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Mercedes-Benz A-class review - does facelift bring the fight back to rivals?
The third-generation Mercedes-Benz A-class has always had plenty of kerb-appeal but has lagged behind rivals in terms of comfort and refinement. For 2015, the option of adaptive dampers has largely rectified this, while interior upgrades coupled with a few exterior changes, has put the A-class right up to the top of its class.
It isn't without it's issues though. The BMW 1-series bests it dynamically, while the 2.1-litre turbodiesel is relatively unrefined compared to the competition. The uprated interior, including the addition of an improved nav-screen and higher resolution display definitely makes it feel the most premium affordable hatchback on sale, even when compared with range toppers from BMW and Audi.
Aside from the badge, and the fact it has four wheels, this generation of the Mercedes-Benz A-class couldn’t be more removed from its lofty, sandwich floored and space efficient predecessor. It's a backward step technically, but the B-class fulfils the practical and compact role in the Mercedes-Benz line-up, so the A-class is free to compete more readily in the mainstream and premium hatchback marketplaces. That’s moved it from an innovative (if relatively unpopular) anomaly, to large volume, profit-generating small car that gives Mercedes-Benz a genuine direct rival to the incredibly successful Audi A3 and BMW 1-series. Not the mention the Volkswagen Golf.
Power upgrades for the 2015 facelift make the 375bhp A45 AMG the most powerful hot hatch currently on sale. It's also hugely expensive, with a fully optioned-up model costing around £50k. Those who are after AMG looks but not the price tag can opt for the AMG equipment line option as well as AMG wheels and interior packs.
An A180d can look like it has rolled off the production line at AMG’s plant in Affalterbach - even if it’s only packing 107 diesel-fuelled horses under its shapely bonnet. That’s true across the entire range, bringing real visual punch to any variant, even if it’s not backed up with anything approaching the A45’s mighty performance.
The A-class’ paradigm shift didn’t only change it technically; it brought with it styling that’s bold and fresh, yet striking and efficient at the same time. That it looks almost identical to the concept Mercedes-Benz introduced in Shanghai in 2011 is admirable, giving the A-class the visual edge over its two most obvious rivals - the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.
For 2015 the interior can be optioned with a bigger high-resolution 8in screen boasting Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. New trim and materials as well as the option of a beige and black leather interior raise the A-class up to the top end of the hatchback spectrum.
Where it trails its key competition though is on the road. Dynamically it’s neither as engaging as a BMW 1-series, nor as rounded as an Audi A3.
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> Performance and 0-60 time - The A45 AMG is comfortably the fastest car in the A-class range, hitting 62mph in a blistering 4.2sec and topping out at 167mph. Read more about the A-class performance here
> Engine and gearbox - Beneath the A-class is a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. A manual gearbox is standard while a seven-speed dual-clutch setup can be optioned. Read more about the A-class engine and gearbox here
> Ride and handling - The A-class’s steering generally lacks feel of any sort of feel or communication, while the chassis is benign (and best left in its Comfort setting). Read more about the A-class ride and handling here
> MPG and running costs - The A180 is the entry-level A-Class, but it's the A 180 d BlueEFFICIENCY Edition that will deliver the biggest savings. The A45 AMG is predictably the most expensive to run. Read about A-class MPG and running costs here
> Prices, specs and rivals - Prices start at £19,990 for the A160 in SE spec. Sport and AMG Line options increase price, while the range-topping A45 AMG costs £40,000. Chief rivals are the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series. Read about the A-class prices and rivals here
> Interior and tech - No matter which model you opt for, the interior will be impressively opulent for a hatchback, with many featuring different metals and textures all over the cabin. Read about the A-class interior and tech
> Design - The new A-class is a significant step on from the innovative one-box design of the old car. In AMG trim it’s also guaranteed to turn more heads than an Audi A3. Read about the A-class design here