If success in the premium hatch class were judged on the quality of a car’s interior alone, the A-Class would have it licked. Aside from the ageing A3, perhaps, no other comparable car comes close for aesthetic appeal and material quality.

For all of this compact Mercedes’ strengths, though, there are a few dynamic foibles. Although it’s an agile and balanced car through the bends, its ride can be choppy at low speeds. And although its 1.3-litre engine can summon plentiful performance, its unpolished and vocal demeanour restricts its appeal, as does its pairing with a transmission that feels volatile.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Luxurious and desirable but not good enough to drive to take top spot

All of which solidifies to deny the A-Class the class-leading compact premium hatchback status we’d imagined it might be worth with just the right engine.

If you’ve grown keen on the idea of owning one, don’t let that put you off before a test drive, because this is still an impressive, ambitious and desirable car in all sorts ways – but a Golf remains a more well-rounded package and an A3 has more premium-brand polish in key respects.

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