Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - A-class - A250 Sport
Curvy yet aggressive styling, low-slung stance, quality cabin materials with the AMG Exclusive Package, in-line performance, handling, badge cache, safety equipment levels
Room for improvement
Limited rear leg and head room, dual-clutch whine on change-down, heated seats only available with option package
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6 Feb 2013
THE Mercedes-Benz A-Class has come a long way in the performance department for a model that, in its first generation, failed the infamous Scandinavian ‘moose test’ in 1997.
But fast forward to 2013 and the third-generation A-Class is a completely different beast to the upright, boxy looking vehicle that was the German car-maker’s first attempt at a small hatch.
The 2013 iteration of the A-Class is a stylish five-door hatch with a low stance and curvy dimensions that will bring a lot of new buyers to the brand.
An official launch of the A-Class range is scheduled for late February in time for its March 1 on-sale date, but we were allowed behind the wheel of the A250 Sport flagship for a quick spin around the twisty roads of Victoria’s Yarra Valley.
Mercedes-Benz Australia has deliberately kept the specifications for the new A-Class simple, meaning that each variant comes with a decent number of standard goodies and not many options.
Interior comforts such as illuminated door sills, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, 14.7cm colour display and six-speaker sound system are standard, as is a flat-bottomed three-spoke leather steering wheel and eye-catching red seat belts.
While the latter give the cabin a sportier flavour, we would take the no-cost option to stick with a more traditional black seat belt.
We sat in two different A250 Sports during our drive, the standard model and another that was fitted with the $2490 AMG Exclusive Package that added red stitching throughout the cabin, heated front seats and leather trim.
The cabin fitted with the options package had a much classier feel, with the black Artico man-made soft-touch ‘leather’ dash far more appealing than the hard, plasticky look of the standard interior, and the leather trim giving the car a premium feel.
Mercedes included its Dinamica micro-fibre material on the door inserts of the standard model, but to touch it reveals that it is essentially cheap-looking fake suede.
Other than that, the cabin of the A250 Sport is well designed, comfortable and has a sporty flavour.
The red stitching, although heavily influenced by the interior of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, is a good look.
Carbon-fibre, or at least carbon fibre-look, is all the rage in the cabins of sporty cars these days, so it is no surprise that the dash is bathed in it. Luckily for Mercedes, it works well in the A250 Sport.
Finding a good driving position in the A250 Sport was easy and the sports seats are figure-hugging, but not to the point of being uncomfortable.
Rear vision is average which is unsurprising given the size of the hatch and its tail-end design. Parking sensors and reversing camera come in handy.
Leg and head room up front was more than adequate, but hop into the back seat and you are reminded that the A-Class is a small car.
While Mercedes-Benz Australia opted for scalloped sports seats across the range to ensure increased rear leg room, it was still pretty cozy for your 183cm-tall correspondent in head and leg room.
Boot space of 341 litres in the A250 is average for the segment.
If potential buyers were judging the A250 Sport on looks alone, then Mercedes will sell a truck load of them.
The low-slung sporty stance, curvy rear end and aggressive, snub-nosed front end make for an impressive design and give the car real presence.
Red highlights on the front and rear bumpers were a talking point with not many journalists on the day praising the look.
But while it may seem derivative, it gives the hatch a more sporty look than the standard A-Class.
Thankfully, the A250 Sport has the sporty performance to match its looks.
Pushing the foot down on the brushed stainless steel accelerator is rewarded with a brisk sprint to 100km/h, taking 6.6 seconds, according to Mercedes.
While it’s not break-neck speed, it should be enough to satisfy hot hatch enthusiasts.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbo-charged A250 Sport was right at home during the drive through the Yarra Valley.
Like any good hot hatch, the A250 Sport sticks to the toad like glue, making cornering a delight.
Driving on some twisty roads highlighted the input the AMG has had on this particular model.
Even in the high-performance Sport mode, the low-slung hatch maintained composure at all times, thanks in part to the stability control.
The 155kW A250 Sport did not exhibit a hint of body roll and we were unaware of any torque steer issues.
Steep inclines proved to be more of a challenge for the A250 Sport and forced the seven-speed dual-clutch to search for an appropriate ratio.
The dual-clutch is a good match for the turbo-petrol engine, with smooth changes most of the time while giving off the occasional high-pitched whine when changing down.
Aside from that, the exhaust note was lovely without making its presence felt too heavily in the cabin.
One thing that may turn potential hot hatch buyers off the A250 Sport is the lack a traditional manual transmission, but the optional manual mode should satisfy most people.
Consumers looking to get into a hot hatch in 2013 are spoilt for choice. The A250 Sport will be joined by the upcoming Volkswagen Golf GTI that has similar performance figures, the range topping version of the Audi A3 that arrives mid-year and Volvo’s V40 T5 R-Design that launches in February.
There is also the BMW 125i and Ford Focus ST that are already on sale in Australia, making for a crowded segment.
The appeal of a Mercedes-Benz badge and the allure of AMG-engineered performance for under $50,000 means that we think the German giant will have no trouble attracting buyers to its latest hot hatch.
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