quick, but performance is on par with the equivalent Audi A3 Saloon 1.6 TDI. Larger 2.0-litre diesels are available, but we’re yet to sample them.

If you can afford it, the A250 is the best petrol model aside from the much more expensive AMG 35. It uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine that packs an impressive 221bhp. This makes it a close match for the VW Golf GTI in a sprint, and it still feels pleasingly brisk when you’re not thrashing it, thanks to there being plenty of urge at low revs. 

The 1.3-litre A180 and A200 are the other two petrol options. We’d avoid the A180 because it needs to be worked quite hard to keep up with traffic. The A200 is just about punchy enough but isn’t enthusiastic to be revved hard, and that might stifle your enjoyment.

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The A250e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) also uses a 1.3-litre engine, but is boosted by an electric motor that works wonders on its acceleration  – it’s almost as quick as the 2.0-litre A250. It’s even more than capable of keeping up with traffic when running on electricity alone – up to 44 miles is officially possible on a full charge. Acceleration tails off markedly beyond 50mph, though.

To rear more about the hot hatch version see our Mercedes-AMG A35 review.

Suspension and ride comfort

The previous-generation A-Class wasn’t exactly famous for its smooth ride, but this latest model is a lot more relaxing, especially in saloon form. The suspension of the booted A-Class is noticeably softer than the hatchback’s, giving a relaxed motorway ride. It’s good on undulating roads, too, although patchy asphalt and potholes generate the odd thud.

Compared with the A3 Saloon, though, the A-Class Saloon certainly seems at least as comfortable even on large wheels. Of course, if you're looking at the executive car class, it's worth noting that an Audi A4  on small wheels and non-sport suspension is more comfortable still.

Of course, resisting the temptation to fit big wheels to your A-Class Saloon is advisable if ride comfort is a priority. However, the relatively sporty A220 and A250 are no less comfortable than the cheapest models in the range, due to their use of a more sophisticated rear suspension setup.

Mercedes A-Class Saloon rear cornering

Handling

The A-Class Saloon handles pretty well. Yes, there’s a bit of body lean through faster corners (definitely more than the hatchback), but this happens so progressively that things never feel unstable during quick changes of direction. The steering also impresses; it builds weight in a 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. It’s also light enough to ensure that town driving isn't a chore.

It runs out of front-end grip quicker and rolls more than the sharper-handling Audi A3 Saloon and the Mercedes CLA but we'd happily recommend most A-Class models to keen drivers. However, if you don't mind spending a bit more, the BMW 3 Series remains the driver's choice in the executive car class.

Noise and vibration

Refinement isn’t the A-Class Saloon’s strongest suit if you choose the A180 or A200. Their 1.3-litre turbo petrol engines are rather boomy and generally a bit uncouth, especially when you work them hard. The same is true of the A250e plug-in hybrid; its extra pulling power means you shouldn’t need to push the engine hard too often, but putting your foot hard down for a more determined burst of acceleration is quite a noisy experience. The more powerful A220 and A250 petrols come across as rather more cultured, combining smoothness at low speeds with a fairly sporty rasp if you work them hard. The diesel engine in the A180d is smooth and quiet by the standards of the class; it's at its smoothest at low-to-medium revs but sounds a little strained higher up. 

The six-speed manual gearbox that's standard on only the A200 is a little notchy. The automatic gearbox selects its gears wisely and promptly most of the time, and is smooth in its shifts. Accelerate in the automatic-only A250e and the transition from electric to petrol power is very smooth, but the car will sometimes insist on holding gears for longer than seems necessary. It’s under braking, though, that the car’s hybrid nature is most noticeable; the amount of pedal effort needed can be unpredictable as the car switches between normal and regenerative braking (a system that recovers energy that would otherwise be lost when the brakes are applied, and converts it to top up the battery). You occasionally have to push the pedal harder than expected to bring the car to a full stop.

Fortunately, helped by the car’s superb aerodynamics, wind noise is minimal, but you might hear some rustling from the panoramic roof. And while there’s a noticeable amount of road noise at speed, it's no more intrusive than in an equivalent A3 Saloon. It's most noticeable on models with 18in alloy wheels, but you'll still experience some background drone on cars with a 17in set. Of course, if you want the best possible refinement, it's the A4 that should be top of your list.

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

You’re unlikely to have much difficulty getting comfortable behind the wheel of the A-Class Saloon. The driver’s seat adjusts manually on all trim levels (electric seats are available as part of the Premium Plus package) but supports you in all the right places. There’s plenty of steering wheel adjustment, too.

The sports seats in the range-topping AMG Line models are designed to hold you in place better through corners and have integrated head restraints. They're supremely supportive, to the extent that we didn't even miss the lack of standard lumbar support adjustment: a feature that you gain only with the electric seat option.

All versions of the A-Class Saloon come with a 7.0in digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a 7.0in infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard. Opt for the Executive Package and the 7.0in infotainment screen is replaced by a 10.3in one, and this is particularly worth having in the A250e plug-in hybrid; the sheer wealth of driving data that model supplies is a little tricky to take in on the smaller display. If you add the Premium Package, the instrument screen is also enlarged to 10.3in, creating the effect of one giant widescreen that stretches across more than half the width of the dashboard.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The A-Class Saloon provides a decent view out when looking straight ahead and, thanks to its relatively thin front pillars, when dealing with junctions. The side windows are bigger than those of the Mercedes CLA providing a better view out and allowing more light in.

A rear-view camera is standard to help with parking, but you’ll need to add the Executive Package if you want front and rear parking sensors. Every model gives you bright LED headlights.

Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Infotainment technology is something of a speciality for the A-Class Saloon. Even if you stick with the standard 7.0in system, you get sat-nav, a DAB radio and a couple of USB ports. However, we'd be tempted to upgrade to the 10.3in touchscreen that comes as part of the Executive Package.

The infotainment can be controlled through the touchscreen; by swiping and pressing a main touchpad between the front seats; or via another tiny touchpad on the steering wheel, although these can be frustratingly easy to touch by mistake. The touchpads are easier to use when driving than the touchscreen, and the main pad provides haptic feedback to confirm successful inputs. This all said, the rotary dial interfaces in the Audi A3 Saloon and BMW 3 Series are even more intuitive to use.

An interesting option is something Mercedes calls ‘augmented reality navigation’. It is, in effect, a live camera feed of the road ahead that’s overlaid with house numbers, road names, direction arrows and other useful bits of information to help you follow a route more easily. Even the cheapest A-Class Saloon models come with an Apple Siri-style personal assistant as standard, too. To wake it up, you say "Hey Mercedes" and then, in theory, use normal speech to control various aspects of the car, from its sat-nav to its interior temperature. The system is definitely fun to use and sometimes very useful. However, like many voice recognition tools, it can occasionally misunderstand what you’re saying or simply not recognise it at all.

Quality

If there’s one thing about the A-Class Saloon for which we'd give a straight A without a second thought, it’s the look of its interior. It’s more in line with what you’d expect to find in a luxury car than in a family hatchback, with lashings of shiny piano-black plastic, leather, wood and metal in all the important places. The jet-style air vents, which glow like afterburners at night, are borrowed from the Mercedes E-Class and help to lift the overall impression above that presented by premium-badged rivals.

However, while it scores highly for pizazz, where the A-Class Saloon falls down and the A3 Saloon doesn't is on build quality. There are a few wobbly bits, such as the climate control panel, that disappoint slightly in the A-Class Saloon. But if you want the best quality in the executive class, it's the larger Audi A4 that's top dog.

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

You’re unlikely to grumble about space in the front even if you tower over most other people. The seats slide back a long way and there’s plenty of head room, although the optional panoramic roof (part of the optional Premium Plus Package) reduces this slightly.

The door pockets are each big enough for a couple of 500ml drinks bottles and there are two suitably deep cupholders in front of the infotainment touchpad, as well as a decent glovebox and further storage under the large centre armrest. However, the A-Class Saloon is noticeably narrower than an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series while a Skoda Superb is bigger still.

Rear space

Anyone over six feet tall won’t exactly be sprawling out in luxury, but neither will they be packed in with their knees tucked up under their chin. However, it’s worth pointing out that while leg room is fine, head room is tighter than in the Mercedes A-Class Hatchback and you'll need to stump up for the optional Premium Package if you want a rear centre armrest.

The Audi A3 Saloon is an easier car to get into the back of and its broader interior is slightly better suited to seating three adults side by side. The Superb, meanwhile, is cheaper and one of the best cars currently on sale for rear space.

Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior back seats

Seat folding and flexibility

Electric front seats (with lumbar adjustment and a memory function for the driver) are available as part of the expensive Premium Plus Package. Other than a split-folding rear seat (although admittedly a handy 40/20/40 affair), the A-Class Saloon offers precious few in the way of clever features to aid versatility.

Boot space

The good news is that the A-Class Saloon’s boot is a fair bit bigger than the A-Class hatchback’s, but both versions lose a bit of capacity in A250e plug-in hybrid form due to the sizeable battery that eats up the void beneath the boot’s false floor. 

Among the A-Class’ rivals, the Mazda 3 Saloon boot is bigger still, as are the larger BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. Should you need to pack even more junk in your trunk, we'd recommend taking a look at the Superb for it's ginormous boot – the best in the executive car class.

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The majority of buyers won’t be paying cash – they’ll be signing up to a PCP finance deal. If you’re planning to do that, a Mercedes A-Class Saloon will generally cost you more per month than its premium-badged rivals (including the Audi A3 Saloon) although prices can vary from month to month depending on manufacturer and dealer incentives.

While the A180d diesel’s lower CO2 emissions (from 119g/km) make it more appealing than the petrol models if you’re a company car driver, the A250e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) makes a compelling alternative. Although it’s a fair chunk more costly to buy outright, its CO2 emissions of just 22g/km could drastically reduce your tax bills. 

There’s good news for private buyers, too: the fact that the A-Class Saloon is predicted to hang on to more of its value than rivals over three years will help mitigate the fact that it costs slightly more to buy. Healthy discounts are available on the brochure prices too – see our New Car Deals pages for the latest offers.

Equipment, options and extras

Unlike with the hatchback, there’s no entry-level SE trim on the A-Class Saloon, so you jump straight to Sport trim. This gets you 17in alloy wheels, powerful LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and cruise control.

Range-topping AMG Line is also tempting but pushes the price into the territory of larger executive cars, such as the BMW 3 Series. For that reason, we’d stick with Sport trim and add the Executive Package, which gets you an enlarged infotainment screen, front and rear parking sensors as well as heated front seats. 

If you’re feeling flush, the pricier Premium Package adds all of that and more, including a larger digital instrument display, keyless entry, an upgraded stereo and cool-looking ambient lighting.

Mercedes A-Class Saloon interior infotainment

Reliability

Mercedes is not one of the top performers in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey – the car maker finished in joint 23rd with Vauxhall out of 32 brands featured. The Mercedes A-Class did badly in the executive car section of the survey.

Safety and security

Euro NCAP gave the A-Class a five-star (out of five) safety rating, with higher scores across the board than the A3 managed. That’s because even the most basic versions come with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, seven airbags, a system that monitors the driver’s alertness and a pop-up bonnet to help cushion a pedestrian in the event of an impact.

Meanwhile, traffic-sign recognition (a system that uses a camera to recognise speed limit signs and displays them on the dashboard) and blind-spot monitoring are on the options list.

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At a glance
New car deals
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Target Price from £29,515
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From £25,286
RRP price range £32,515 - £51,505
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)5
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel, petrol parallel phev, petrol
MPG range across all versions 256.8 - 57.7
Available doors options 4
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £578 / £3,686
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,156 / £7,372
Available colours