Comfortable, posh, and sprightly enough – is the A250 the best A-Class?
Anyone around the motor scene in the 1990s won’t be forgetting the first A-Class. It arrived with a literal bang after a Scandinavian journalist flipped one onto its roof in an admittedly fairly extreme lane-change manoeuvre.
That paved the way for an official ‘elk avoidance’ safety test requiring manufacturers to design in chassis/powertrain hardware that would effectively make it impossible (or as near as) for anyone to flip a car through mad steering.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class A250
Engine 4 cyls, 1991cc, turbocharged, petrol
Power 221bhp at 5500rpm
Torque258lb ft at 1800rpm
Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Kerb weight 1445kg
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 45.6mpg
In its all-new Mk4 guise, the A-Class has evolved from a embarrassment into a rather impressive mini-CLS style hatch. Manual gearboxes and more powerful diesels and petrols are due to arrive next year, but the launch range you can buy today is restricted to automatics in A180d diesel or A200 and A250 petrol formats.
Every model bar the A250 you’re looking at here has torsion bar rear suspension. The range-topper has a more sophisticated multi-link rear set up and, thanks to the 221bhp 2.0-litre engine, a pretty decent turn of speed too. Revs climb smoothly, accompanied by a sporty rasp that encourages the driver to bung it into Sport mode in order to keep those revs coming. Switching to Comfort brings impressive refinement and a calm demeanour.
When it’s not exhibiting a little confusion on steep downhill sections, the seven-speed dual-clutch auto works well. It answers smartly to pulls on the paddle-shifter too, which is just as well as the A250 won’t be receiving a manual option.
For those wanting a comfortable ‘daily’ with good driving manners on the right road, this A-Class hits the mark. It’s a neat bend-swinger with precise front-wheel-drive fire-out and surefootedness. Extra feel and more natural weighting would have helped the steering, but this isn’t a hot hatch in the Golf GTI tradition: it’s an everyday machine aiming to deliver good standards of comfort and ‘premium’ value.
With that in mind, it’s easy to appreciate the fine ride comfort, which on rubbishy roads actually beats the Golf’s. You’ll hear the suspension working, and you’ll feel the body floating, but most drivers will happily trade those off in exchange for the spine-preserving suppleness of the Merc’s damping. The torsion-beamed A180d is noticeably less comfortable, with a choppier ride and less exact wheel control.
The cabin is impressive, especially with the panoramic media screen that comes with the Executive equipment line pack. Save the £1395 on that and you might quickly tire of gazing at the two small standard screens floundering in a bleak expanse of plastic.
Throw another £1000 into the pot and you’re upgraded to the rather fabulous driver’s display that was present in our test car. It’s a limo-like digital experience. Even the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control works pretty well, as long as you aren’t lumbered with a regional accent. There’s better rear passenger space and rear visibility in an Audi A3 but in isolation the A-Class does a practical enough job.
All in all, the new A-Class offers brand power, an easy drive and the option of some high-end technologies in a satisfyingly ‘luxe’ cabin. There are more exciting cars for the money – which is not inconsiderable if you’re homing in on an A250 AMG Line with Executive equipment on a three-year PCP contract (£420 a month with £5k deposit) – but there aren’t many that are more generally likeable.