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, which 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, both of which sit behind one big piece of glass. Opt for the Executive Package and the 7.0in infotainment screen is replaced by a 10.3in one. If you add the Premium Package, the instrument screen is also enlarged to 10.3in, the two neighbouring screens combining to look like one giant widescreen that stretches across more than half the width of the dashboard.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Owners of the previous generation of A Class could be heard cursing their car’s sizeable blindspots when pulling out of junctions or backing into tight spaces.
They'll definitely approve of the A Class Saloon, thanks to its larger windows and standard rear-view camera. However, you’ll need to add the Executive Package if you want front and rear parking sensors. All A Class Saloons get bright LED headlights to help you see at night, though.
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. The touchpad methods are the easiest when you’re driving; you don’t need to continually study the display, because the main pad provides haptic feedback. That said, the rotary dial interfaces in the Audi A3 Saloon and BMW 3 Series are even easier 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. 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, leaving you wondering why you even bothered trying.
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 saloon 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 E-Class and help to lift the overall impression above that given by premium-badged rivals.
Visually, this interior eclipses the Audi A3 Saloon and even the BMW 3 Series for pizazz. However, where the A Class Saloon falls down and the A3 Saloon doesn't is in its sheer 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 Saloon that's top dog.