Take a look around you and it would be easy to assume the SUV has won the battle for on-road supremacy. Yet glance at the sales charts and a slightly different picture emerges, featuring a far greater variety of cars. Sure, there are plenty of crossovers in the top 10, but they’re mingling with small and large hatchbacks, from mainstream and premium brands alike.
One of the more surprising showroom success stories has been the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, its blend of smart styling, upmarket vibe, cutting-edge tech and the lure of that three-pointed star on the front grille proving sales catnip. Some fairly juicy PCP finance deals did it no harm either. As a result, the entry-level Mercedes was the fourth-best-selling car in the UK in 2021, with more than 30,000 buyers, ahead of such mass-market luminaries as the Volkswagen Golf and the Nissan Qashqai. Quite the result.
However, by the end of 2022, the mini-Merc had slipped off the chart - and the picture hasn't looked any rosier in the early months of 2023. Of course, the increased drive towards electrification hasn’t helped sales, but it’s clear the German machine’s mid-life facelift hasn’t come a moment too soon.
Even so, with the 2030 deadline for new ICE car sales looming and the inevitable drain that's having on R&D budgets, Mercedes has done a makeover, rather than plastic surgery.
There’s tech titivation (natch), some equipment enhancements, a smattering of trim changes and even some enriched electrification, but externally the overhaul is of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety.
In fairness, in both hatchback and saloon guises (both get the same updates), the A-Class was always one of the handsomely chiselled compact family cars, so the designers didn’t need to expend much pencil lead. There are new LED headlights sitting either side of a reprofiled front grille, while at the rear is tweaked bumper and eye-catching LED lights.
Perhaps the most noticeable change is the addition of a pair of power bulges to the bonnet, underneath which sits a new 48V mild-hybrid system for the A180 and A200 petrols. This combines the familiar 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine with a 13bhp belt-driven starter-generator (ISG) that can deliver a little extra muscle at lower engine speeds. There’s also a more powerful 212bhp plug-in hybrid system for the now-saloon-only A250e, while the 200d diesel and AMG performance models are mechanically unchanged.