In common with its rivals from Audi and Jaguar, when Mercedes introduced its first all-electric car it swung big in price terms. The EQC, a modified, electrified version of the GLC SUV, hit the market two years ago with a price tag starting at €84,000.
Well, that entry point to electric Mercedes motoring has just been given a major haircut, because this EQA – based on Merc’s smallest crossover, the GLA – has a base price of €56,120. Still not exactly what you would call cheap, but a heck of a lot more accessible than its bigger brother.
Like the GLA the EQA rides on the NGCC platform – it stands for New Generation Compact Class, and it underpins all of Mercedes’ compact front-drive models such as the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLB.
Obviously, this being an electric car, the petrol and diesel engines have been binned, and instead there is a 140kW electric motor nestled between the front wheels, and a 66.4kWh battery mounted under the floor.
Now, one of our chief criticisms of the EQC – decent car though it is – is that it is too easy to see the compromises made to squeeze an electric powertrain into a car designed for internal combustion.
In theory we should be into the same problems here – a truncated one-charge range and some cabin shortcomings – but the NGCC proves itself a more adaptable platform, and it kinda challenges the notion that you absolutely must have a dedicated electric car platform to compete. Maybe you can mix and match technologies?
Open up the bonnet of the EQA and instead of a plain plastic panel there is actually the exposed electric workings of the motor and the high-tension power cables. It’s quite arresting – we’ve become used to seeing nothing but covers under most bonnets these days – and it actually looks almost like an 1960s petrol car with a small engine nestled in a vast bay (Maybe it is? Maybe Mercedes has just made a really quiet petrol engine and is paying people to go around late at night and secretly top up your fuel tank? Probably not…)
It’s a shame that an effort hasn’t been made to create an under-bonnet storage space, especially given that the boot measures a relatively measly 340 litres.
The EQA’s electric performance is actually pretty good, though. It’s true that rivals such as the Skoda Enyaq or Volkswagen ID.3 – which use the VW Groups’ dedicated MEB electric platform – give you more bang for your battery buck, but the EQA’s official figure of 423km on a full charge is actually quite good.
Better yet it really clings on to that range when you are actually driving it. With a full charge we set off on our usual 200km drive home, and an indicated 350km on the dashboard.
All the way up the motorway, usually a fate worse than death for an electric car, the EQA doggedly refused to use more power than it absolutely needed to. Its real-world motorway consumption of 18.1kWh per 100km compares incredibly well to Mercedes’ claimed 15.7kWh figure, and it completed that long haul with more than half battery capacity remaining. That’s hugely impressive.
In outright performance terms this EQA 250 model is pretty well analogous to a basic petrol or diesel GLA. Step-off performance from the (190hp, 375Nm of torque) motor, as with almost all electric cars, is pretty lively, but it does slacken off as speeds rise.
Mind you it’s totally happy at that motorway cruise, and impressively refined too. If and when you do need to stop it will recharge at a speedy 100kW if you can find a DC charger of sufficient power. Over the course of a working week we needed only one charge to cover more than 400km of driving – again not bad at all.
It is worth pointing out that you could achieve very similar electric performance from a Kia e-Niro, a Hyundai Kona Electric or a Volkswagen ID.3, all of which will match or better the Merc's range and overall performance for around €20,000 less.
Or you could spend around €41,000 and get the 80kWh version of Skoda’s excellent Enyaq and enjoy long-range journeys of up to 535km on a single charge (well, probably more like 400km realistically, but still…). So does the EQA do enough in other areas to justify its extra cost?
Almost, but if we’re being totally objective, no. It is a good looking car – basically a standard GLA with a blanked-off radiator grille (just us or does that make it look a little like the Merc L319 vans of the 50s and 60s?), and for the most part the cabin is as impressive as it is in any NGCC-platform Merc, with the vast strip of the ‘MBUX’ digital dashboard, and some impressive overall build quality.
Comfort levels are high and cabin space is good. However, you don’t have to look too far to find some cheaper plastics, which is a disappointment, one heightened by the fact that we’ve just stepped out of the far grander cabin of the (more expensive) E-Class saloon.
The EQA is also rather ordinary to drive. It’s fine – sure footed, rides comfortably, safe and secure around corners – but the steering is too light and detached for any actual enjoyment, and the extra weight (this compact crossover weighs in at a chunky 2,040kg at the kerb – batteries are heavy) blunts its agility.
It’s a hard car to dislike, the EQA – it looks good, is perfectly fine to drive, and impressively frugal with its battery charge – but equally it feels like the opening act to something better. There are more EQA models coming, including ones with two-motor four-wheel drive, bigger batteries, and a 500-odd-km range.
Then there is the prospect of the larger, more practical, arguably more stylish EQB, based on the GLB and using the same mechanical package. Then there is the slightly more distant project of the EQE, effectively an all-electric E-Class based on the same electric-specific platform as the new EQS luxury saloon. That could be a genuine game-changer for Merc.
The EQA? Thoroughly decent, and good to see a much more affordable electric car from the world’s oldest car brand. There’s probably better on the way, though…
LOWDOWN: Mercedes-Benz EQA 250
Power: 140kW permanent magnet electric motor putting out 190hp and 375Nm of torque with a single-speed transmission and front-wheel drive.
CO2 emissions (annual motor tax): 0g/km (€120).
Electric consumption: 15.7kWh per 100km.
Range: 423km (WLTP)
0-100km/h: 8.9 seconds.
Price: €57,546 as tested; EQA starts at €56,120.
Our rating: 3/5.
Verdict: Solid, likeable, frugal. But a little unspectacular.