Main image for post: Why is the Mercedes A-Class so popular?

The Mercedes A-Class launched in 1997 in a decade when many passenger car designs had become less than inspiring, but with its four-door compact hatchback body shape, the A-Class brought a sporty, family-friendly feel to the entry-level end of the Mercedes range.

New generations appeared in 2004 and then in 2012, and the compact dimensions of the hatchback earned it the nickname 'Baby Benz' from drivers, although as of 2012 the third generation actually became slightly longer overall than the first-generation Mercedes B-Class.

The 2012 model officially had its first full month of sales in January 2013 and contributed towards a 7.4% rise in Mercedes-Benz new vehicle registrations in that month alone, with the A-Class taking a 6.2% market segment share.

Sales remained strong throughout 2013, leading to record-breaking full-year results for Mercedes-Benz, with registrations up by nearly a fifth year-on-year and their passenger cars accounting for nearly 5% of the UK market.

Strong sales of the 2012 Mercedes A-Class

In 2013 Mercedes-Benz recorded nearly 110,000 passenger car registrations, the first year they reached into six figures, making them the UK's fastest growing brand.

The new A-Class generation gave the model its best ever year with over 18,000 units sold, and of course strong early sales of a new car model help to ensure a good supply of used cars in good condition in later years, which underpins the model's popularity for the long term.

Mercedes found the A-Class particularly popular with newcomers to the brand, as Marcus Breitschwerdt, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz UK, explained.

"Passenger Cars had a stand-out year, breaking through 100,000 new cars for the first time," he said. "Our new A-Class had its first full year in the UK, and over two thirds of the people buying this great hatchback are getting behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz for the first time. It was fitting, therefore, that our 100,000th customer was just such an A-Class purchaser."

Striking A-Class styling

So early popularity has ensured a good supply of used Mercedes A-Class cars over the five years since, but what is it about the vehicle itself that attracts drivers, including those who have never owned a Mercedes before?

The exterior design is a strong start, with its distinctive compact hatchback body shape and diamond radiator grille giving a sporty feel that's suitable for everything from the morning commute or school run, to shopping trips and longer-distance drives.

Dynamism is at the heart of the design, with a fairly long bonnet for a compact hatch, scooped air intakes and wraparound headlights all adding to the sense of motion and agility.

Under the bonnet, the engine options include petrol and diesel versions, with carbon emissions under 90 g/km and acceleration from 0-62 mph in less than 6.5 seconds depending on the engine type.

But performance in terms of efficiency and economy is not neglected in the design either, with weight-reducing measures like thinner windscreens and lighter alloys all helping to keep the A-Class trim.

Low rolling resistance on manufacturer-fitted tyres and ECO start/stop technology cut fuel consumption even further, together combining to make the Mercedes-Benz A-Class a sensible choice for regular drivers and for families keen to keep one eye on their fuel budget.