Review: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005 – 2012)

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Much better execution of original A-Class concept. Feels far higher quality, especially inside. Easy to park.

Not 'special' to drive. Smaller petrol engines are underpowered. Expensive compared to the competition. Rust problem in doors emerging.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005 – 2012): At A Glance

The first big improvement of the new A Class is the feeling of heavy, Germanic solidity. There's nothing flimsy about it. The plastics are thick. The pile of the upholstery and carpeting is deep. Even the feel of the rear seats as you fold them is reassuringly over-engineered. Unlike the original, it's a proper Mercedes in miniature rather than just a small car with a Mercedes badge.

It drives and handles like a larger, heavier car too. It's quiet, refined and smooth. You could step out of an old W123 E Class or a W126 S Class into a new A Class and feel the cars were made in the same factory by the same people (even though they aren't). If you had driven a company Mercedes for the last 20 years of your working life, a new A Class would be the perfect retirement car. All the quality, without the length.

I drove to the launch in Mercedes new small trendy car, the Smart ForFour. And the contrast could not be greater. The Smart is chic and cheerful, not really a Mercedes at all. The new A Class is altogether much more grown-up.

It needs to be, because it certainly isn't cheap. Though prices start at £13,655, and that's actually a few pounds less than the old base-level A Class, the money asked soon escalates and especially if you start adding extras. The A170 Elegance 5-door is £17,305 for starters, before you add the goodies on the test car that took it up to a cool £20,345. While the A200 Avantgarde SE 3-door starts at £18,120 yet the extras on the 7-speed CVT ‘Autotronic' I drove lifted it to a jaw-dropping £26,170. Way above many C Class and even more than the cheapest E Class.

Mercedes Benz A-Class 2005 Road Test

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What does a Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005 – 2012) cost?

List Price from £23,715
Buy new from £18,046
Contract hire from £174.56 per month

Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005 – 2012): What's It Like Inside?

Length 3838–3883 mm
Width 1764 mm
Height 1593–1595 mm
Wheelbase 2568 mm

Full specifications

So what do you get for this hefty outlay, apart from Mercedes ambiance, quality and status? The answer is quite a lot of basic spec.

All new A Class come with ‘Parameter' electro-mechanical speed-sensitive power steering, just like the larger cars. And the steering does have big car ‘feel'. As well as adaptive front airbags there are head-thorax side airbags for driver and front passenger with active head restraints.

A multi-function steering wheel is standard across the range, together with a trip computer display. The five-door body has a unique double height rear load area enabling you to achieve a flat, sill free floor with the back seats down. All come with a factory fitted integrated radio and CD player. All have bigger, better, very comfortable seats for five.

All have new ‘spherical parabolic spring' rear axles. All, including the diesels, are Euro 4 emissions even without the maintenance-free particle trap fitted. A transponder recognises if a rear-facing child seat is fitted in the front and automatically deactivates the passenger airbag, reactivating it again when a forward facing passenger uses the seat. There is even an indicator to tell the driver if a rear passenger has not buckled up their lap/diagonal seatbelt.

Child seats that fit a Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005 – 2012)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005 – 2012) like to drive?

Petrol engines are a 95bhp 1.5, a 116bhp 1.7, a 136bhp 2.0 litre and, arriving in autumn 2005, a 193bhp 141mph 2.0 litre turbo. Diesels are all 2.0 litre 4 cylinder with 82bhp and 180Nm torque from the 160CDI, 109bhp and 250Nm torque from the 180CDI and, coming in a few months, 140bhp and 300Nm torque from the 200CDI. Transmissions are 5-speed manual with the smaller petrol engines, otherwise 6-speed manual or a new 7 selectable ratio CVT ‘Autotronic' automatic.

From my brief drives I can tell you that the A170 5-speed manual is very pleasant and rides well with none of the choppiness of the old A Class and more benign steering. It feels designed from the outset to be reassuringly stable, rather than redesigned with a lot of complex electronics as the original A Class had to be. It's a proper, high-quality car.

The new ‘Autotronic' transmission in the 2.0 litre C200 3-door I also drove feels a bit alien at first because it slurs more than the CVT-7 in the Honda Jazz. Once in ‘Drive' you can easily select lower or higher ratios by wagging the standard Mercedes fiddlestick left or right, or press the ‘Sport' button to hold ratios a bit longer, or, of course, use the kickdown.

I took the car up into the January snow above Chesterfield to check it out in severe conditions and it didn't put a wheel wrong. Then, after having taken a few photos, I got back into the car to find I had adapted my driving style to it. I easily set the optional satnav to take me back where I had started from and enjoyed a very pleasant, quiet, refined return journey. On the motorway, 7th is so long legged it gives about 35mph per 1,000 rpm so 70 comes up at just 2,000 rpm.

So should you buy one? It's undoubtedly an ideal retirement car for the moderately affluent or even for wealthy people who simply don't want or need a big car. It's imposing in a manner Mercedes should be (which the old A Class never was) so your status need not suffer. And, with no door sills and high seats, it's very easy to get in and out of.

Mercedes is also hoping that the car's versatility, particularly with the EASY VARIO PLUS removable rear seat squabs and folding passenger seat packages will appeal to younger buyers. Maybe it will, just as long as they don't add too many options. After all, a Golf GTi is now £20,000 and the new A Class could be seen as a sensible, responsible alternative for status conscious young mums and dads who see no point in a ‘performance cars'.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
A150 46 mpg 12.6 s 148–155 g/km
A150 BlueEfficiency 49 mpg 12.6 s 139–143 g/km
A160 Autotronic 42 mpg 13.5 s 159–164 g/km
A160 BlueEfficiency 43–47 mpg 12.6–13.5 s 139–162 g/km
A160 CDI 58 mpg 15.0 s 128–129 g/km
A160 CDI Autotronic 52 mpg 15.3 s 142–147 g/km
A160 CDI BlueEfficiency 52–64 mpg 15.0–15.3 s 116–147 g/km
A170 43 mpg 10.9 s 157–159 g/km
A170 BlueEfficiency 46 mpg 10.9 s 146 g/km
A180 Autotronic 40–42 mpg 11.5 s 159–168 g/km
A180 Blue Efficiency 43–45 mpg 10.9–11.5 s 145–166 g/km
A180 BlueEfficiency 44–45 mpg 10.9 s 145–151 g/km
A180 CDI 52–58 mpg 10.8–11.1 s 128–147 g/km
A180 CDI Autotronic 51–52 mpg 11.1 s 142–144 g/km

Real MPG average for a Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005 – 2012)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

27–60 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005 – 2012)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Should I buy a used Mercedes-Benz A-Class as my first car?

Would a Mercedes-Benz A-Class from circa 2005 make sense for a new driver on a budget?
There are better first car choices. A Mercedes-Benz will be expensive to insure for a new driver - especially if they're quite young - and that generation A-Class wasn't particularly good, even when it was new. I'd look at something like a Ford Fiesta instead.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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