Sitting low in the car’s bowels, gripped by sports seats and confronted with a chiselled sports steering wheel, it’s readily apparent that the Mercedes-Benz A-Class’s development team has spent a considerable amount of time attempting to bottle its rivals’ brand of high-brow hatchback appeal.

Certainly it shares MFA platform DNA with its B-Class and CLA siblings, but the A-Class’s glossy, well groomed cabin feels as much a derivative of Audi-influenced market expectation as it does a creation of Mercedes’ own hand.

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
Merc's iDrive-style rotary controller works well, but the shortcut keys for the various menus need to migrate towards it.

That is not to say that it doesn’t satisfy. The suave self-assurance set in motion by the pert exterior rolls seamlessly inside. An impression of superior class is hardly a foreign concept to Mercedes-Benz, but the new A-Class fosters it with far greater confidence than its frumpy predecessor managed.

Such an attribute is essential to selling premium hatchbacks (if it doesn’t make you feel privileged, what’s the point?). Without feeling tremendously generous like its 1990s namesake did, the car is also inch-perfect in size expectations. It seems dutifully compact but will seat four at a pinch, with the rear 60/40 split-fold seats collapsing to offer 1157 litres of total load space.

Standard equipment is up to snuff. Mercedes’ Audio 20 multimedia set-up, with its 5.8in screen and Bluetooth connectivity, comes at no extra cost across the range (although it is superseded by the optional nav-equipped 7in media interface on higher-spec models). Air-con is standard too, as is Attention Assist, the system which takes progressive steps to keep a driver alert if it detects tiredness.

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