What stands out?

The third-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a good looking, premium small hatchback, with a nicely finished cabin and great luxury and safety equipment. The A-Class offers a car for most buyers, from the modestly powered yet responsive A180 to the wildly potent Mercedes-AMG A45.

What might bug me?

On long trips, wishing you had a spare wheel and tyre. If you puncture a tyre on most A-Class cars, you just keep driving: their tyres will still work when they’re flat. That’s great, provided you can get a new tyre fitted soon. Once it has lost air, a run-flat tyre will last for about 80km.

If you puncture a tyre on the A250 Sport or Mercedes-AMG A45, you must get to grips with the tyre-repair kit. It has neither run-flat tyres nor a spare.

(You can order a space-saver spare wheel for any but the A45 as a dealer-fit accessory.)

On cars sold prior to January 2016 you may have been bugged by the bumpy ride. However, Mercedes resolved this with the Series 2 A-Class released for the 2016 model year, by adding adaptive suspension. The adaptive dampers are more compliant, so that bumps feel less sharp – particularly on the less sporty versions.

What body styles are there?

Five-door hatchback only.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class drives its front wheels, and the Mercedes-AMG A45 drives all four wheels. Both are classed as small cars, higher priced.

What features does every Mercedes A-Class have?

Climate control air-conditioning, which can maintain a set temperature. Cruise control with an adjustable speed limiter function. Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains, and headlights that switch on automatically when it’s getting dark. Nappa leather trim on the steering wheel.

A multimedia system with a CD player, AM/FM and digital radio, USB input, an 8.0-inch colour display, and at least six speakers. Satellite navigation. Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and integration for iPod and iPhone. Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink (which can put your iPhone screen on the car’s display).

A reversing camera, and parking sensors front and rear (which help you judge how far the bumpers are from obstacles). Active parking assist, which can steer the car into a parking spot.

Hill start assist, which operates the brakes automatically to make take-offs on hills easier.

Aluminium alloy wheels. A tyre pressure warning system, which tells you if a tyre is going flat.

Dynamic Select, which allows you to choose a comfortable ride from the suspension most of the time but switch to a firmer ride if you want to explore the handling of your A-Class. The Comfort, Sport, and Eco settings also affect how eagerly the auto transmission changes gears, how heavy the steering feels, and how fiercely the airconditioning cools. A fourth mode – Individual – is a pick ’n mix of each, so that you can tailor your settings. (On the most sporty A-Class, the Mercedes-AMG A45, a Sport+ mode replaces Eco.)

A suite of driver aids that includes Autonomous braking, a fatigue monitor, and a blind-spot alert.

Nine airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. (For the placement of airbags, and more on A-Class safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Mercedes-Benz A-Class carries a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The 2.1-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel in the A200 d uses the least fuel, consuming just 4.6 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). This engine accelerates the car effortlessly from low speeds.

The main reason you might not choose the A200 diesel is that all of the other A-Class cars feel smoother, and even the least costly of them is nearly as powerful. They use turbocharged petrol engines, and these don’t use much fuel either.

The least costly A-Class, the A180, is most economical of the petrol cars. Its 1.6-litre engine uses 5.8 litres/100km on the official test.

A more powerful version of that engine comes with the A200 and uses marginally more fuel, while delivering 25 per cent more urge.

The A250 Sport and the very high-powered A45 AMG offer enthusiast drivers a lot more acceleration. Both have 2.0-litre petrol engines.

The A250 Sport has about 75 percent more power than the A180 and consumes 6.7 litres/100km on the official test.

The Mercedes-AMG A45 has more than three times the power of the A180. This makes its fuel consumption of 7.3 litres/100km look very reasonable, although fuel use can increase significantly if you’re heavy on the accelerator.

All engines have an automatic stop-start system, which saves fuel. It shuts down the engine when you stop, and starts it again when you press the accelerator to drive away.

Every Mercedes-Benz A-Class has a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Step past the A180 and spend more for an A-Class Mercedes and you get the more powerful engines described above and more features.

The A200 and A200 d add power-adjustable lumbar support, power-folding exterior mirrors, and cosmetic tweaks that include diamond pattern interior trim. They also have 18-inch wheels (an inch bigger than those on the A180) with lower profile tyres, which sharpen the steering response slightly.

Spend more again for an A250 Sport and you get the much more powerful, 2.0 litre engine, and all-wheel drive. A firmer, sports suspension tune brings more precise steering on smooth roads. Brakes use perforated discs for more consistency. A racing-style flat-bottomed steering wheel matches race-themed interior trim, and there are styling additions externally also.

You also get keyless entry, which allows you to unlock the car with the key safe in a pocket or bag, and a sunroof. There are very bright and long-lasting LED headlights, and the taillights and daytime running lights also use LEDs.

The Mercedes-AMG A45 is the quickest A-Class model. It too has all-wheel drive, delivered through 19-inch wheels with tyres of a lower profile again. Brakes are stronger. A mechanical front differential lock, introduced with the Series 2 facelift about January 2016, lets you use more of the car’s prodigious power when accelerating from corners.

Inside, there are leather-trimmed seats with more side-support for fast cornering. The front seats are heated and power-adjustable, and they remember your adjustments. There is dual-zone air-conditioning (which lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin), and a different instrument cluster (with a lap-timer for use on the racetrack). Cosmetic changes include Illuminated AMG lettering in the door sills.

There is also a better sound system from Harman Kardon. Headlamps dip automatically for oncoming traffic, and the foglights shine into corners when you turn the wheel.

The A45 has a bigger suite of active safety aids too. Lane Keeping Assist alerts you if you’re straying from your lane, and adaptive cruise control reduces your speed automatically for slower traffic – to a full stop if necessary.

A no-cost option on the A45 is the substitution of 18-inch wheels for the standard 19s (AMG A45 'Fuel Efficient'). This reduces fuel consumption slightly on the official test, allowing the car to slip under the higher Luxury Car Tax threshold applied to fuel-efficient vehicles.

An extra-cost option on any A-Class but the A45 is a Driving Assistance Package that adds the active safety aids standard on the A45: Active Cruise Control, and Lane Keeping Assist.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Unlike the seats on the less costly cars, the power-adjustable sports seats in the Mercedes-AMG A45 don’t have under-seat storage. And the bigger side bolsters make them harder to get in and out of.

The more expensive A-Class cars ride less comfortably than the A180. That’s partly due to their firmer, sports suspension tune. And it’s partly because their lower profile tyres have less rubber and air cushioning the wheels from the road.

Choosing an A250 Sport or A45 means you no longer have run-flat tyres, and nor do you have a spare tyre. Instead, you must rely on a tyre repair kit.

The sunroof reduces head room for rear passengers.

Of nine colours available, three of them – Jupiter Red, Cirrus White and Night Black – are non-metallic and come at no extra cost. Other colours cost about $1200 extra on all A-class cars except for the A45, which offers any colour as standard.

How comfortable is the Mercedes A-Class?

The Mercedes-Benz A180, A200 and A200 d ride quite comfortably if you set their Dynamic Select systems to Comfort. Their adaptive suspension (added with the Series 2 facelift about January 2016) takes the edge of sharp bumps, for a ride that is on par with, say, parallel versions of the Audi A3.

In the A250 Sport and AMG A45 you may still feel the occasional sharp jolt, but this is easier to accept in a performance oriented car. Nevertheless even the A250 Sport, with its sports suspension and 18-inch wheels and tyres, rides more firmly than many small car buyers will expect, and the A45, on 19s, is just as uncompromising.

The cabins of all A-Class cars are stylishly designed and beautifully built from high-quality materials. The real leather trim, not surprisingly, is nicer than the synthetic Artico.

The position of the driver in an A-Class is easily tailored, especially in versions with powered seat adjustment. However, tyre-drone on some bitumen surfaces can be tiring on long highway drives.

What about safety in a Mercedes A-Class?

Every A-Class has anti-lock brakes, stability control, nine airbags, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, autonomous braking, a blind-spot alert, and driver fatigue detection. In addition, if the car detects signs of an impending collision it will pre-tighten seatbelts and close windows.

Run-flat tyres on the A180 and A200s help you maintain control of the car if a tyre deflates suddenly.

Like many Mercedes-Benz models, the A-Class has nine airbags rather than the much more common six or seven. The two additional bags are placed on the outside of rear passengers at chest level, giving people travelling in the rear seat extra side-impact protection that is usually reserved for those in front.

The remaining seven airbags are in the usual places: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; a knee protection bag for the driver; airbags outside each front seat to protect the pelvis and chest from side impacts; and curtain airbags extending down each side of the cabin to protect the heads of passengers front and rear from side impacts.

The Automatic braking on an A-Class works at city and highway speeds: it warns of an obstacle in front of the car – typically a slower vehicle – and will apply the brakes if you do not react. It will not initiate a full emergency stop, however.

The driver fatigue alert, which Mercedes calls Attention Assist, monitors your steering and warns you if you show signs of falling asleep at the wheel.

Blind-spot Assist warns you of cars travelling near your rear corners that you can’t see (this was added about January 2016).

The Mercedes-AMG A45 has in addition Active cruise control and Lane Keeping Assist. The latter monitors road markings, and can recognise signs you have begun to drift into an adjacent lane on the highway – perhaps from distraction. It alerts you by pulsing the steering wheel.

You can add active cruise and lane assistance to any A-Class with the Driving Assistance Package.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Mercedes-Benz A-Class its maximum five stars for safety, in April 2013.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

You will enjoy driving the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. It feels substantial and sporty, in ways that most lower priced (and some higher priced) small cars do not.

The BMW 1 Series may be a bit more involving for keen drivers because it is rear-wheel-drive, and the (mainly) front-drive Audi A3 is also a close rival.

However, the Mercedes has a distinctly different flavour – its steering is weightier and the car changes direction enthusiastically.

The A180, A200 and A200 CDI are modest performers, but the A250 Sport is quick – on a similar level to the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Mercedes-AMG A45 is fearsomely quick, with an invigorating engine soundtrack.

There is no manual gearbox option in the A-Class, but paddle shifters give you manual control over gear selection for sporty driving.

How is life in the rear seats?

A-Class rear seat bases are short on under-thigh support. The backrest angle is comfortable and lateral support is quite good, as are leg and foot room.

Rear head room, which is at a premium in all versions, is compromised in panoramic sunroof versions.

Forward vision is good thanks to seats set high in relation to the front seats, and slim front headrests. There’s a fold-down centre rear armrest, and rear aircon vents in the A250 Sport and Mercedes-AMG A45.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The A-Class boot is about average by small-hatch standards, at 341 litres. It is significantly smaller than the boot in the previous generation A-Class.

The cargo bay aperture is relatively small, with a high loading lip. Inside, there are useful tie-down points, mesh pouches for securing loose articles, and a ski-port to allow you to carry long items.

With the 60/40 rear seatbacks folded, the total carrying capacity expands to 1157 litres.

Where does Mercedes make the A-Class?

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is made in Germany.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Possibly some more help when reversing out of a parking space, from sensors that trigger a warning if a vehicle is about to cross behind you. This is available on the Audi A3, for example.

Perhaps a longer warranty. The Lexus CT200h hatch has a four-year warranty.

Among other cars worth considering is the BMW 1 Series, which is rear-wheel-drive and a bit sportier.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Our reviewers recommend the A200. The more powerful 1.6-litre petrol engine in this version makes it more enjoyable to drive than the A180, without significantly increasing fuel consumption. And it comes with some nice extra features.

Are there plans to update the A-Class soon?

The current W176 Mercedes-Benz A-Class arrived in March 2013. An updated, Series 2 version went on sale about January 2016. It brought a more comfortable ride from driver-adjustable suspension, minor styling revisions, and bigger central screens with better connectivity (among other equipment upgrades). The A250 Sport and Mercedes-AMG A45 also gained a bit more engine performance, at the price of using a bit more fuel.

An all-new A-Class is expected in 2018. It is likely to bring new engines and a more extensive suite of driver aids, among other changes.