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 Autocar

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.

There are five trims to choose from, with the entry-level SE models coming with 16in alloys, comfort suspension, cruise control and a reversing camera, while inside there is a 7in display infotainment system, complete with Garmin sat nav, smartphone integration including Apple CarPlay, air conditioning and leather seats. Upgrading to the Sport trim gets bigger alloys, auto wipers, 8in infotainment system and climate control.

The range-topping AMG Line and AMG trims come with an aggressive bodykit, interior details and sports seats and steering rack, while the latter comes with LED headlamps, lowered sports suspension and heated front seats. The limited Motorsport Edition was inspired by Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team's success and comes with the team's colour scheme incorporated inside and out.

Those looking for a little bit more speed in their lives can opt for the 380bhp AMG A45 4Matic, which comes with a four-wheel drive system, AMG styling, details and an aggressive bodykit, a race-tuned seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and a performance braking set-up.

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