Mercedes A180

2 Nov, 2012 11:15am Tom Phillips

We get behind the wheel of the entry-level Mercedes A-Class on British roads for the first time


The A180 is a smart move by Mercedes. The new look is solid and technical, and very contemporary, while the interior quality is impressive, despite the relatively low starting price. And even though the A180 only has tiny steel wheels, it still has the important badge on the bonnet. The only concern in the long run is whether buyers can forgive the uncomfortable ride in a car that wears the three-pointed star.

At £18,945, the Mercedes A-Class A180 is pitched right against mainstream C-segment hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. The new car signals a new direction for the A-Class, too, as the fuddy duddy, quasi-MPV look of the old car has been ditched in favour of a lower, wider, generally more stylish shape that’s aimed at a new generation of younger buyers for the brand.

There’s something quite un-Mercedes-like about the entry-level car’s 15-inch steel wheels that are exactly the same size as those fitted to the £5,995 Dacia Sandero. However, the complex headlights, complete with daytime running light ‘eyebrows’, go-faster creases that adorn the A-Class’s sides and aerodynamically sculpted rear end make the A180 seem like it’s cut from the same posh cloth as Merc’s larger cars.

On the inside it’s clear that, despite its price, Mercedes has worked hard to ensure that the materials and switches you touch feel really good. The door handle thunks solidly, the combined indicator and wiper stalk has a nice, damped action, and the buttons on the centre console feel like they’re made of nice, thick plastic.

You sit nice and low, with the view out a little more compromised than rivals like the Audi A3, thanks to the A-Class’s sleeker design, although the dials and the centre display for the radio and optional sat-nav are right in your line of vision. The swoopy design has also compromised the boot, which has a very small opening, because the tail-lights aren’t incorporated into the tailgate.

The engine is smooth and relatively quiet, and offers reasonable response when accelerating in and out of traffic. The standard-fit stop-start system is really fast and unobtrusive, too.

On more open roads, you have to work a bit harder with the standard six-speed manual gearbox. It’s not quite as slick as the one in the BMW 1 Series, but is easy enough to slip through the gears.

The A-Class handles well, with direct and very positive steering, powerful brakes and little body roll, although more aggressive driving does hamper fuel economy a fair bit.

However, the major bugbear with the way the A-Class drives is its ride. The A180 comes with fairly high profile tyres and Mercedes’ ‘comfort’ suspension settings. But even this extra absorption can’t mask the fact that the car is way too firm, and actually quite uncomfortable on a longer run. An A3 with standard suspension and 17-inch rims is far more relaxing.

Disqus - noscript

"The engine is sourced from Mercedes’ alliance with Renault."

- no. You're thinking of the base DIESEL(1.5l, 109PS). The 1.6l petrol engine, in 122PS and 156PS outputs, in the A- and B-class, is Mercedes own("M270").

Your online readership/ "dead-tree" buyership appears to be in freefall. If you and your fellow hacks at AE want to avoid £65/wk JSA, you better start bucking your ideas up.

Awesome <3

I do not get it. In today's dog eat dog market Mercedes comes out with a rough riding tractor, Every review says the same thing : great looking car, compromise with the space, ride sucks. Doesn't Mercedes benchmark their vehicles. It used to be that the Mercedes name stood for something.... now they stand in third place behind BMW and Audi and heading south. It has become more of a marketing slogan than an engineering standard....sad.

I really do not understand why all these modern cars must have such hard suspension settings. Is this because the marketing department wants us to have dynamic cars? What a nonsense, give us comfortable cars. I commute every day in traffic jam and bad roads, I do not want a car that is Dynamic, but comfortable!

And really, does Mercedes, Volvo etc (the same for the new Volvo v40) ever test a car from the competitors????? The new Golf, Toyota Auris, new A3 is far more comfortable. And why is this new mercedes so cramped on the back seats and why is the visibility so bad (a significant safety failure, same (again) for the new Volvo V40).

Missed opportunity of Mercedes! The new A-class is a marketing failure.

Id rather have a New Focus than this A180 or failing that a new Volvo 40 as this is a focus in disguise and over the top on price

BELIEVE it's Not Dog Eat Dog Anymore It's Partnerships at there best & Even More So In The Near Future & The Future WHY ? Because it saves a Hell of Alot Of Money To Work Together Than Seperately, Car Manufacturers Simply Make Design & Build There Own Individual Cars So They Had The Biggest Industry Overhaul In Decades But They Don't Want All There Potencial Buyer's/Customer's Know That, That Way Everyone Would Know That All New Cars/Vans Are The The Same With Just Different Badges/Bumpers/Front&Rear/Lights/& Interiors, This is Mercedes Trying To Compete With Other Makers With A New Special Prduct This Just Mercedes-Vag Partnership To Get More Of A Market Share In The Global Market With The Same Product Just A Different Badge.

buy the giulietta and be different!!! all others are the same

Key specs

  • Price: £18,945
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl petrol
  • Power: 120bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 126mph
  • Economy: 51.4mpg
  • CO2: 129g/km
  • Equipment: 15-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, attention assist, seven airbags, six-speaker stereo
  • On sale: Now