The old A-class earned its sales spurs, but it was never the cheapest car to straddle the supermini/small hatchback divide.

The latest version continues in a similar vein, and with the city car leanings banished by its longer backbone, its starting price climbs to fit broadly between the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series.

Matt Saunders

Deputy road test editor
Go wild with safety and multimedia options, but don't expect much return come resale time.

Mercedes' A180, in an unnamed trim level beneath SE, Sport, AMG Sport and (confusingly) Engineered by AMG, is the cheapest A-class. As it’s hindered by 15in steel wheels, no one will buy it, but with Mercedes’ new 1.6-litre petrol engine offering a respectable mix of efficiency and performance, it deserves wider attention.

The A180 CDI kicks off the diesel side of the line-up, albeit with SE trim at the base. This car is worthy of consideration, too, thanks to the sub-100g/km CO2 output afforded by its Renault-sourced motor. Its pricing puts it head to head with BMW’s much-admired 116d EfficientDynamics model.

You’ll need to avoid temptation at the options stage, though; liberal box-ticking can leave even the more humble of A-class sagging under a frankly unconscionable price tag.

Top 5 Premium hatches

  • BMW i3
    Two versions of the BMW i3 are on sale: a pure electric model or a range-extender variant

    BMW i3

    1
  • Audi A3 Sportback
    All Audi A3s feature multi-link rear suspension, denied to some other MQB-based VW Group cars

    Audi A3 Sportback

    2
  • The new Volvo V40 is the Swedish firm's sleek and sporty-looking answer to the VW Golf, A3 Sportback and BMW 1-series

    Volvo V40

    3
  • The BMW 1-series has sold more than two million units globally since it was launched in 2004

    BMW 1-series

    4
  • The Giulietta competes in the biggest segment in Europe - rivals include the VW Golf and Ford Focus

    Alfa Romeo Giulietta

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • The new X5 M costs from £90,170
    First Drive
    27 April 2015
    Whether the original BMW X5 M has diluted the brand is a moot point. However, there's no doubt that this second iteration is a cracking car
  • First Drive
    27 April 2015
    The original S-Max was a game changer – your only option if you wanted a fun, seven-seat MPV. The new model aims to be the same, only better.
  • First Drive
    24 April 2015
    Space and practicality has never been an issue for the Seat Leon ST, and thanks to a Cupra 280 engine it's now fast, too - but does it gel as a package?
  • First Drive
    24 April 2015
    Ariel's third model is the best yet - in fact, it's one of the best driving experiences we've ever had
  • Car review
    23 April 2015
    Mazda's Skyactiv tech revolution transforms its cheapest model