Mercedes-Benz A Class Hatchback 1998 - 2001

Mercedes-Benz A Class Hatchback 1998 - 2001

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • Spacious and comfortable for its size
  • High level of safety
  • The usual quality of Mercedes for a relatively low price


  • Not as refined as 'bigger' Mercedes cars
  • You would want a smoother ride
  • Expect high servicing bills


When the prototype was shown in 1996, very few people believed that the Mercedes would actually find the courage to put this risky model on the production line. They're famous for being rather conservative with model changes, so a front-wheel driven city car with a transverse engine was considered a risk. As we now know, it complexly paid off ‐ in short 7 years they managed to sell 1.6 million cars.

Exterior and Interior

The A-Class is an unusual vehicle for Mercedes to manufacturer as it features a mini MPV body. Although it's a rather peculiar shape, the designers have done a good job and you can instantly tell that it's a proper Mercedes. The interior is as good-quality as its bigger brothers. Unlike other mini MPVs, the A-Class has plenty of space for 5 adults. Its cabin has been so cleverly built that the exterior is deceptive. You really think that it's a small car but thanks to a long wheelbase and high body, its cabin is more comfortable than in some cars in the class about the A-Class. With folded seats the A-Class provides a 1740-litre luggage space ‐ a true feat for such a small car. You'll find the usual good-quality materials in the A-Class' interior and the dashboard is quirky and well laid out. The only criticism you might have is hampered visibility because of the wide A-pillars. There is, however, a good reason for them being this wide. When it came to safety, Mercedes couldn't afford to make the A-Class less safe than its other models. The usual approach would have meant compromising on the space, so they employed a then-revolutionary sandwich-type floorpan. In case of a frontal accident, the engine pops underneath the car instead of ending up in the cabin. The wide A-pillars are necessary to support the roof, which otherwise would have very little propping.

Performance and Economy

All four engines deliver enough power a one-ton car. Choosing the right one depends on your anticipated fuel savings. The A-Class will leave the majority of its direct competitors eating the dust at the traffic light. It's a quick and a powerful little car. The diesel engines offer around 60mpg; the petrol engines will be thirstier at around 40mpg, which is still pretty good for an engine that delivers more than 100BHP. A good idea would be to choose the more powerful version of whichever type you go for ‐ a petrol or a diesel. Going for the 82BHP petrol or the 60BHP diesel would make very little difference to fuel economy. If anything, the insurance is cheaper for the less-powerful models ‐ they are classified as insurance group 11 with the more powerful modifications being 13 or 15 depending on the trim. Buying a used Mercedes is expensive but if you're after the best, the A-Class is probably worth every penny.

Like to Drive

The A-Class is a fun car to drive in the city. It performs well and is seen as a good overall car with powerful engines. There is however a device that can cause some issues when you are driving ‐ the electronic stability control that makes sure the high and narrow car doesn't end up wheels towards the sky, but it makes driving fast less pleasurable, especially as the suspension have been stiffened considerably.

Faults and Repairs

When building proper cars, the Mercedes' engineers can hark back to their 100-years of experience. The A-Class was entirely different than anything they've built before. Unfortunately, the reliability that the C and E-Class are known for is not present in the A-Class. The little Mercedes is suffering from significantly more faults than its bigger brothers. If the suspension feels funny, it's likely to go wrong. This is probably the case for most of the car actually. It feels as if it is slightly underdeveloped, and there is a constant worry that it will eventually start making a noise and losing efficiency. There are many parts that can go wrong on the small Mercedes and whatever goes wrong it will be expensive to fix.