Mercedes A-Class (2012-2018) Review
The Mercedes A-Class is an upmarket hatchback that trades space for style
Strengths & weaknesses
- Popular design
- Well-finished interior
- Economical diesel engines
- Dated-looking dashboard display
- Sporty models’ suspension too harsh
- Older cars have below-average reliability
With Mercedes' three-pointed star badge on its nose, sculpted design and an interior covered in (artificial) leather, the A-Class is a posh Ford Focus.
Like a striped Paul Smith wallet, the small Mercedes appeals to buyers who can justify spending a bit more for its style and premium feel.
That’s why it comes well-equipped, and you can choose varied options, including a glitterball-effect grille, a dozen alloy wheel designs, bonnet stripes and two-tone leather seats, which make the car more personalised and individual.
It all means that the A-Class is not really aimed at anyone in the market for a versatile and good-value family car. For a start, it’s not as practical as most cars of the same size: there’s less space in the back than in a Vauxhall Astra or Skoda Octavia.
The A-Class also has a smaller boot than most, including the Mazda 3, Hyundai i30 and Renault Megane. And it's more expensive than all of them, with three-year-old cars still costing more than £10,000. However, the car's popularity means that it holds its value well, which helps to cut the cost of owning or financing one.
Inside, the A-Class feels luxurious, thanks to its realistic artificial Artico leather and soft-touch plastics. The car received some updates in 2015, which improved its technology and reliability but the basic design hasn’t changed much since 2011, and began to look dated a few years ago, with a screen that looks like a small tablet computer, perched on the dashboard, from a time when the iPad was still a novelty. The software, controlled using a rotary dial, is still simple to use.
Behind the driver are rear seats that are cramped in comparison to the competition: the price that you have to pay for the Mercedes’ sloping roof and compact looks. The back doors don’t open very wide, so getting yourself or a child seat in and out can be a little tricky.
The boot is also on the small side. The 341-litre load area is around 400 litres smaller than a VW Golf's boot, and the opening is narrow, which makes it fiddly and frustrating when you’re trying to squeeze in a bulky box or baby buggy.
Many of the A-Class versions have been designed to look sporty and come with firm suspension, designed to make it nimbler in corners. However, it doesn't feel as agile as the Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series and the suspension results in a bumpier ride. The effect is worse with sportier AMG-Line and Mercedes-AMG versions are fitted with harder suspension.
The A-Class was given the top five-star safety score from the independent Euro NCAP organisation, when it was launched in 2012. It makes it one of the safest hatchbacks of its era but can't be compared to modern ratings, as the latest tests are much tougher.
Video review from 2013
|3 years/unlimited miles
|Tax (min to max)
|£140 to £450 / Pre-April 2017 cars: £0 to £205
Best Mercedes-Benz A Class for...
Best for Economy – Mercedes-Benz A180d SE 5dr diesel hatchback
Mercedes’ A180d engine returns a remarkable 80.4mpg and has low enough CO2 emissions to be exempt from road tax. Beware, though, that these figures only apply on the standard 16-inch wheels. If you go for bigger optional alloy wheels, you’re into £20-a-year road tax territory.
Best for Families – Mercedes-Benz A200d SE 5dr diesel hatchback
Although the A180d engine is very efficient, we think the slightly more powerful A200d will be better suited to the typical family motoring mix of urban and motorway driving carrying four people and luggage. Entry-level SE specification has more than enough kit, though.
Best for Performance – Mercedes-Benz A45 4Matic 5dr Auto AMG hatchback
The A45 AMG is very powerful – even by the standards of hot hatchbacks. A 376bhp power output sees it get from 0-62mph in a supercar-like 4.2 seconds. Handling is good, too, and its sporty bodykit and spoiler are guaranteed to turn heads.
One to Avoid – Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG
The A250 AMG model is ‘nearly an A45’ – it’s quite fast and sporty-looking, just not as powerful as the range-topper. It’s quite expensive to buy and run, though, and won’t hold its value well. If you want a fast A Class, you may as well go all the way with the A45 above.
- December 2012 New Mercedes A-Class arrives in Britain.
- May 2013 Recall of 111 Jun-Dec 2012 A-Class cars for airbag fault
- October 2013 Recall of 59 Jun-Jul 2013 A-Class models for seat safety issue
- December 2013 ‘4Matic’ four-wheel-drive system added to range
- January 2015 Some A-Class among 62k Mercedes recalled for potential oil leak
- July 2015 New ultra-efficient A180d diesel launched, with 89g/km CO2 emissions. Efficiency of other engines is imporved as part of a minor update, which also includes some small design changes
- July 2015 Motorsport Edition trim, with bright green stripes is available for a limited period.
- January 2016 Apple CarPlay available
- June 2018 Replaced by the new-generation A-Class
Understanding Mercedes-Benz A Class names
The A Class diesel engines all end in ‘d’. The larger the number, the more powerful the car. It's the same story for petrol-powered vehicles but there's no adjacent letter.
Trim level AMG Line
The trim level affects the amount of equipment that you get as standard and also has a big impact on comfort: sportier AMG-Line models have harder sport suspension. The entry-level A-Class trim level is SE, followed by Sport, AMG Line, and the range-topping Mercedes-AMG A45
Four-wheel-drive A Class models get the ‘4Matic’ badge
Manual and seven-speed automatic are offered
Mercedes-Benz A Class Engines
Petrol: A180, A200, A250, A45
Diesel: A180d, A200d, A220d
The A-Class has a surprisingly large range of engines, with no less than three diesels and three petrols to choose from, plus the A45 flagship model’s very powerful petrol.
Buyers will inevitably be drawn to the A180d diesel’s 80-plus mpg figure and ultra-low 89g/km CO2 emissions (on standard 16-inch wheels). But while the running costs are attractively low, a meagre 108bhp means this engine is far from sprightly and makes everyday driving a bit of a chore.
That’s why the A200d diesel engine makes the A Class a better all-rounder. It brings the 0-62mph time down under 10 seconds yet still returns nearly 69mpg and emits just 106g/km of CO2 on 16-inch wheels, so you’re only going to be paying £20 a year road tax. Both the A180d and A200d are available with a choice of manual or Mercedes’ excellent and very smooth seven-speed automatic gearbox.
The A220d diesel has the same fuel-economy and road-tax figures as the A200d, but is faster and more powerful still. It’s available with just automatic transmission and can be paired with Mercedes’ 4Matic four-wheel-drive system. But it’s only offered in expensive AMG Line or Motorsport Edition specification, making it hard to wholeheartedly recommend.
The excellent diesels make the three A Class petrol engines seem a bit redundant, but they can still be a good choice, particularly if you do less than around 12,000 miles per year or spend most of your driving time in town. The entry-level A180 is the cheapest route into A Class ownership, but its 51.4mpg fuel economy is nothing to write home about. The A200 is a more well rounded engine and as with the diesels, both this and the less powerful petrol offer the choice of manual or automatic transmission.
The A250 is only available in its own specific trim level, called ‘250 AMG’, which is pretty expensive to both buy and run. There’s a choice of manual, automatic or four-wheel-drive automatic setups with this engine. But if you want a truly fast A Class, we think you’re better off with the range-topping A45 AMG: an extremely powerful and capable hot hatchback.
Mercedes-Benz A Class Trims
SE, Sport, AMG Line, Motorsport Edition, 250 AMG, A45 AMG
Many buyers won’t need to look beyond the entry-level SE model of the A Class. Artificial leather upholstery, air-conditioning, a reversing camera, a seven-inch tablet-style screen in the centre of the dashboard, a three-spoke leather steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels and automatic braking assistance all feature as standard, leaving owners wanting for little.
If you do want to spend more, though, the Sport trim version adds 17-inch wheels, a driving mode selector (with economical, comfort and sport settings), rain-sensing wipers, a larger eight-inch tablet screen and automatic climate control instead of basic air-conditioning.
Next up is the AMG Line, which has a sporty-looking bodykit, upgraded seats, even larger 18-inch alloys and lowered suspension. That all sounds nice, but those big wheels and lower suspension translate to pretty harsh ride quality, particularly on our bumpy UK roads.
The A250 AMG model is a sort of halfway house between the regular A Class and the high-performance A45 AMG model. It has its own punchy 215bhp engine, plenty of eye-catching styling additions to ape the look of the A45 and the option of four-wheel drive.
Buyers of that model will probably find themselves wishing they’d gone for the ‘full-fat’ version, though. There’s really no substitute for the hugely fast and entertaining A45.
Mercedes-Benz A Class Reliability and warranty
The Mercedes A Class was only placed 45 out of 75 for reliability and build quality in the 2018 Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey. Even so, this average result is a big improvement over earlier models, built before minor updates were added in July 2015: these were placed 184 out of 200 for build quality in the 2015 survey.
All of the cars benefit from a three year, unlimited mileage warranty, which should still apply if you buy a recent A-Class.
Used Mercedes-Benz A Class
Like cars from other upmarket brands such as Audi, BMW and Volkswagen, the Mercedes A Class tends to hold its value well– particularly the more efficient diesel models and the sought-after A45 AMG hot hatchback version.
This makes used A-Classes appear quite expensive, but can bring monthly finance payments down, as the cars are not expected to lose a great deal of value over the course of the agreement. Representative finance quotes start at well under £200 a month, even for well-specified cars.
Models built since 2016 are likely to be most appealing, as reliability surveys suggest that they have fewer issues, and also have updated software which, in many cases includes Apple CarPlay and Mirrorlink for simple control of phone apps using the touchscreen.
If you really want to stand out, then look for the 2015 Motorsport Edition of the A Class , which was launched to celebrate the Mercedes Formula One team's success. While this may appeal to diehard fans, its rather garish green stripes and exterior trim enhancements will put many buyers off.