FULL OF FRUIT

The Mer­cedes A250 4Mo­tion nudges into hot-hatch ter­ri­tory

The Chronicle - - Motoring - IAIN CURRY

The com­pletely new Mer­cedes-Benz A-Class has shaken the pres­tige small car seg­ment with tech­nol­ogy that trumps its ri­vals. Now a more pow­er­ful A250 4Matic ver­sion has joined the party.

There’s an ar­gu­ment that peo­ple buy an A-Class sim­ply be­cause it’s an A-Class, so they’re be­guiled by its sleek styling, 18-inch al­loys and brace of high-res­o­lu­tion 10.2-inch dig­i­tal screens in prime po­si­tion in its leather­trimmed cabin.

With such fea­tures in base spec­i­fi­ca­tion, they buy the cheapest ver­sion, which — un­til the A180 ar­rives in a few months — is the A200 at $47,200.

In­tend­ing buy­ers should put away their cheque­books to con­tem­plate this — for a short time, Benz is sell­ing the A250 4Matic ver­sion (the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion’s best­seller by some mar­gin) with the same rich spec­i­fi­ca­tion as the A200, for a mere $2300 ex­tra.

Un­less you gen­uinely have no in­ter­est in driv­ing, it ap­pears a no-brainer. You’re buy­ing a 2.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo with 165kW and 350Nm (the A200 has a 1.3-litre with 120kW/ 250Nm), there’s all-wheel drive, plus multi-link rear sus­pen­sion rather than the lesser model’s more rudi­men­tary tor­sion beam set-up.

If the last sen­tence didn’t reg­is­ter, buy the A200. If you have blood in your veins and can tol­er­ate fuel econ­omy of 6.6L/100km over the A200’s 5.7L (about $180 more to spend over 15,000km), the A250’s the pick.

Rather quirk­ily, these A250s are early pro­duc­tion mod­els that Benz Aus­tralia se­cured in the same spec­i­fi­ca­tion as the A200.

But in a few months (Merc can’t say ex­actly when), they will be per­ma­nently re­placed by an A250 4Matic with sporty AMG Line pack­age and higher spec­i­fi­ca­tion as stan­dard, and a price tag nudg­ing closer to $60K.

You can up-spec this A250 with an AMG Line pack, more lux­ury, com­fort and ac­tive safety — so you have to won­der why Benz doesn’t just re­tain this sub-$50K model and en­cour­age buy­ers to tai­lor it ex­actly to their bud­get and de­sires.

Af­ter all, the A250 is fruit-filled al­ready. It has a glo­ri­ous cabin with the dom­i­nant dig­i­tal screens bristling with driver in­for­ma­tion, ex­cel­lent voice recog­ni­tion, Ap­ple CarPlay/ An­droid Auto, lat­est USB-C ports and wire­less phone charg­ing.

Throw in adap­tive LED head­lamps, sat­nav, touch­pad con­trols and safety func­tions in­clud­ing brake, park­ing, lane keep, blind spot and traf­fic sign as­sist and this “lesser” A250 is hardly poverty-spec. Next year the AMG A35 and A45 mod­els will cover the proper per­for­mance end of the A-Class range. For now the A250 4Matic is the driver’s pick.

The A200 takes 8 sec­onds from rest to reach 100km/h — the A250 aces it in just 6.2 sec­onds. That’s quicker than a VW Golf GTI, a car cost­ing only a few thou­sand less than the pres­tige Benz. Some sales may be stolen there.

The A250 doesn’t try to be a hot hatch. The en­gine has a sporty note, progress is rapid enough but gear changes some­times feel hes­i­tant through the seven-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic. Tak­ing con­trol via pad­dle-shifters soon fixes this.

The sus­pen­sion does a good job of ab­sorb­ing all but the harsh­est bumps, it cor­ners and grips with Ger­manic aplomb and the steer­ing feed­back is ex­cel­lent through the leather and brushed alu­minium flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel.

It never truly thrills but with its blend of com­po­sure and am­ple per­for­mance it cre­ates a bril­liant all-rounder.

VER­DICT

The A250 adds more sport­ing cred­i­bil­ity to the A-Class range, which is al­ready flush with in­cred­i­bly ad­vanced fea­tures and a supreme cabin. Act quickly.

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