The original Mercedes A-Class may have followed the Audi A3 into the 1990s premium hatchback niche, but it bucked that car’s thoroughly orthodox Volkswagen Group trend.

With its snub-nosed, upright profile, impact-friendly ‘sandwich’ platform and front-wheel drive packaging, it was an ingenious, if slightly avant-garde stone cast into the segment’s then untested pond.

Despite high praise and well over 1.5 million sales, not all the ripples that returned to shore were welcome. There were failed elk tests and various criticisms. It was too upright, too ungainly and not sporty enough for buyers’ sharpening taste buds. The A-Class ended up high on expense and short on desirability.

So, for its third generation some 15 years after the original launched, the latest A-Class has renounced the recipe. This A-Class's idea of practicality has been squashed low and long and rendered lip-smackingly svelte. In 2016, the current A-Class was given some love and attention which saw its looks and interior given a new lease of life.

The suspicion is that rather than considering how best to package its solution to the world’s oldest transport problem, Mercedes has instead pressed its ear firmly to current market conditions. But has it implemented the right solution?

Top 5 Premium hatches

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Mercedes-Benz range

Driven this week

  • Porsche 911 GT3 manual 2017 review
    First Drive
    28 April 2017
    The new 911 GT3 is an excellent machine; does the addition of a manual gearbox make it even better?
  • Skoda Karoq
    First Drive
    28 April 2017
    The Yeti has morphed into the Karoq for its second generation, and this early drive reveals a solid, practical small SUV that could challenge the class best
  • Opel Ampera-e
    First Drive
    27 April 2017
    Opel's second-generation Ampera is smaller than the first, and now purely electric. It's also very capable with a remarkable range
  • Lotus Elise Sprint
    First Drive
    27 April 2017
    The latest incarnation of the Elise may be out of its depth on track, but on the public road it is probably the purest version since the original
  • First Drive
    26 April 2017
    The compromises of adding a plug-in hybrid drivetrain to the 5 Series make the new 530e iPerformance tough to recommend