What are you driving?
A new addition to the Mercedes 'compact' line-up. The A-Class Saloon joins the A-Class hatchback, the Mercedes CLA, the GLA crossover and B-Class MPV in the range, not to forget the forthcoming GLB. When Mercedes first announced the introduction of the A-Class Saloon, we assumed it would be a replacement for the CLA model, but that's not the case. The CLA has grown in stature and status to make room for the more conventional four-door A-Class. It does without the CLA's swoopy rear styling and frameless doors, but it is cheaper-to-buy.
Pricing for the Mercedes A-Class Saloon starts at €31,455 for the A 180 Style. That makes it approximately €1,000 more than an equivalent A-Class hatchback (the gap varies throughout the range) and about €3,000 less than the relevant CLA. Nearly the whole range of engines is available in the Saloon, including the A 180, A 200, A 250 petrol models (and the Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic), though the A 180 d is the sole diesel option.
Our test car was in the AMG Line specification, which includes 18-inch AMG alloys, a subtle AMG makeover inside and out, heated front seats, reversing camera, climate control and sports seats with a mix of manmade leather and suede upholstery (Artico and Dinamica in Mercedes-speak). Fitted options that you might spot in the picture gallery include a screen upgrade for the MBUX system, metallic paint and the Night Package.
Name its best bits
This particular version of the A-Class Saloon is a gem. While the 1.5-litre turbodiesel hasn't got loads of power, it never feels slow in normal driving and, unlike the entry-level petrol engines in the range, it is well-matched to the dual-clutch automatic transmission. Probably because of the diesel's greater low-down torque levels. Like all regular A-Class models, the Saloon is ok to drive rather than interesting, but there are few chinks in its armour, so the fact that it doesn't really engage keener drivers shouldn't hamper its success.
Another major benefit of the relatively small diesel engine is economy. We saw an average of about 5.5 litres/100km over the week of mixed driving (though, notably, without a long constant speed cruise), suggesting that commuters with a long drive could easily see consumption figures of under 5.0 litres/100km. It's a smooth and quiet engine once up to speed, too.
Finally, we've said it before, but we'll say it again, the Mercedes MBUX infotainment system is lovely to use and look at, making the interior of the A-Class Saloon feel special. Rear seat space isn't bad either, certainly within the realms of this sector of the market.
Anything that bugs you?
On one hand, we'd suggest that there's very little reason to pay more for the Mercedes CLA, as the A-Class Saloon is attractive by any measure and performs in a very similar manner. And yet, if you're willing to, say, give up on the automatic gearbox, you'd pay only a grand or so more to get into a CLA 180 d. Very tempting, and that begs the question as to whether there's room in the market for both body styles to succeed.
And why have you given it this rating?
By any measure, the A-Class Saloon is a good-looking and classy conveyance. I came away from my time with it wondering why you'd bother paying more for the CLA. This A 180 d AMG Line variant, costly as it is in the grand scheme of things, is particularly well-sorted and highly desirable.
What do the rest of the team think?
It's easy to draw similarities between the A-Class Saloon and the Mercedes CLA. However, get closer to the cars and you'll notice there are aspects of the A-Class that don't quite match the CLA's quality. You only have to slam the boot lid shut to notice, for example. That said, the A-Class drives nicely, coping well with Irish roads and, depending on which engine you choose, can be a frugal car to run.
Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor
A great looking car, with a truly terrific interior, and it's super-frugal with this engine, too. Is it worth paying the extra to get a CLA 'coupe' with the same engine and chassis? Maybe... The CLA feels sharper to drive, but for most people the more affordable A-Class Saloon will do just nicely.
Neil Briscoe - Editor-at-large