The EQA brings Mercedes EVs into the mainstream. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
This is what the Mercedes of compact electric cars looks like. The EQA isn't the most sophisticated or longest-running small EV out there, but the Stuttgart maker is hoping that when it comes down to it, this will be the one that customers in search of a premium alternative would rather have.
Mercedes has long needed a relatively affordable all-electric family hatchback. BMW has its i3. Audi has the Q4 e-tron, Volkswagen has the ID.3 and ID.4. Plus there's the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Skoda Enyak iV and the CUPRA el-Born. So Mercedes has pulled out all the stops to bring us this EQA.
There wasn't time for the Stuttgart brand to construct a bespoke electric platform for this model of the kind that features on its competitors. So it must sit on the same MFA underpinnings as the compact GLA crossover it's based upon, a chassis not originally designed for full electrification. Quite a lot of work's had to go in then, to revise this platform to take the weight of this EQA's 66kWh drive battery. The pay-off though for Mercedes is that it means that this BEV can roll down the same German Rastatt production line as its GLA combustion engine counterparts. Let's take a look at what this car can offer.
Setting off in this Mercedes feels all very normal. There's the same kind of starter button and column-mounted auto gear lever that you'd find in any normal combustion engine model in the Stuttgart maker's range. Primarily, the EQA is based around a single powertrain and battery package, dubbed the 'EQA 250'. Here, a 66kWh battery p[ack and a single asynchronous electric motor sit on the front axle and produce a combined output of 188bhp and 375Nm of torque. Drive is through the usual fixed-ratio auto gearbox common to full-battery models. Like all EVs, the EQA shoots away from rest like a scalded cat as all the torque is developed all at once. And, like all EVs, it runs out of puff a little once the 62mph mark is passed (in 8.9s), eventually topping out at just 99mph. If you want to go faster in an EQA, you'll need to wait for the arrival of the twin motor AWD AMG variant, which Mercedes says will offer 'over 200kW' (268bhp), 500Nm of torque and 0-62mph in around 5 seconds.
Our focus here though, is on the volume EQA 250 derivative and the stat you'll be most interested in with that particular variant is driving range, rated at 265 miles from a single charge. That's not particularly noteworthy; to give you some segment perspective, a rival Volkswagen ID.3 with a 77kWh battery manages up to 341 miles. Expect longer range EQAs in the future. To maximise the range you do have, you'll need to make proactive use of the various brake regenerative energy harvesting modes on offer. The most aggressive setting is 'D - -', in which you feel sharp retardation whenever you come off the throttle. That's useful in town, meaning you hardly ever need to use the brakes, except when coming to a complete stop. The least aggressive setting is 'D+', in which the car coasts without any perceptible off-throttle braking, maintaining momentum.
Design and Build
As is intentional, there's a clear visual connection between this EQA and its combustion-engined GLA conventional showroom stablemates. The two cars share the same steel bodyshell and bumpers, but the electric variant gets its own unique blanked-off front grille and some other lightly altered details. A horizontal fibre-optic strip connects the daytime running lights of the full-LED headlamps, ensuring a high level of recognisability both in daylight and at night. Exclusive to this model are light-alloy wheels in a bi- or tri-colour design, up to 20 inches in size, in some cases with rose gold-coloured or blue decorative trim.
The interior's very recognisable from the GLA too, though there are EQA-themed instrument and infotainment graphics across the distinctive bonded twin screens that dominate the front of the cabin. The rear seat's a bit different though, mainly because the floor level's had to be raised to accommodate the battery pack that's been inserted beneath, there's also a transmission tunnel-like ridge running down the cabin centre. At least legroom isn't compromised over a normal GLA. Out back, the usual 481-litre boot you get in a combustion-engined GLA has been compromised in size a little here (to 340-litres), but the useful 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat of the conventional car has been retained.
Market and Model
Prices start at just over £40,000 for the EQA 250 (after subtraction of the £3,000 government Plug-in car Grant) and there are the usual Mercedes 'Sport', 'AMG Line', 'AMG Line Premium' and 'AMG Line Premium Plus' trim levels on offer. EQA 250 'Sport' models come as standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED High-performance headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist, cruise control and a 'Parking package' with reversing camera. Inside, there's the brand's MBUX multimedia system with widescreen cockpit (two 10-inch digital displays with touchpad), plus smartphone integration including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There's also a 'Seat Comfort' package with electropneumatic four-way lumbar support for the heated front seats. Along with a multifunction sports steering wheel in leather, THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control and ambient lighting with a choice of 64 colours. A range of Mercedes me connected services are also available. Safety features include Active Brake Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist.
'AMG Line' trim adds AMG Line bodystyling, 20-inch alloy wheels; sports seats in ARTICO man-made leather and DINAMICA microfibre, door sills illuminated with 'EQA' lettering, galvanised shift paddles, aluminium trim, aluminium pedals with rubber studs and 'AMG' floor mats. 'AMG Line Premium' variants get 19-inch AMG five-twin-spoke alloy wheels, an electrically-operated panoramic glass sunroof, a Keyless-Go Comfort package, an augmented reality navigation system, an advanced sound system and wireless charging for compatible smartphones.
The 'AMG Line Premium Plus' model further includes 20-inch AMG multi-spoke alloy wheels, a 360?? surround view camera, electrically adjustable damping suspension with speed-sensitive steering, a Burmester Surround Sound System, electrically adjustable front seats with memory function, a head-up display and the 'MBUX Interior Assistant' feature with gesture control.
Cost of Ownership
The elephant in the room here is driving range. The EQA 250's 265 mile figure really isn't that much more than you'd get from a Renault ZOE supermini EV from the next class down. And you're going to need to make pretty proactive use of the brake regenerative settings to achieve that. The EQA will at least support both 11kW AC and 100kW DC charging.
The 100 kW DC on-board charger allows the car to charge from 10 to 80 per cent in around 40 minutes, and from 10 to 100 per cent in five hours and 45 minutes using an 11 kW wall box. Navigation with Electric Intelligence - included as standard on both trim levels - calculates the route that will get the driver to their destination fastest, taking into account charging times, and taking the stress out of route planning.
A three-year subscription to the Mercedes me Charge public charging service is also available as standard. With Mercedes me Charge, customers have access to what is currently the world's biggest charging network: this currently comprises more than 450,000 AC and DC charging points across 3 countries. Mercedes me Charge allows customers convenient use of the charging stations of various providers, even when travelling abroad. By registering just once, they can benefit from an integrated payment function with a simple billing process. Mercedes me Charge enables customers to charge at more than 175,000 public charging points throughout Europe; Mercedes-Benz ensures a subsequent offset with green power.
So what do we think of the first small BEV Mercedes? Well, we'd expected that this EQA might go a little further on a single charge. But we'd also expected it might cost a little more than it does too. Both issues directly relate to the fact that, unlike its key competitors, Mercedes hasn't designed a purpose-built platform for this car. That makes it cheaper to produce and buy; but compromises engineering. You get the good with the bad.
In a very Mercedes-like package. There's a feeling of cabin elegance, sophistication and quality here that many competitors struggle to match. And the compromises the battery system requires in terms of rear seat accommodation and boot space aren't too great. We can see why a potential customer might be swayed by the avant garde charms of a BMW i3 or a plusher Volkswagen ID.3. But the EQA is a car you'd be foolish not to carefully consider, were you to be looking at premium choices in this segment. One day soon, all premium compact hatches might e very much like this one. And looking at the EQA, that's maybe not such a bad prospect.