It’s a curious thing, the A-Class. You would think something that takes all the good qualities of the best big Mercedes-Benz cars and wraps that up in a small and neat hatchback body would be an instant success, but the life of the A-Class has been quite chequered.
The original was innovative but sullied by the infamous elk test; the second-iteration car never captured the public’s imagination; and the third was more mainstream and sold well but wasn’t a critical success. However, this fourth-generation, W177 A-Class from 2018 improved on its predecessor, upping the driver appeal and adding a bit of extra pizzazz.
Choose from three petrols – the 134bhp 1.3-litre A180, the punchier 161bhp A200 and the 221bhp 2.0-litre A250 – or two road-ripping turbocharged AMG hot hatches, the 302bhp A35 and the 415bhp A45 S.
Meanwhile, diesel lovers can choose the extremely economical 114bhp A180d, torquey 148bhp A200d or potent 187bhp A220d.
And this year, the 212bhp petrol-electric plug-in hybrid A250e was introduced with an EV range of 44 miles.
Gearboxes are either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic on most models, or an eight-speed automatic in the A200d, A220d and A250e.
Entry-level SE trim has most of the basics, including 16in alloy wheels, air-con and keyless start. Sport gets you 17in wheels, LED headlights and dual-zone climate control. AMG Line brings sportier styling, while the Executive package includes a larger (10.3in) infotainment screen. If you’re feeling flush, look out for AMG Line Premium that adds all of that and more, including a 10.3in instrument cluster and an upgraded stereo, while the Premium Plus pack includes a sunroof and electrically adjustable front seats.
All the engines perform decently. There’s more road and wind noise than you would want from a posh hatch, though. The steering is quick and responsive, too, and the car handles corners with aplomb. It may not be fun, but it is stable and secure. It rides well, too, most of the time. It’s quite supple over patchy roads, and generally nicely fluid and compliant over bigger bumps. The downside is that it gets floaty at higher speeds and bouncy over undulating roads.
Inside is an interior of rare quality. Tech-lovers may prefer the Executive or even Premium pack for their larger screens, which, when combined, look like one giant widescreen that stretches across more than half of the width of the dashboard. It’s impressive, as is the design of the interior, and with its lashings of shiny piano black plastic, leather and metal in all the important places.