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BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: used car comparison

Which is better, the BMW 1 Series or the Mercedes-Benz A-Class? Our guide has the answers.

Phill Tromans Cazoo

By Phill Tromans

Published: 23 November 2023

The BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class are both great premium hatchbacks, offering a luxurious driving experience at a much lower cost than larger cars from these desirable German brands. But which one is the best? Let’s compare them to see which one might be better for you.

We’re focusing on the latest examples of each car – the BMW 1 Series sold new since 2019 and the Mercedes A-Class that was introduced in 2018. Mercedes also makes a saloon version of the A-Class, but we’re only looking at the hatchback model.

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: size

The BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes A-Class are very similar in size and are comparable to other mid-size hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. The A-Class is slightly longer at 442cm (the 1 Series measures 432cm), but the BMW is wider at 208cm including its door mirrors. That’s about 9cm wider than the Mercedes.

They’re almost identical in height – the A-Class sits slightly taller at 144cm, but by less than a centimetre over the BMW.

BMW 1 Series

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Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: design

While the overall shape of each car is similar, their designs reflect the general look of the brands – the 1 Series has a sharp, chiselled look; the A-Class is more rounded.

Both cars have differing bumpers depending on which version you go for, with more aggressive, sporty designs for the 1 Series M Sport models and the A-Class AMG Line models.

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: interior and tech

The BMW 1 Series has a classy, minimalist interior, with top-notch quality of materials and some great tech. Its infotainment system, called iDrive, has lots of features, looks great and is easy to use, supporting both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity through its 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen. There’s also a digital driver display of the same size behind the steering wheel instead of traditional dials. You can control things either via the screen or by using a rotary dial near the gear selector.

With the A-Class, eye-catching and high-tech is the name of the game, with its round, silver air vents and large display/touchscreen that appears to stretch across two-thirds of the dashboard.

The infotainment system – called MBUX – is easy to use and also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Once again, you can control the features by using either the touchscreen or a touchpad between the front seats. There’s an effective voice-control system as well – just say “Hey Mercedes” and tell the car what you want it to do.

Exact specifications vary from model to model, but in general the 1 Series and A-Class both feel luxurious and are well-stocked with features.

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: practicality

The BMW 1 Series has the edge over the Mercedes A-Class when it comes to passenger space. The Mercedes has good amounts of room up front, but it can feel a bit cramped in the back if you’re on the tall side. The BMW is roomier, and five adults should have few problems squeezing in.

Both cars have a good amount of storage space for your odds and ends with  bins in the doors, deep cupholders and room under the centre armrests. But again, you get slightly more storage space in the BMW.

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: boot space

The boot is bigger in the BMW 1 Series, with 380 litres of space compared to 355 litres in the A-Class, which dwindles to 310 litres if you go for the plug-in hybrid model.

Both cars let you fold down the back seats for extra boot space, which expands the available load capacity to 1,200 litres in the BMW. The seats on higher-end models fold down in a 40/20/40 split, which gives you extra flexibility if you're carrying longer loads at the same time as back-seat passengers.

The expanded space in the back of the A-Class is almost identical, and all of the models have the 40/20/40 split in the black seats.

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which is best to drive?

Most versions of the Mercedes A-Class prioritise comfort over sportiness. That makes it great if you’re after a smooth, refined ride on all types of road.

The 1 Series has a more engaging, agile feel but still gives you the level of comfort you expect from a premium car. Overall, the 1 Series is more fun, but the A-Class probably has a slight edge when it comes to comfort.

However, things are very different with the performance models. The AMG models of A-Class – the A35 and the A45S – have huge amounts of power and a much sportier feel, sacrificing comfort for performance and feeling as at-home on the race track as on the road.

The 1 Series also has some performance models – the 128ti and the M135i. They’re both good fun and quick, but not quite as entertaining to drive as the AMG Mercedes.

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which costs less to own?

Generally speaking, running costs for these two premium hatchbacks will be similar. That said, you’ve got more power options in the Mercedes range, thanks to the plug-in hybrid A250e model. This is more expensive to buy than an equivalent petrol or diesel car, but it has the potential to shrink your fuel bills.

Officially, the A250e can return up to 282.5mpg, but real-world results will depend on how you use the car. Engage its electric motor most of the time – it’ll do 44 miles on a full battery – and a tank of petrol could last for months.

When it comes to petrol power, the A-Class will give you between 31mpg and 47.9mpg depending on the model, according to official figures. The 1 Series petrol models promise between 36.2mpg and 49.6mpg.

If you go for a diesel model, you should get between 55.4mpg and 58.9mpg from the A-Class, or between 48.7mpg and 62.8mpg in the 1 Series.

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: safety and reliability

Both BMW and Mercedes have average reputations for reliability, with independent ranking results often placing them some way below less-premium rivals. That said, the 1 Series and A-Class tend to be the best-regarded models, scoring reasonably well.

Both cars come with a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty from new, which is fairly standard for the car market in general, but lags behind the seven-year warranty you’d get from Kia or the five years you’d get from Toyota and Hyundai.

Both cars have been tested by the independent safety organisation Euro NCAP and scored the maximum five stars, the Mercedes in 2018 and the BMW a year later. They both come packed with the latest safety features, including automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist.

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Dimensions

BMW 1 Series

Length: 4,319mm

Width: 2,081mm (including door mirrors)

Height: 1,434mm

Boot space: 380 litres

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Length: 4,419mm

Width: 1,992mm (including door mirrors)

Height: 1,440mm

Boot space: 310-355 litres

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Verdict

If you’re after a hatchback with a premium look and feel, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed with either the BMW 1 Series or the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

The BMW is a touch more practical than the Mercedes, with extra passenger and boot space and it’s more fun to drive. Overall, we think the BMW 1 Series is a better option than the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, although both cars come highly recommended.

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