A+ For Effort | Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport

BY Azfar Hashim

So the A250 Sport is marketed as the sportiest A-Class, with promising on-paper digits — but overcoming the looks, does it fall into hot-hatch territory?

Photos by Azfar Hashim


Let’s start by looking first AND foremost, at the A250’s digits given to us by Mercedes-Benz: an output of 211 bhp at 5,500 rpm, maximum torque of 350 Nm kicking in from as low as 1,200 rpm and last but not least, a century sprint timing of 6.6 seconds. Oh, and a maximum speed of 240 km/h. 

Sounds rather interesting, doesn’t it? Considering how everyone can’t seem to recall when was the last time Mercedes-Benz was this, well, fun. Probably someone in the Mercedes boardroom realized the brand is shifting its focus too much to the upper echelon, becoming too stale and predictable. Although there’s the AMG badge lingering, but the younger set wanting something star-badged - without costing a pair of arms and legs, a set of kidneys, two corneas - can’t seem to afford any.

Solution? It’s no rocket science, really: a small Merc with a medium-sized engine.

And Mercedes seems to have gotten it all proper with their attempt to woo hot-hatch buyers. After all, the A250 comes handsomely styled with factory-fitted body kits that really accentuate the car’s lines — so much so it distracts conversations away from the fact that it has a long front overhang. Then there’s that attention-grabbing grill; nothing the industry has ever seen. So bold, this is to Mercedes-Benz what honeycomb grills are to VW’s GTI, if you think about it. Those 18-inch alloys (wrapped in 235/40 R-18 Continental ContiSportContact 5 rubbers) compliment the car’s sporty theme beautifully, no questions about that. If you were to ask me, though, they should have just made it three-spoke — mimicking their star logo…

When you open the door, you might take a second take and go, “Hmm… Is this really a Mercedes-Benz?” Thing is, so much effort has been put into making the entire cabin youthful — and it’s not a bad attempt at all. To be honest, I like it: it’s bombastic, but also clean. Red seat belts, red stitching on the seats, arm rest, steering wheel and door panels. Then there’s the well-laid, idiot-proof console: some may disagree with the use of carbon-fibre inserts, brightly-accented air-con vents and also iPad-like screen, but again, I somewhat like it so much I wish my own bedroom was this funky.

The pair of sports seats definitely provided support and grip (when driven enthusiastically) — quite a surprise to see this factory-fitted in here. Also deserving praise is the nicely sized and shaped steering wheel; typical Merc stuff, but it would have been better if the paddle-shifters are slightly larger and not too hidden from the naked eyes. The least Mercedes could have done is leave permanent Post-it notes to remind the driver that this car does come with a pair of paddle-shifters…

Being a hatchback, practicality rates very well in the A250. It may not have the greatest length and width compared to the BMW 118i and Audi A3, but it makes up for it by being the tallest and having the longest wheelbase; hence, leg and headroom for rear passengers are more efficient here. On top of that, there’s the useful boot space; fold the backrest and… tadaa… more stuff can be chucked in there.

Firepower comes courtesy of a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, 16-valves turbocharged powerplant that’s mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. And yes, you’re reading that right: a dual-clutch ‘box, just like BMW’s DCT and Audi’s S-tronic.

With that combination, the A250 does feel properly fast when it’s on the go. Realistically, the car feels alert and ready to rumble when the engine is spinning anywhere above 1,500 rpm — floor the accelerator and get ready as everything else around you turns into a blur. In such a size, the A250 has more than enough power to overtake and slot into any gaps in expressway traffic as well. The transmission swaps between gears predictably and rather smoothly too, and if that’s still not satisfying, swap to ‘M’ and shift your own gears via the (almost hidden) paddle shifters — makes you feel like Lewis Hamilton on his off day...

It stops with gusto, all thanks to a nicely weighted brake pedal, and the fact that the pair of front discs are cross-drilled for optimum braking performance. The ABS isn’t too intrusive either, kicking in only when you give the pedal that all-out depression.

On a separate note, the A250’s suspension system seems to have been set with the enthusiastic driver in mind. If you’re expecting C-Class level, the A250’s rather stiff setting might need some getting used to. It could just be yours truly, but when going over bumps, there’s that uncanny feeling the rear’s independent suspension has been mated to a stiffer pair of spring compared to the fronts.

What’s important here is still this: grip. The A250 has so much of it you need to be a real idiot to actually lose control of the car. The steering is properly weighted, it points exactly where you want it to and even body movement is well controlled. But the downside is it feels too safe, and too secured — it is fun, but just not fun fun… Get what I mean?

To sum it all up, the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport is a worthy sporty hatchback that should appeal to the sort who has longed for a Mercedes-Benz that (a) doesn’t look like daddy’s/mummy’s car and (b) isn’t priced too ridiculously. Throw in the unconventionally good-looking exterior and interior plus the predictable handling (you’ll get used to the stiff suspension, trust me), and you have for yourself a satisfying car to drive for the next few years.

However, it still has some way to go before it qualifies itself as a hot-hatch. For now, this is a good effort from Mercedes-Benz attempting to capture a slice of the pie.

As to how it will really fair against the real hot-hatches, watch this space…