New Mercedes A-Class Saloon 2019 review
Can the new Mercedes A-Class Saloon really fill the mini C-Class role?
Thanks to its beautiful interior and conventional three-box body, the A-Class Saloon feels like a proper mini Mercedes. In fact, if you spend most of your time driving alone, and interior space isn’t a priority, it offers almost everything the C-Class does – for around £8,000 less.
Compact executive cars continue to sell in strong numbers. Hatchbacks like the Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3 prove popular at the smaller end of the market, while saloon models like the C-Class and A4 dominate in the class above.
But Mercedes is looking to blur the lines with its new A-Class Saloon – a booted small car that sits in a traditionally hatchback-dominated market. It’s positioned dangerously close to the coupe-styled four-door CLA, differentiating itself with a slightly taller rear end and more favourable interior packaging.
Further separating itself from the A-Class hatchback, the Saloon isn’t available in entry-level SE spec. Instead, it comes exclusively in Sport and AMG Line trims, commanding a premium of £595 over a like-for-like A-Class hatch. In contrast, the Saloon undercuts the equivalent CLA by a sizeable £2,280.
Standard kit is good, though Merc will charge you for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which comes as part of the Advanced Smartphone Package (£395). Sport models get 17-inch wheels, LED lights, man-made leather and two-zone climate control, while AMG Line boasts racier stying, privacy glass and sports seats. The larger widescreen dials form part of the £2,395 Premium Package, regardless of which trim you choose.
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Car group tests
Merc might claim that the CLA is a sleeker, more desirable model, but from behind the wheel the two feel almost identical. The cabins are near enough indistinguishable, with the same slick dual-screen infotainment system and turbine-style vents on the dash. The tactile toggle switches make changing the climate control settings nice and easy, too.
Furthermore, if you spend most of your time driving alone, you could reasonably question whether there’s any need to step up to the pricier C-Class. The A 250’s interior feels a rung above its more expensive sibling, not only in terms of tech, but quality and durability, as well.
You sit low, and there’s lots of adjustment in the seat. You’ll miss out on the CLA’s frameless windows, but that’s a small trade off for what is ostensibly a very similar car to drive. The CLA gets a slightly wider track, although on our 200-mile test route the A-Class Saloon felt stable and secure at all times – even through torrential rain and substantial standing water.
It handled the twistier sections with finesse, too. It rides well, offering up tight body control with enough cushion to absorb rougher surfaces – even on 18-inch wheels. The steering offers little in the way of feel but it’s direct and always points the car exactly where you want to go; we found little to suggest the comfort-oriented C-Class would be any more rewarding for keen drivers.
We previously suggested that it’s best to aim high or low when it comes to choosing the engine for your A-Class, and while you’ll save substantially by going for the basic A 180, the smoother 221bhp 2.0-litre engine in our test car is likely to prove preferable if you spend a lot of time on the motorway.
It packs plenty of punch, and feels far less course than the weedier 1.33-litre four-cylinder engine found lower down the range. The slick seven-speed box switches cogs less frequently than the C-Class’s 9G-Tronic set-up, without sacrificing refinement at the top end.
Part of that refinement comes courtesy of the Saloon’s slippery shape, which Mercedes has engineered specifically to make this the most aerodynamic production car on sale. But while it may be ever so slightly quieter than the hatch, it can’t match that car’s versatility, where the tight boot opening compromises outright practicality.