As far as makeovers go they don’t come much more extreme than the Mercedes A-Class. Remember the last model? A clever design but it looked slightly overweight, it wasn’t very quick and, in its earliest incarnation, it was easily unbalanced by elks.
Now look at this new model. It’s lower with a wider stance, longer, with more sculptured creases. In ‘Engineered by AMG’ trim it looks like it’s at the peak of its fitness, thanks to 18-inch AMG wheels, an AMG bodykit and an even lower ride height. Even Gok Wan wouldn’t have gone this far with the A-Class.
This, to give it it’s full title, is the Mercedes-Benz A250 BlueEFFICIENCY ENGINEERED BY AMG (capitals provided by MB). The trouble is,that name is a bit misleading. The A250 has neither a 2.5-litre engine nor does it have 250bhp. It makes do with a 2.0-litre with four cylinders and turbocharger that produces 211bhp and 350Nm. Not huge figures in today’s hot hatch sector but certainly enough to make this a temptingly rapid hatchback that will reach 62mph in 6.6 seconds and go on to a top speed of 149mph.
The BlueEFFICIENCY badge tells you that this is a performance hatchback with a conscience. It has a Start/Stop function designed to cut fuel use when stationary and to help reduce the official CO2 emissions (44.1mpg and 148g/km). The 7-speed dual-clutch semi-automatic gearbox helps with the fuel economy too, shuffling up the ratios as quickly as it can when you’re gently pottering about. It’s standard fit with no manual option but at least comes with steering-wheel paddles.
Finally, the ‘Engineered By AMG’ badge. Don’t be fooled as this isn’t a ‘proper’ AMG car. The chassis has had a bit of input from MB’s tuning division but the engine is largely the same 2.0-litre you’ll find elsewhere in their range.
Also, take care not to confuse this with the AMG Sport that shares the same running gear. The ‘Engineered’ version (a £1,920 option) has a different chassis setup to the AMG Sport, giving it a firmer ride. Much firmer. In fact it’s too firm, giving the A250 an unsettled feel across all but the best of our roads. It certainly corners well but I’d gladly sacrifice some body control for a little more comfort. On the bright side, the ‘Engineered By AMG’ adds smarter 5-spoke AMG alloys, bi-xenon headlights and that gorgeous front grille with its concentric circle design.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine feels punchy enough but you have to go looking for the power. With the DGT gearbox in auto it changes up too early and can be slow to kick down so you’re better off taking control yourself via the paddles. This makes it easier to keep the engine on the boil but its all let down by a rather anodyne exhaust note.
In the same way as the exterior looks good, so does the interior. A carbonfibre-esque pattern covers the dash and there are stylish touches throughout. The optional leather-trimmed sports seats are great but I’m less keen on the bright red seat-belts, which look a bit like cheap aftermarket items.
It’s just a shame the sat-nav screen looks like an afterthought, sticking up out of top of the dash. The A250 gets a larger and higher-resolution screen than lower models and it does its job well, but surely this should have been integrated into the dash with a bit more care.
Then there’s the price to consider. An A250 Sport costs £26,075. Add £1,920 for the ‘Engineered By AMG’ package and you’ve sailed well past the class leaders, many of which are considerably cheaper and some that aresignificantly quicker too. Don’t forget there’s the ballistic BMW M135i too, which can be yours for £29,995. To top it all, this particular car had just about every option fitted and the total price came out at a ridiculous £41,995.
A ride in a base-spec A180 proved that the A-Class can drive well. It has supple suspension and a manual gearbox that, while being far from a great shifter, makes it a more engaging and less frustrating experience. The Mercedes-Benz A250 ‘Engineered By AMG’ could have been a great hot hatch but it’s been compromised by an overly stiff chassis, a slightly ponderous gearbox and ambitious pricing. Let’s hope that the genuine AMG version, the A450 that’s due later this year, sets the record straight.
Mercedes-Benz A250 Engineered By AMG Specifications
|Engine:||1,991cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Torque:||350Nm (258 lb/ft)|
|0-62 mph:||6.6 seconds|
|Top Speed:||149 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||148 g/km (Band F)|
|Official Economy:||44.1 mpg|
|Price (As Tested):||£41,995*|
*Prices taken from Mercedes-Benz website, January 2013