Mercedes makes a Golf at last, and it’s a good one.
Fun to drive
A proper mini-Merc
Impressive iPhone app
Expensive for what it is, thanks to that badge
Cheap-looking instrument graphics

Mercedes-Benz A-class W176 review (2012 on)

A Mercedes Golf at last

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What is it?

It’s not the compact MPV it used to be, that’s for sure. Mercedes-Benz’s A-Class has been reinvented as the first regular-format, front-wheel drive, five-door hatchback in the company’s history, as a head-on rival for Audi’s A3, BMW’s 1-series and Volkswagen’s Golf. Only now, in 2012, has the world’s oldest car company finally decided to make a car in the most popular body style of all.

The idea is to attract youthful buyers of a “premium” persuasion, a lucrative buyer base that Mercedes failed to capture with the innovative, but insufficiently appealing, previous A-Class models. So there’s a sporting flavour to the new model, which is based on the same underpinnings as the new B-Class MPV plus future coupé and 4×4 variants. That shared base explains the high dashboard and the deep sculpting of the body sides, intended to disguise their height while the wide, SL-like front grille exaggerates the width.

Petrol engines are of 1.6 or 2.0 litres, diesels are of 1.5 (a Renault unit) or 1.8 litres, all are turbocharged. The range-topping A250s have 211bhp and a strong AMG flavour, the top “Engineered by AMG” version peaking at £28,775. Prices start at £18,945 for the cheapest petrol A180.

The drive

There’s certainly a keen edge to the way the A-class moves along the road, with quick, sharp steering, taut responses with little body roll, and a sportingly firm ride even in the supposedly more comfort-biased SE models. Big wheels and low-profile tyres are the reason for this apparent conceptual mismatch.

You can aim any new A-class at a series of twists and come out the other side smiling. The AMG Sport versions are almost too keen, in an artificial way, thanks to yet-faster steering with a variable ratio; the “engineered” version does the “sporty” thing more credibly, with a more natural feel and different suspension settings.

These top A250s come only with a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox, which shifts smoothly and very quickly to complement the turbo engine’s impressive energy. Many people, however, will be happy with a more “core” A-class, such as the A200 CDI with 134bhp and the alternative of a six-speed manual. It’s a smooth, punchy diesel in the modern idiom and our recommended choice.

The interior


The dashboard seems high and wide but there’s a better view out than you’d expect. Four round, metal air vents with cruciform vanes like an SL’s dominate the styling, and the quality is as Mercedes-flavoured as you would hope it should be with the exception of the gimmicky, cheap-looking instrument graphics.

Space is class-average, iPhone interfacing is impressively complete with the optional app. With it, you can control everything from the knob and buttons on the centre console.

The one to buy

Mercedes-Benz A200 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Sport 5dr


1796cc, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
134bhp @ 3600rpm
221 lb ft @ 1600rpm
6-speed manual (automatic available)
0-62mph in 9.3sec
Top Speed:
Road Tax Band:
L 4292mm, W 1780mm, H 1434mm

Mercedes-Benz A-class rivals

BMW 335d M Sport (check BMW 3 Series used car prices on

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Audi A1 check (Audi A1 used car prices on