(Pocket-lint) - The Mercedes EQ family first delivered at the premium end with the Mercedes EQC - broadly aligning with the GLC - while the smaller model, the EQA, lines up against the GLA.
Stylistically these cars share a lot in common, from the exterior to the interior, with the EQA in one of the most competitive segments of the car market, with a number of notable electric rivals.
So can the Mercedes EQA hold its own?
If you're a fan of the Mercedes GLA, then you'll likely be a fan of the EQA. From the side there are few differences, but around the front, Mercedes has changed the nose slightly to reflect its electric heart.
Like a number of manufacturers, the grille is closed off, but that also sees the lights meeting that black glossy grille section for a different look to the combustion equivalent.
Around the back of the car, you'll find the lights stretching right across the rear, as a point of distinction, but otherwise, at a glance, there's not much to make this electric version stand out.
That might not be of concern, as Mercedes-Benz's first steps on the electrification path seems to be about giving drivers are familiar experience - and that's certainly true of the interior of the car too.
The big difference between the EQA and the EQC is really in boot space, the EQC noticeably longer with 500 litres of boot space compared to 340 litres on the EQA. The EQC is therefore bigger and more expensive, with higher power asserting its position above the EQA.
Talking boot space, it's not huge and there's no real space under the floor - just enough space for things like your first aid and tyre repair kit - so there's no chance of stashing anything extra underneath to give you more space.
There are some nice touches on the exterior, like the seamless look of the boot lid, with the opener integrated into the badge, so there's no need for another lip to house the release latch.
There are two trim levels, making a little difference to the interior design: the standard Sport (as pictured); and the AMG Line, which bumps the price a little.
The Sport model comes with few options, including the choice of interior colours, finished with artificial leather. The AMG Line offers some additional options, like wheels, but these are also linked to packages, which can bump the price up considerably.
The interior sells it
Whichever model you choose, it's the interior of this car that really sells it, and where the Mercedes EQA stands out as the premium brand that it is. While rivals like the Kia e-Niro might offer more range for the money, the interior of the EQA is easily more sumptuous.
It's also essentially the same as Mercedes' GLA interior. Unlike VW with the rivalling ID4, Mercedes hasn't stripped this back for a more minimalist finish - and we like this.
There's a wide use of more premium materials on upper surfaces, but at the same time harder plastics are used on the lower door panels - perhaps a nod to the reality that this is a family vehicle and that's a lot easier to keep clean. It's also cheaper, while not detracting hugely from the overall effect.
There's fairly wide use of glossy black finishes which we're not huge fans of - they really need to be looked after to stay looking clean, showing up every fingerprint or spec of dust.
Unlike cars like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Mercedes hasn't been able to take advantage of a properly flat floor to open up the centre of the vehicle, so there's still a conventional divide between driver and passenger.
There's plentiful room in the rear, although the floor is a little high so your knees might be a little higher than you expect if you've got long legs.
The Mercedes EQA is comfortable too. On the Sport trim the seat controls are mostly manual, but there are a good range of options to tweak and change the seat to get the perfect position for you, more than most other lower marques offer.
The layout of the interior is also pretty good, three central round air vents - including illumination when it gets dark - take up quite a bit of space, but the broad spread of display running from behind the steering wheel into the centre of the car gives good access to the technology offered.
The climate controls remain as physical buttons in their own bar, while the centre console has a large clickable touchpad flanked with buttons to give direct access to various functions on that display. It's a sophisticated system, but it's actually easy to get to grips with, with storage space in that centre console too.
Mercedes doesn't need a gear selector or drive buttons in the centre, because that's all handled by a stalk on the steering column. This is a little unconventional, but it actually works really well and keeps the layout slightly cleaner.
Let's talk about the interior tech
One of the things that sets the Mercedes EQA apart from many of its rivals is the quality of those interior displays. Visually, the offering from Mercedes' MBUX system is more sophisticated, offering more customisation, easier navigation and better graphics than many. It just looks better than what you'll see on the display of cheaper rivals - and that's certainly part of the quality that you're paying for here.
The central display offers the usual run of functions - navigation, music, phone and messaging, controls for the ambient lighting in the car, and a store option where you can buy additional Mercedes Me services.
Navigation comes via all sorts of means: it supports touch controls, you can navigate via the touch controller in the centre console or through the left-hand controls on the steering wheel. The learning curve is short, things are logically laid out, and generally easy to find.
The EQ section includes things like charging controls, more detail on what's using the power and so on. There's also the option to search for charging stations, although Mercedes has this as a standard icon on the map too, so it's always easy to find.
Searching for charging stations uses a fairly standard set of points of information (POI) and we found this to be out of date - as is the case for just about every car on the road - so you might miss some closer stations. Really, this needs to be improved, but this isn't a weakness that's unique to Mercedes.
One thing we do like, however, is the option to find a charging station close to you, or on a route you might have programmed, so it's pretty easy to punch the buttons and get yourself to a charger. They also appear on the maps as icons, along with a lot of other points of interest, but these are fully customisable, so you can turn off all the junk you don't need to know about.
We mentioned the steering wheel controls and there's quite a busy array of buttons here. The major functions work exactly as you'd expect, but it's the top layer that's more interesting, as this gives you control over the displays.
Central to both is the clickable touch control (very much like the old BlackBerry optical navigation key), allowing you to swipe and select. On the right-hand steering wheel controls, this lets you customise the three sections of the driver display - left, centre and right - with multiple options for each area.
It's immediately appealing to those who like their tech, as having easy access to figures like your average miles per kWh is useful, while you can also call up a display of how many miles you've reclaimed through regeneration.
In the cubby holes in the centre console you'll find charging ports, the front one offering smartphone connections to the car. We didn't test this with Apple CarPlay, but on Android Auto, it's slightly disappointing that it only uses the centre of the display, not the entire width. That's to preserve Mercedes' perpetual home and notifications icons.
What's nice though is that the car's hard buttons then default to Android Auto services, so hitting the media button took us back to Spotify and the navi button back to Google Maps. That's a bit of joined up thinking.
What doesn't happen, however, is a redirection of the voice control button on the steering wheel. This sticks to the 'Hey Mercedes' system rather than switching over to Google Assistant.
Hey Mercedes is pretty good as voice control systems go though. The language isn't the most natural on reply, but the understanding is good, easily finding locations without the catalogue of errors that can plague such systems.
Overall, things work very well together. About the only thing we can complain about is the out of date POIs - but otherwise, an interior tech solution that's amongst the most compelling out there.
Range, drive and performance
Moving on to the important parts of actually driving the car and there's one battery option, at 66.5kWh. There are no options for larger or smaller batteries, but there are power options.
The Sport has one option and that's a 140kW motor driving the front wheels, giving the equivalent of 190HP. The next model up in the AMG Line is the same.
But then there are two 4MATIC options, with dual motors giving all-wheel drive, and boosting the power to 228HP and 292HP respectively. Naturally, as you increase the power, the 0-62mph time drops, with the Sport starting at 8.9 seconds, the top EQA 350 4MATIC AMG Line model getting down to 6 seconds - none of which will get you close to a typical Tesla.
Mercedes cites a range of 262 miles for the EQA. We found that we could realistically hit an average of 3.5 miles per kWh, which would come in at about 232 miles. Of course, the range you will achieve depends on a lot of things - the weather, your driving style, how many other systems are drawing power (like the aircon).
We got these figures in warm conditions on mixed roads, using mostly eco mode to and with regen set to automatic, so contributing regularly. That's not a great figure and looking across the likes of the VW ID4 or Hyundai Kona Electric, you'll get more range for your money from those models - and fairly easily.
The Mercedes EQA will charge at up to 100kW, which is reasonable because that's the sort of power you'll find in chargers on the UK's motorways, but arguably, with this car sitting in a higher price bracket, it's fair to say it's disappointing that it's won't charge at higher speeds.
There are three driving modes - eco, comfort, sport - each doing what you'd expect, with eco limiting the acceleration and sport being much more twitchy for faster off-the-line speed. What's seemingly not linked to these modes is regeneration, which is instead handled by paddles on the steering column.
The left paddle increases regen through two levels, with a final automatic option offering a clever solution that will increase the regen using the car's sense of where it is on the road. That means you can lift off the pedal and have the car slow automatically when you're approaching a junction or when the car infront slows.
This is a little smarter than other regen systems, more like the response you'd get from adaptive cruise control and, again, it's pretty easy to get a feel for how the system works, so you can lift off, feel the car coast a little, then start slowing as you approach that roundabout. It all works nicely.
The drive is quiet and refined, but the EQA has been setup fairly soft on the suspension side, so it doesn't feel like the sort of car you'd want to throw through the corners, be we did find it coped well enough with rougher roads, maintaining its dignity with Surrey's best speedbumps.
The Mercedes EQA is all about sophistication; the quality of the interior and the technology experience being front and centre. However, it's fairly easy to pick out better performers, in terms of range and efficiency - and at this price, that might cause some to pause for thought.
At the same time, the decision will come down to exactly what you're looking for. The EQA delivers that Mercedes experience in many regards, which you might not immediately expect from some of the more aggressively-priced brands on the market, such as Kia and Hyundai.
Ultimately, however, with the Tesla Model 3 around the same price offering better performance, and the Volkswagen ID4 offering great performance with family practicality, the competition for the Mercedes EQA is certainly strong.
VW's mass market SUV, offering efficiency and range, along with plenty of practical space. The interior is very different to the EQA and the infotainment tech not as good, but it's definitely one to look at.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
This might make you think twice about the brand. From the outside there's great design, with a refreshing interior too. It's purpose built to be an electric car too, with loads of space inside.