Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - A-class - A250 4Matic
Potent performance from the drivetrain, smooth-shifting dual-clutch automatic, high-tech interior, more practicality than previous generation, competitive pricing
Room for improvement
Ride can be a bit jittery on uneven road surfaces, some cheap-feeling switchgear, bland exterior colour options
More poke and all-wheel drive makes Mercedes A250 the luxury small car sweet spot
7 Dec 2018
NOW in its fourth generation, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class has matured from a dorky tallboy hatch into a fashionable, hip and technology-focused small car that has the styling and specification to appeal to buyers in nearly all demographics.
With the A200 and its 120kW/250Nm 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine already on sale, Mercedes-Benz Australia has decided to import a limited-number of the 165kW/350Nm A250 to sate pent-up demand for a more performance focused variant.
Specification remains the same across both A-Class variants for now, but thanks to the new engine and the added grip of all-wheel drive, the A250 should appeal to Australia’s performance-hungry market.
Does the new A250 succeed in marrying driving thrills with the brand’s new Mercedes-Benz User Experience-centric cutting-edge interior?
Launched just four months after the arrival of the fourth-generation A200, the new A250 matches its sibling in terms of specification and equipment, but far exceed its sibling in one crucial area – the engine.
Fitted with a revised version of the outgoing model’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, the fresh A250 bumps up power by 5kW over the previous 2.0 litre to deliver 165kW at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque (unchanged) from 1800rpm.
While the figures don’t quite match the outputs of the benchmark 202kW/353Nm Hyundai i30 N or even the 180kW/370Nm of the latest Volkswagen Golf GTI, performance in the A250 is still nothing to be scoffed at.
Sending drive to the tarmac via Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the A250 can knock down the zero to 100km/h sprint in just 6.2 seconds – a huge improvement over the 8.0s in the slightly anaemic 120kW/250Nm A200.
Having recently driven the A200, the difference is chalk and cheese.
Benz’s latest small car feels much more at home higher in the rev range, with the thrashy and course quality of the A200 replaced by the A250’s pep and eagerness.
Overtaking slow moving traffic is a cinch – just plant the right foot and away you go – while the accompanying climb in revs and speed is matched to a sonorous – if somewhat lacklustre – engine and exhaust note.
The automatic transmission is also a gem, equally shifting smoothly at low and high speeds, while the usual jerkiness associated with this type of shifter is nowhere to be seen.
Unusually for a premium brand as well, the difference in price between the $47,200 before on-road costs A200 and A250 is just $2300.
Ok, $49,500 isn’t all that cheap for a warm hatch considering you can have a full-fat hot hatch from a mainstream brand for similar money, but if you are tossing up between an A200 or an A250, the latter is definitely the pick of the pair.
The A250 also stacks up quite favourable against its Audi and BMW small hatchback rivals, with the 140kW/320Nm A3 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport from the former costing $50,000 and the 165kW/310Nm rear-drive 125i of the latter priced at $49,990.
Specification levels in the A250 also mirror those of its A200 sibling. They are suitably impressive and filled to the brim with cutting-edge technology.
There isn’t a single USB-A port to be found as the new-generation A-Class adopts the future-ready USB-C format for all five of its outlets. Luckily, Mercedes is kind enough to bundle in a USB-A to USB-C converter for those who have come unprepared.
The A250 also features the new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system that is splayed across a 10.25-inch display with two screens. It is backed by artificial intelligence and voice commands.
In our brief time with the car, the AI system did not have enough time to learn our preferences, but we will never get sick of saying “hey Mercedes, open the sunblind” to let more light into the cabin without taking our hands off the wheel.
The interior has also grown in this latest iteration of A-Class, with more head and legroom for rear occupants, as well as a larger 370 litre boot.
Of note however, the climate control switchgear and electronic handbrake button feel a little too spongey and plasticky for our tastes.
Ride and comfort could also be improved in the A250 which sports 18-inch wheels that greet rough surfaces and potholes with crashes and thuds at speed.
However, the A250 features the multi-link rear suspension as opposed to the torsion beam offered in the entry-grade A200. Steering remains as sharp and nimble as before.
Overall, the A250 offers a compelling package of luxury, specification and performance for a decent outlay, but be warned, the current vehicle is only a holdover until a higher-spec and higher-priced version is introduced in February.
Once the value equation goes, the A250 will still be a strong contender, but why pay more when everything you need in a premium small hatchback is offered right here.
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