Road Test: Mercedes-Benz A250 Engineered by AMG
Sector: Lower Medium Price: £28,775 (Feb 2013) Fuel: 44.1mpg CO2: 148g/km
The arrival of the latest A-Class must have caused a lot of furrowed brows, finally bringing Mercedes-Benz into a premium C-segment dominated by BMW and Audi. But while the majority of fleets will be most interested in its core diesel-powered engine options, it’s also the first time the three-pointed star has fronted a genuinely credible hot hatch. And for user-choosers it’s not as expensive as you might think.
At the top of the range, and spearheading a large portion of the marketing material, is the A250 Engineered by AMG. It uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine to produce 211bhp, but with a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox it’s also able to offer 148g/km CO2 emissions and return 44.1mpg. Residuals are strong, at 41% according to CAP, and there are only a few hundred pounds between this car and the sector-defining Golf GTI.
Of course, Volkswagen has a new Golf GTI on the way which should bring CO2 emissions down from the current model's 173g/km, but at this price difference and with a more desirable badge on the grille, the A-Class shapes up to be a threat. That’s something even equivalent versions of the A3 haven’t managed in the past.
Styling is a love or hate topic with the A-Class, but it’s pretty hard to ignore the on-road presence of the A250. Looking as close as the range allows to the concept car, the Engineered by AMG package introduces a jewel-encrusted grille and subtle red accents to the already aggressive AMG Sport trim. Subtlety clearly wasn’t high on the designers’ agenda, but it’s not short of car park appeal
It’s genuinely quick, too. On paper this should leave the Golf standing, but delivers the power in an entirely different way. It’s a car which propels itself smoothly up to motorway speeds rather than surging forward with any real brutality, and there’s been no real effort to give it a throaty soundtrack as it does so. Some drivers will like it that way, others may find it dampens the experience.
Unlike the Golf, there’s no manual gearbox available here. The A250's seven-speed dual-clutch unit is quick to downshift in Sport mode, but just as keen to put the car in as high a gear as possible when driving normally. Its downfall is crowded junctions, where it can be very hesitant off the mark, responding to a prod of additional throttle by chirping the front tyres as it gets going.
Thankfully the rest of the experience is far sharper. Quick steering and stiff suspension add up to a responsive drive with limited body roll. This has come in for some criticism among the press for riding badly, and it is very firm, but you could also argue it’s done little to dissuade buyers out of Audi’s S line cars and doesn’t feel out of place.
So the A250 Engineered by AMG doesn’t quite deliver thrills to match the styling, but it’s by no means a bad car to drive. Mercedes-Benz has the RS3 and M135i rivalling A45 AMG waiting in the wings, which should make for a more focused driver’s car if you’re in the market for real thrills.
For what you get, at least on paper, the A250 Engineered by AMG is a steal at this price. It’s neither as compliant or as engaging as a Golf GTI, but its striking looks, low CO2 figures and that three-pointed star make the Volkswagen look expensive and conservative by comparison.