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First drive: Mercedes-Benz A 250 AMG. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-Benz A 250 AMG
A surprisingly excellent Mercedes A-Class to take on the Golf GTI.

 



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Mercedes-Benz A 250 AMG

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If you think the 40,000 Mercedes-AMG A 45 is way too much power and money to be sensible, but you're really hankering after an A-Class with some spuds, then don't despair; the facelifted A 250 AMG has 218hp and, more importantly, a new six-speed manual gearbox to up the driver involvement. The resulting car is an understated and unexpected rival for the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz A 250 AMG
Pricing: A-Class range from 21,065; A 250 AMG from 28,995
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 158g/km (VED Band G, 180 annually)
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top speed: 149mph
0-62mph: 6.4 seconds
Power: 218hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1,200- to 4,000rpm

What's this?

A car that's likely to get lost in a line-up dominated by a raft of diesels aimed at fleet buyers below, and the barnstorming Mercedes-AMG A 45 above. In the same way that every performance Volkswagen Golf you see on the roads these days is either a GTD or an R, rather than a GTI, the Mercedes A 250 AMG will probably be a rare sight. Shame, as it's a surprisingly engaging and appealing machine, the exterior almost infinitesimally improved by the A-Class' midlife facelift and the equipment count proving high: Mercedes claims 1,100-worth of additional kit across the updated range for just 350 list price increases model-for-model.

Speaking of which, you're probably wondering how many AMGs there are in the A-Class line-up. Well, listen carefully, as it takes a bit of wrapping your head around things to comprehend the range. Trim lines in the UK start with the SE and move up through the Sport (+995) to the AMG Line (+1,295 on the Sport) - but the AMG Line is merely styling inspired by Mercedes' hottest products, without any really significant mechanical upgrades. The actual 'proper' Affalterbach models are now identifiable by Mercedes-AMG nomenclature, leaving space for halfway house variants like this A 250 to sit between the normal range and the full AMG. Meaning there's a wide variety of Mercedes that can wear AMG badging. Got all that?

Anyway, should you fathom all of the above out, you'll realise this is Mercedes' hot hatch, while the A 45 is the mega-hatch. Thus, as it's near the top of the A-Class tree, the A 250 AMG comes with 18-inch alloys, Garmin satnav, lowered sports suspension, LED headlights with high-beam assist, heated front seats and some red trim on the exterior (including the brake callipers), among more toys. It starts from 28,995 for a front-wheel drive manual as tested here, although it also comes with a seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox - this can be paired to front-wheel drive or 4Matic all-wheel drive. These latter two A 250 AMG models are both in excess of 30 grand.

How does it drive?

The first few applications of full throttle in low gears leave you in little doubt of the peppiness of the A 250. It makes a similar sort of hard-edged bellow as the A 45 variant (which, lest we forget, has a whole 163hp, or one BMW 320d ED Plus, more grunt) and it feels admirably rapid; indeed, in isolation it certainly feels like it comfortably has the edge on a Golf GTI, even if their on-paper stats are broadly the same. The A 250 has had a mere 7hp shot in the arm for the facelift, which on its own shouldn't really account for this livewire showing. We're impressed, nevertheless.

It's also a tidy handler, with communicative steering and excellent body control. Quick changes of direction don't faze the A 250 AMG and there's just enough compliance in the set-up to ensure it doesn't skitter across bumpy road surfaces. The real boon, though, is the six-speed manual - it might not be the slickest operator in the automotive universe but neither is it one of those clunkers that used to get Mercedes manual gearboxes a bad name. It's great to have three pedals in a compact performance motor like this, which endears the A 250 to you more than if Mercedes had simply offered the dual-clutch transmission only.

The plusher seats and the 595 optional adaptive damping both make the A 250 more comfortable than the pre-facelift model when you're driving it in a less frenetic manner, although the secondary ride remains noticeable at all times, more so on this A-Class than any other we tested at the international launch; and that held true even with the damping in Comfort mode. So while it is still better than it was before, the Mercedes can't ride with the same sort of aplomb as a BMW 1 Series or the Golf GTI.

Finally, the CO2 emissions and economy data for this Benz don't make good reading. It's only very marginally ahead of its stonking A 45 sibling (158g/km and 41.5mpg plays 162g/km and 40.9mpg) and some distance off the Golf GTI - the Volkswagen emits almost 20g/km less CO2 to sit two VED bands lower than the A 250, saving 50 quid a year road tax, while the GTI can officially achieve a healthier 47.1mpg.

Verdict

The slightly lumpen ride, its expense and the relative lack of boot space/rear passenger room might count against the Mercedes A 250 AMG, but those who don't give it a fair crack of the whip will be missing out. For a sizeable 11,000 less than the Mercedes-AMG A 45, the A 250 offers most of the mega-hatch's useable road performance and a lot of its driver appeal. We fully expect practically every new A-Class we see on the motorways from now on to have A 200 d boot badging, but that will be a pity because the A 250 AMG deserves a wider UK audience than it's probably going to get.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 16 Sep 2015









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2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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