BMW 1-Series vs. Mercedes A-Class — the Battle of the German Premium Hatchbacks
If you are into a truly premium driving experience, the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class are some of the best hatchbacks on the market right now. But which one is actually worth your hard-earned money? Well, like with many cars, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think; there is no perfect car and what is good for me, might not be good for you. With that in mind, we went on a quest to find out which hatchback would better suit you, comparing how they drive, performance, comfort, and ownership costs. To keep things simple, we will compare the best-selling trim options of each car — the BMW 1 Series 118d and the Mercedes A-Class A200d, both diesel-powered.
However, let’s not forget that we are talking about premium German cars here, and they can be quite expensive to maintain and repair. Fortunately, you can cut on the costs by purchasing a Mercedes-Benz A-Class or BMW 1 Series repair manual and fixing your hot hatch on your own.
But I digress — let’s find out which is the best model between the A-Class and 1 Series
Performance and Driving Experience
Interestingly, the A200d and 118d are quite evenly matched when it comes to performance, both packing a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel engine producing 150 hp. In both cases, the engines seem like the pick of the range, as they provide ample torque down-low and are supremely economical on the highway.
Between the two, though, the Mercedes engine seems more relaxed, as it pulls earlier. In the BMW, you’ll need higher revs to keep up, though, in isolation, the engine is still very flexible. Still, when it comes to the gearboxes, BMW’s automatic transmission is better in every way; it changes gears smoothly, and always seems to be in the right range. On the other hand, Merc’s transmission feels unrefined in comparison.
Both cars are good highway cruisers, though. The engines are very quiet in the highest gear, and wind and road noise are well suppressed. Still, if we had to pick, the BMW 118d is quieter on the highway, while its engine is also marginally more refined around town.
However, the A200d boasts a more comfortable ride over smaller and larger imperfections. The suspension was a bit louder than BMW’s when dealing with large potholes, though, on most roads, the Merc is more comfortable.
As in most cases, the BMW 118d feels sharper to drive. And while Mercedes did a really good job with the latest A-Class — it is undoubtedly an athletic hatchback — the 118d is even more responsive, with a better steering feel and a more balanced chassis. The difference is minor, sure, though it’s there.
If you go for an older-gen 1-Series or A-Class, the difference in handling between the two will be even more noticeable, as the BMW from yesteryear featured a very sharp rear-wheel-drive platform. Going that route will mean higher maintenance and repair expenses, especially if you visit an authorized dealer.
Thankfully, you can quickly diagnose and fix these problems using your BMW 1 Series workshop manual and make your car perform as well as a new one. All you have to do is get the right tools and carefully follow the troubleshooting and replacement procedures provided in the manual. But OEM repair manuals cost a bunch, you say? Take a look at eManualOnline then — their repair manuals are the same used by professional dealership technicians and cost a lot less than a single visit that the repair shop.
Interior Design, Quality and Tech
Both hatchbacks pack quite the punch inside. At first glance, the A200d is visually more impressive, especially if you opt for the “Widescreen” display with two 10.3-inch touchscreens. The setup is nothing less than stunning but it’s a lot more than just for show. Indeed, it also packs advanced software with apps and voice commands. Merc also included physical dials for the climate system, which are definitely welcome.
BMW also offers an optional 10.3-inch touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster serving largely the same job as Merc’s, though it doesn’t look nearly as hi-tech. However, the 118d wins in user-friendliness; the iDrive rotary controller is much easier to operate than a touchscreen when on the go.
BMW also did a better job with the software, making it significantly easier to use, so you won’t have to endlessly search for operating instructions in your BMW 1 Series user manual. In comparison, the A200d’s system feels a bit cluttered and is more complex to use.
The same is true for aesthetics; the A-Class cabin looks more modern, with an excellent choice of materials and colors. But behind all its glitz and glamour, the interior clearly compromises on quality. Touch those polished-looking surfaces, and you’ll notice cheap hard plastics, particularly around the climate control panel. The plastic even creaks in some places — not what you would expect from an expensive premium hatchback.
The BMW 118d feels very well put together in comparison. All panels fit snugly into place, and the materials on the top half of the dashboard are super-soft. The only hatchback to even come close in quality is the Audi A3, and even then.
If you come from larger BMW or Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the maintenance costs on these hatchbacks will look cheap in comparison. However, a VW Golf or a Toyota Corolla hatchback would be even more affordable.
Notably, the 118d has an average annual repair cost of $516, while the A-Class is a tad bit costlier, at $620. To give you a better idea, a simple ball joint replacement will cost you around $172 ($77 parts; $95 labor) on the 118d and over $185 ($90 parts; $95 labor) on the A200d. Moreover, a brake master cylinder replacement can easily cost upwards of $1064 and $1200, respectively.
So you can easily see that the BMW 1 Series is a bit lighter on the pocket when it comes to repairs. However, both are expensive to maintain for compact cars, especially if you visit a mechanic regularly. Fortunately, if you have some mechanical know-how, an A-Class or BMW 1-Series manual can help you diagnose and repair most issues.
So, which one should you choose? Overall, the BMW 1-Series is a more accomplished car — it has a high-quality interior, easy-to-use tech, drives very well, and feels refined on most roads. The BMW is also cheaper to maintain and repair, which is quite surprising, frankly. Even more shocking — the 1-Series is also more reliable than the A-Class; go figure!
However, it’s not like the A-Class doesn’t have aces in its pocket too. For starters, it looks much more appealing on the outside (though looks can be subjective), and its interior feels like it time-traveled back from 2030. Sure, it won’t be as easy to use on the go, but it sure will impress your passengers more than the 1 Series’ classic design.
Finally, both are equally matched price-wise — the 1-Series is slightly more expensive but might prove cheaper in the long run. Still, if cost is your primary concern, there are a plethora of non-premium hatchbacks on offer, including the VW Golf, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Peugeot 308, Hyundai i30, and Kia Ceed.