Mercedes A-Class review (2005-2012)

The Mercedes A-Class aims to bring healthy dose of upmarket appeal to the crowded family hatch sector

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

  • Spacious cabin, efficient diesels, plenty of standard kit
  • Awkward looks, lacklustre drive, high prices

The versatile Mercedes A-Class has a lot to recommend it. A roomy cabin and decent boot make it a surprisingly practical choice, while robust build quality and the lure of the Mercedes three-pointed star give it plenty of kerb appeal. There are only four engines to choose from – a pair of petrols and two diesels – but the BlueEFFICIENCY versions promise good fuel economy and low emissions. Buyers are also treated to a decent haul of standard kit, with air-con, ESP and Bluetooth featuring on all models.

Engines, performance and drive

It’s unlikely that you’ll buy an A-Class for its blistering performance. The 93bhp 1.5-litre petrol powered A160 is smooth and willing, but lacks mid-range muscle, while the 81bhp 2.0-litre A160 CDI diesel wheezes from 0-62mph in 15 seconds – which is around two seconds slower than a VW Golf 1.6 TDI or Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi. The more powerful 1.7-litre A180 petrol and 2.0-litre A180CDI deliver more pace, but are still some way off the class standards. The A-Class also trails rivals in the corners, where its wooden responses and fidgety ride let it down. At least the high-set driving position gives a commanding view of the road, while the large glass area results in excellent visibility. Refinement is also strong, although the gruff diesel engines are intrusive when extended, which will be a lot when specified with the optional CVT automatic gearbox.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

Owners looking to cut their motoring bills should make a beeline for the BlueEFFICIENCY badged models, which promise better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. Best of the lot is the A160 CDI, which delivers 62.8mpg returns and 118g/km of CO2 – although this is someway short of the sub 100g/km figures of the VW Golf Bluemotion and Audi A3 TDIe. As a result, the A-Class is more expensive to tax and fuel than most of its mainstream and premium rivals. Strangely, only the petrol-powered BlueEFFICIENCY versions get stop-start. Unusually for a Mercedes, the A-Class suffers from quite heavy depreciation, with versions equipped with an auto transmission shedding the most value. All models are expensive to buy by mainstream standards, but the higher specification Avantgarde SE is a particularly pricey proposition.

Interior, design and technology

With its tall and upright stance, the five-door Mercedes A-Class takes its design cues from mini-MPV models, rather than traditional hatchback rivals such as the Audi A3 and VW Golf. There are only two trim levels, entry-level Classic SE and range-topping Avantgarde SE, with the former identified by its plain plastic wheel trims and less flashy chrome trim. All versions of the A-Class come with a generous amount of standard equipment, including air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and a multi-function steering wheel. Avantgarde SE adds 16-inch alloy wheels, plus automatic headlamps and wipers. Solid build quality and robust materials give the Mercedes an upmarket feel, while spending extra cash brings big car extras, such as leather trim, sat-nav and xenon lights.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

Where the A-Class really scores is in the practicality stakes. The boxy and upright exterior results in a spacious and versatile cabin. Occupants in the rear get bags of head and legroom, while opening the tailgate reveals a 435-litre load bay – that’s a whopping 85 litres more than a VW Golf. Adding the optional Easy Vario Plus allows you to fold the front passenger seat flat and remove the rear bench, which frees up an incredible 1,955 litres of load space. All versions are packed with useful storage, such as a large glovebox, deep door bins and a false boot floor that hides a secure compartment for hiding valuable items.

Reliability and Safety

With its strong reputation for safety, it’s no surprise to find that Mercedes secured a five star Euro NCAP rating for the A-Class. All models get six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic stability control and tyre pressure monitoring. The car’s unique ‘sandwich’ floor construction boosts safety further by forcing the engine and transmission into a space below the driver and front seat passenger, minimising leg injuries. If you want extra peace of mind, there’s the option of further side and curtain airbags for rear seat passengers. The solidly constructed A-Class has suffered from a handful or recalls since making its debut in 2004, but overall the car should be a robust and reliable choice.

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