Mercedes compact cars (2017) review: Hands on with the A-Class, B-Class and GLA

Mercedes compact range review: Autonomous technology

Despite their apparent shortcomings, Mercedes’ compact cars can be configured with autonomous driving aids, but again it’s not in the same league as something such as the E-Class. For £595, the Lane Track Package gives you Blind Spot Assist with visible and audible warnings, plus Lane Keeping Assist, so if you stray over the white lines you’re warned by vibrations through the steering wheel.

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A more expensive £1,695 Driving Assistance package gives you Distance Pilot DISTRONIC, which is essentially adaptive cruise control with a distance sensor. It also adds PRE-SAFE, a system that allows the car to autonomously brake before a possible accident.

Each car can also be configured with Parking Pilot. As you’d expect, this is an autonomous parking system that’ll scan for spaces and then park the car for you. Steering is taken care of automatically, as are gear changes if you’re in an automatic. All you have to do is accelerate, brake and change your surroundings.

Mercedes compact range review: Drive

I can’t speak for the majority of the compact range, but the AMG cars I drove were great fun to drive. Firm when needed and noisy the entire time, the CLA Shooting Brake, in particular, felt like a ridiculous combination of brutish power and Teutonic calm. The mismatch between the fire-breathing 381hp, two-litre turbocharged AMG engine under the bonnet, and the generally classy feel of the Shooting Brake, for example, only adds to the experience.

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The AMG A45 sits at the top of the AMG compact range and, after several laps of the Hungaroring, driving it was an experience I won’t forget. Although it looked like your average A-Class on the outside – with some added aero – it handled far more like a sports car than I expected.

Capable of reaching speeds well over 100mph on the straight and with brakes able to stop the car quicker than my brain was capable of comprehending, I was still finding it hard to get my head around the fact that I was driving an A-Class, even four laps in. It was a handful, too, and unlike the 2017 Nissan GTR or Jaguar F-Type SVR, the A45 wasn’t exactly planted around corners, or during heavy braking.

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Instead, the A45 AMG handled something more akin to a go-kart, jittering around corners in a rowdy yet strangely predictable fashion. While that might sound worrying, boisterous yet predictable cars often make for the most fun driving

Mercedes compact range review: Verdict

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We’ll review each of these cars in more detail at a later date, but after some time with each model, it is possible to draw some conclusions on Mercedes range of compact cars. Although they are selling like hotcakes (Mercedes-Benz has shifted more than two million compact models worldwide since 2011) to the right audience, they are far from perfect.

Sure, on the outside, they’re pretty incredible for the money. Styling is sharp, crisp yet still refined, and the front end of the CLA or GLA makes Audi A3 look somewhat conservative.

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Inside, however, the Mercedes compact range looks to be in need of an update. The build quality is lacking in places, but the baby Mercedes’ main issue is their infotainment system. Compared with the E-Class and the Audi A3, each Mercedes feels like it’s a generation behind. There’s currently very little trickle-down in technology from the more advanced Mercedes cars, and while it’s easy to say that these cars will likely be updated in the next few years, they’re hard to recommend from a tech perspective, right now, in 2017.

A-Class starts from £20,670

B-Class start from £22,850

CLA Shooting Brake starts from £27,035

GLA starts at £26,175

CLA Coupe starts at £26,145

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