Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon Review
You may well have seen Mercedes’ premium A-Class hatchback on the roads, but if you want something a bit different, how about the saloon version? It aims to give you the executive car experience of something like a C-Class or E-Class… but smaller. The A-Class Saloon has a range of engines, from the super-efficient to the really quite powerful, and it’s crammed with modern technology. On top of that, it’s very nice inside, and comfortable to drive too.
Select's rating score* - 3.8 / 5
The A-Class has been part of the Mercedes range since the late ‘90s, but back then it was a part-MPV, part-hatchback machine that’s completely different to the svelte, smart and classy machines of today. While the hatchback tends to be the most popular model, you can also get it as a saloon, which apes the larger C-Class and E-Class saloons, and also offers a more practical alternative to the CLA four-door coupe.
Why would you be interested in this over, say, an Audi A3 Saloon? Well, you could argue that the A-Class has more exterior style, and the interior is certainly much more striking. And while it’s not in the same price bracket as the more expensive Mercs, it boasts much of the same technology. In addition, you can have it as a relatively sensible executive car, a fire-breathing performance model from Mercedes’ tuning arm, AMG or something in between.
Aside from the smart looks, the A-Class Saloon’s USPs are its striking technical features and its excellent interior. The design and quality of the cabin is top-notch, and it’s filled with impressive equipment throughout the range. Almost every model gets bright LED headlights and satnav, and the infotainment system boasts one of the best voice-control systems that you can get in a car. Some models have an augmented reality function that adds directional overlays to a live video feed of the road ahead, to help you figure out which exit you’re looking for at a roundabout. For those that want serious performance, the AMG model gives you horsepower that will match and beat most hot hatches. And if you want some zero-emission motoring, there’s a plug-in hybrid model that won’t use any fuel around town.
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to power for your A-Class Saloon, with diesel and petrol engines available as well as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). There are three diesel engines to choose from, ranging in power from 114bhp to 187bhp, while the three non-AMG petrol models span 134bhp in the A180 to a potent 221bhp in the A250. None of the engines are bad; the entry-level diesel will do the job nicely for most, although the entry-level petrol needs to be worked quite hard, so the 161bhp A200 might be a better bet.
The A250e is the PHEV model, mixing a 1.3-litre engine with an electric motor to give you a combined 215bhp. Use it properly and you’ll be able to drive on electric power only, giving you monster fuel economy. But if you don’t keep the battery charged and do more long journeys than short, you’ll end up hauling empty electrical equipment around with the petrol engine, which won’t do your consumption figures any good.
When it comes to the ride and handling, the A-Class is more focused on comfort than exhilaration, with an impressively refined, relaxed and smooth ride quality. The handling is still very solid too, with nicely weighted steering and a composed character, even if it doesn’t particularly excite through the corners. More powerful engines get a more sophisticated rear suspension system, which further improves the agility.
The downside of the PHEV is that the extra weight of the electrical components mean that the handling isn’t as tidy as the regular car, and the suspension has a harder time keeping lumps and bumps on the road out of the cabin.
If you do want excitement then you should be looking at the AMG model. The A35 model has all-wheel drive and a 302bhp from a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which makes it something of a rocket off the line. The suspension is beefed up to make the handling sharper and much more entertaining, with impressive agility through the corners.
You’ll pay slightly more to lease an A-Class Saloon compared to the hatchback, but there’s not much in it. It’s a bit more than an Audi A3 Saloon too, but you do get more choice of A-Class models to ensure that the car you end up with is perfectly suited to your needs.
Should fuel economy be a priority, you should be looking at the plug-in hybrid model, but with the caveat that if you don’t keep it charged and lean on the electric-only mode for short journeys, the petrol engine will be quite thirsty on its own. If you tend to do longer journeys, look towards the diesels; the A180d has an official fuel economy of up to 58.9mpg and even the most powerful A220d isn’t far behind at 55.4mpg. Of the petrols, the A180 is rated at up to 47.9mpg, while the A250 manages up to 41.5mpg.
Being a premium car, the A-Class Saloon will attract a slightly higher insurance premium than some rivals, with insurance groups between 18 and 37 of 50.
If you’re a company car driver keeping a close eye on CO2 emissions, then the plug-in hybrid A-Class Saloon will immediately jump to the top of your wishlist. Its emissions of 26g/km, and its electric range of 34 miles, put it in the 10% bracket (2020/21) for benefit-in-kind company car tax. Non-AMG petrol cars emit between 120 and 134g/km, while diesels range between 105 and 109g/km, which means BiK brackets between 27% and 29% for petrol and 24% for diesels.
The interior of the A-Class is very much one of its strong suits, and rightly so when you’ll be spending a lot more time inside the car than outside, looking at it. The design is contemporary and very stylish, and could easily come from a much more expensive car. Depending on the model you’ll find wood veneer, leather and metal surrounding some very comfortable seats, although electric adjustability is only an option. The material and build quality is decent as well. Overall, it’s one of the nicest cabins in which to sit without spending a lot more money.
Aside from the stylish design, the A-Class Saloon is dominated inside by an excellent infotainment system. Called MBUX, it’s included on every model although it looks a bit nicer on cars with the larger 10.3-inch screen – others ‘only’ get a 7.0-inch version. You can control the system and its myriad functions by using the touchscreen, or through a touchpad in between the front seats. There are also touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel.
One system that we haven’t seen on any rivals is the augmented reality navigation system, which shows a live video feed of the road ahead on the screen, and overlays it with arrows, road names and other information to help you avoid taking a wrong turn. Is it essential? Well, no, but it does look very cool. Also impressive is the voice assistant; just say “Hey Mercedes” and you can control all sorts of functions with your voice, from changing the aircon temperature to adding a new navigation destination. It’s one of the best systems of its type.
Space in the A-Class Saloon is reasonable, with a good amount of room up front. It’s tighter in the back, but you should be able to fit two adults in the rear seats without too much trouble. There’s less headroom than in the A3 Saloon or the A-Class hatchback, but more than in the CLA. The boot is bigger than the hatchback’s and marginally smaller than that A3 Saloon’s. Be aware that if you want the plug-in hybrid, its boot space is reduced by the battery. There are plenty of places to store odds and ends, including generous door pockets at the front, a couple of cupholders in front of the dash and a cubbyhole under the centre front armrest. No armrest in the back though, unless you have a car with the optional Premium Package.
The A-Class hatchback recorded a maximum five-star score in tests by safety organisation Euro NCAP, and as it’s almost identical to the saloon, you can expect similar levels of excellence. All models come with a cavalcade of the latest safety features, including automatic emergency braking, which will intervene if you don’t react to an impending crash. You’ll also get lane-keep assist to stop you inadvertently wandering out of your lane, and a system to alert you if you’re getting tired behind the wheel.
You’ll also get front, side and curtain airbags, as well as a knee airbag for the driver, and Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats.
There are plenty of trim levels to choose from in the A-Class Saloon, and even the most basic model is well equipped. Being a Mercedes thought, it’s possible to load your car up with features for the full luxury experience. It’s worth mentioning that not every engine is available in every trim.
The range starts with SE, which will include 16-inch alloys, air conditioning and cruise control, as well as a reversing camera, keyless start and heated seats. Upgrade to Sport and you’ll get brighter LED headlights and 17-inch alloys, as well as dual-zone air conditioning. Sport Executive adds the Parking Package, featuring an upgraded reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors, the larger infotainment screen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for smartphone connectivity.
AMG Line gives the A-Class a sportier look, with 18-inch alloys and a beefier bodykit, as well as sports seats inside. AMG Line Executive adds the same features as Sport Executive, while AMG Line Premium gives you keyless entry, the augmented reality navigation and a better sound system, as well as an interior ambient lighting system with a choice of 64 colours. If that wasn’t enough, AMG Line Premium Plus gives you some very clever headlights, which let you keep high beam on without dazzling oncoming drivers. They’re great for dark country roads.
Options include a range of paint and interior upholsteries and the Driver Assistance Package, which adds various active safety features and enables a limited amount of autonomous driving on motorways, with the car accelerating and braking for you.
The big rival for the A-Class Saloon is the Audi A3 Saloon, a brand new version of which launched in 2020.
It’s a decent driver and also well-equipped, although its interior isn’t up to usual Audi standards and its infotainment system isn’t as user-friendly as in the A-Class. There’s also the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, which is the most entertaining to drive in standard form of this premium trio.
Other cars you might want to consider include the very similar Mercedes CLA, which sacrifices a bit of practicality for some extra style.
And of course, there’s always the A-Class hatchback as well. For a bit less money but a similar vibe, check out the Hyundai i30 Fastback or the Mazda 3 Saloon, or for more car for the money, the Peugeot 508 Fastback and cavernous Skoda Superb hatch are both worth looking at.
There’s a huge amount to like about the A-Class Saloon, and if the idea of a hatchback just doesn’t do it for you, but you still need a classy small car, then it should absolutely be on your shortlist. There are so many versions that you should be able to find one to meet your needs and budget, but do check out the Audi A3 Saloon at the same time. We wouldn’t be at all surprised though if the Mercedes’s combination of a classy ride, flashy interior and high-tech entertainment wins you over.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon.
**Correct as of 25/01/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2,311.09 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.