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Can this volume-selling EV make an impact while relying on an adapted platform?

Mercedes’ electric car sub-brand, EQ, has suddenly exploded into a flurry of life. Having given us the EQC mid-sized SUV more than two years ago, it went quiet for a while as the zero-emissions efforts of its rivals gathered momentum, but now it has found another gear with the Mercedes-Benz EQA.

The EQV people carrier is with us, and both the EQB compact SUV and EQS limousine are on the cusp of appearing in right-hand-drive form. And yet none of those cars has quite the potential to put bums on electrified seats and accelerate the adoption of electric cars of this week’s road test subject.

The EQA was the first in the EQ family to have its aerodynamics modelled entirely by computer. The underbody is almost totally sealed, the wheels are all aerodynamically optimised and the grille is this sealed ‘black panel’.

The EQA was first shown in production form in spring 2020 and started trickling onto UK roads throughout this year as the firm's entry-level EV. It has been described by Mercedes-Benz as a car that offers “an excellent compromise between performance, costs and time to market”.

It’s unusual for a premium brand such as Mercedes, which typically deals in products designed and engineered in what it might want us to think of as an uncompromising fashion, to introduce a new car in quite those terms. But these are rare and challenging times for the car industry, when an unconventional approach may well be called for if you want to bring a market-leading compact electric car to the showroom – and do it quickly.

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The car’s particular compromise is granted by the fact that, unlike many of its competitors, it’s based on the adapted model architecture of an existing combustion-engined car. As we’ll explain in more detail shortly, the EQA shares the same underpinnings as the Mercedes A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA models and it is built on the same production line as many of those sibling models in Rastatt, Germany.

In stark contrast to an Audi Q4 E-tron or a Hyundai Ioniq 5, then, it’s an EV with a more conventional and familiar layout of drive components, and a driven front axle. But does that make it more or less likely to set new benchmarks in a rapidly changing and critically important class?

Mercedes EQA engine line-up and trim levels

The EQA is available with a choice of front- or four-wheel drive, in any one of three power outputs, and with a four-tier range of trims (although if you can only run to a Sport-spec car, you’ll be denied the more powerful, twin-motor 4Matic versions).

Mid-level AMG Line equipment is likely to be the most popular of all and includes 18in alloy wheels, sports seat and special sporty- looking bumper styling.

First drives