GREAT things do indeed come in small packages as I discovered after driving the latest Mercedes A-Class which is a sporty, tech-rich car with plenty of personality.
Available in hatchback or saloon, the latest five-door A-Class may be compact in size stretching just 4.4 metres, but it feels much bigger and Mercedes has been very clever to maximise space to its full potential within the cabin.
There's a generous mix of engines, transmissions, body styles and trim levels to choose from with the line-up starting from £23,755.
We opted for the hatchback in AMG Line Premium Plus spec powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine delivering 150hp and 320Nm of torque.
This A-Class, costing £35,845 (increased to £37,935 with options) could complete the 0-62mph dash in a very respectable 8.1 seconds, topping out at 137mph. And, according to official figures, it could deliver a combined 57.7mpg with carbon emissions of 132g/km.
There's no denying the fact that the A-Class is a looker with its dynamic design featuring plenty of AMG-themed bodystyling. There is the distinctive front grille housing the Mercedes emblem, privacy glass, multibeam LED headlights, a panoramic glass sunroof and 18-inch AMG alloys.
Move inside and the interior is still one of the best on offer in the current market. It's modern, clutter-free and packed with technology without being garish or over-the-top in any way.
With power-adjusted front seats, getting comfortable is a simple process and the black upholstery is set off nicely with red contrast stitching. Creature comforts are plentiful and include a 10.25-inch touchscreen that blends seamlessly into the 10.25-inch digital cockpit display. This creates one uninterrupted display stretching two-thirds of the dashboard that can be configurated to taste.
There is full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging pad, sat nav, heated seats, an advanced sound system and the company's clever voice-activated personal assistant that is brought to life by saying ‘Hey Mercedes'.
Then it's just a case of asking your question from programming the navigation system, reducing the climate control to finding a favourite radio station and much, much more.
So, the Mercedes A-Class is very easy on the eye and packed to bursting with kit, but how does it handle when put to the test? The answer is exceptionally well.
The acceleration through the eight-speed automatic gearbox is nicely timed and there are steering wheel-mounted paddles for added driver engagement. There are also drive modes called Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual that alter the reactions of the car considerably with Sport being the most fun on the quieter B roads.
The road holding is unfaltering and there is no sign of any body sway through the bends. The car cruises on motorways eating up the miles for fun and is beautifully agile in city centre environments too, where the great all-round driver visibility is another plus factor.
The cabin is also nicely refined with excellent insulation protecting occupants from any engine, road surface or wind noise, and the highly effective suspension system somehow manages to make our UK roads seem smooth.
There is room for a trio of passengers in the back, although two would be far less cramped. Storage options are good too with a boot that ranges from 345 litres with the rear seats upright to 1,185 with the 40:20:40 split-folding seats dropped flat.
In addition, there is a glovebox, central cubby, front and rear cup holders, deep door bins, a tray and seat back pockets to store away other bits and bobs.