On sale Mid-2018 Price from £21,000 (est)
Want a premium family hatchback from Germany? Three choices immediately spring to mind: the Audi A3, the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The thing is, though, that while the BMW and Audi walked away with four stars each from our road test, the Mercedes is left behind with just two. Plainly, then, the upcoming fourth-generation car has some catching up to do.
The new A-Class is one of 12 cars shortlisted for What Car?'s 2018 Reader Award. To see all of this year's contenders and vote for your favourites, click here.
2018 Mercedes A-Class – what do we know?
Destined to be the most advanced and luxurious A-Class yet, the new car is scheduled to make its debut at the Geneva motor show next March. It's set to have more space between its front and rear axles than the current car, thus giving it more space inside. As rear leg room is one area where the current A-Class falls behind its key rivals, expect Mercedes to be paying extra attention to giving you more space. A bigger boot is also likely.
Inside, a brand new dashboard structure with a digital instrument cluster will feature – similar to the systems already in place in the S-Class and E-Class models. It's likely to offer similar functionality to Audi's Virtual Cockpit display, putting key information including the sat-nav map directly in front of the driver. A touchscreen infotainment system using the latest version of Mercedes' COMAND software will also be present, while the steering wheel will incorporate touch-sensitive pads from the E-Class.
Without being specific, Mercedes officials have hinted that the A-Class will be offered with a vast array of driver assistance technology, suggesting that the car may be capable of piloted or semi-autonomous driving. Lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control will almost certainly be included.
2018 Mercedes A-Class engines
Mercedes is expected to use a new generation of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines in the A-Class. The entry-level choice will be a 1.4-litre petrol, with 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre options above that. In the most powerful petrol models, the A-Class will feature a mild hybrid set-up, where a small electric motor is used to help the car pull away from a standing start, thus reducing stress on the engine and improving emissions.
A variety of 2.0-litre diesels will also be offered, while a plug-in hybrid version – featuring a 1.4-litre petrol engine working in combination with an electric motor – is likely. If it makes production, expect the plug-in hybrid A-Class to be capable of travelling on electric power for up to 31 miles.
A six-speed manual gearbox will be standard across the range, with a seven-speed automatic optional. Some models will get the option of a new nine-speed automatic gearbox.
Drivers will also be able to use Mercedes' Drive Select system, which tailors the steering, engine, gearbox and suspension for different modes; they likely to be comfort, eco-friendly, sport and a custom set-up. Four-wheel drive will be offered on some models.
2018 Mercedes A-Class price
No official prices have been revealed for the new A-Class but, given the car's expected leap in technology, we'd anticipate a rise from the current car's starting price of £20,715. Mercedes only has a small window of increase, though, given that the Audi A3 Sportback costs from £21,380 and the BMW 1 Series from £22,370. Most family car buyers will buy using a PCP finance deal, though, where Mercedes has a chance to be more competitive than it is currently.
Looking for a used family car? You only need £2000 in the bank to get into a great hatchback. Below, we take a look at our used favourites and tell you which ones to avoid.
Best used hatchbacks for less than £2000
A lot of people believe the 1 Series was BMW’s first attempt at a hatchback. Not so. The 3 Series Compact might have odd looks, but it was one of the best-handling hatchbacks of its time and it could also be had with some supremely smooth six-cylinder engines. For this money, you may have to settle for the lower-powered four-cylinder options, but the excellent build quality and rear-wheel-drive chassis mark the Compact as one of the more interesting used hatchback choices.
We found 2002 316TI SE 56,000 miles £1050
Interesting is not a word you can use to describe the Nissan Almera, but reliable most definitely is. You also can’t argue with an impressive amount of standard kit, a four-star Euro NCAP rating and a big boot. The Almera is the sort of car you can buy with low mileage, run it for a few years with next to no trouble and then easily flog it to your local takeaway delivery driver. Perhaps it could even be their tip.
We found 2005 1.5 S 5dr, 52,000 miles, £1250
The Luton-made (and rather well, actually) Vauxhall Astra has a classy – if dull – interior, plenty of space inside and a five-star NCAP safety rating. There will be lots of examples for you to choose from and, because of the ubiquity of it, parts are easy to source. It doesn’t drive as well as a Ford Focus but, then again, few do.