A Hitchhikers guide to the Mercedes A250 Sport by Vishnu Singh
Receiving the A250 Sport Hatch was a nostalgic reminder about another diamond grill monster and it sent a few shivers down my spine. Fortunately the A250 Sport only has a 165 KW and is a front wheel drive car so it should have defined adhesion limits that do not abrade the laws of physics like its larger 4matic AMG siblings.
We had been invited to preview a B & B in the mountain ensconced town of Clarens in the Free State and decided to take the upgraded hatch with us.
As this was my first experience in the A-class, I needed a reference point, so I went to test drive the older model to get some perspective.
The looks have been streamlined in keeping with the new design precedents evident in all the updates including the larger badge and flashy grill on the higher specification models. The previous incarnation feels clumsy, sluggish and generally assembled with a cheaper parts. The new Sport is the IPhone option for the millennials. There are enough integrated, smart play, connect all over the planet options to keep most wide –eyed tech adventure seekers gloriously entertained.
The MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) has been included with a catchy “hey Mercedes” phrase that had a local station answering all sorts of lude questions in deadpan fraulein humour. It was highly entertaining, sadly the system needs a few updates in its response quotient. The ambient lighting option and placement can go from Saturday Night Fever Disco Red to Moody New Orleans Blues Blue in one sentence; “Ambient Light Blue” or whatever colour that is pre-loaded into the Fraulein’s hard drive. Do not ask for purple or shades in between, it causes the AI to keep putting the reading light on. It needs some development before you can actually “ask it anything”, Marketing is always optimistic.
The retro dash and long LED panel offer tons of infotainment, from different digital clocks, to live consumption, traffic and power figures. You can fine tune the read-outs from “experience to lounge and everything in-between”. The navigation system like most of them, needs way to much work to programme, so just lock your phone in and use that. Or maybe I do not want to make the effort. There are about twenty ways to access all the various gadgets in the A250. From the touch screen, steering wheel and even the center console. Oh, let’s not forget the MBUX itself.
The steering is predictable and the wheel itself fits intimately into your hands. The interior looks fast even when you are parking. The indicators and gear stalks still seem a tad dainty but function well. I am still wondering how they would look after 50000 km. Driving so many cars, I sometimes reach for the indicator and find myself in neutral, a bit scary, but at least it’s not the AMG.
The cabin will seat two tall people and their matching cats well, but unless you were an extra in the Peter Jackson’s Hobbit, this is not a car for an above average family. The seats are manually adjustable and it’s far easier to find your “sweet” spot then some electronic options so that works. The boot is much larger than expected and took our overnight luggage plus the hitchhikers gear with ease. The extension in length of the new model does not seem to have made its way to accommodate larger occupants so perhaps it was grafted to the boot.
The hitchhikers were female, of average build and somewhat jovial in their demeanor. Apart from complaining about the music selection. They were comfortably placed in the rear cabin of the A250 and notwithstanding the occasional comment, found the ride acceptable and were prepared to accompany us on other trips at short notice. Strange people out there.
The previous generation presented a pretty hard ride and the response was not very driver orientated, the new model remedies those oversights and combined with a better aerodynamic profile has dropped the overall consumption considerably. The A250 comes with a standard 7 speed DCT box and in sport mode is quite reactive. The FWD system copes well under harder cornering with predictable understeer and just the slight movement of the rear beginning to announce its intended departure from grip. The driver feedback is limited, like listening to a conversation under water, but it does work. The ride height of the car assists greatly with the drag coefficient and so does all the smaller attention to design details.
The A250 could be sharper in handling and a bit nippier off the line or perhaps it’s too many RWD road tests in the last few months has made me have too many expectations when a manufacturer adds a “sport” word in the vehicles description. The engine begins to grumble and then tapers out, much to my disappointment. As a biker I still believe in a good set of pipes and I think that a set of aftermarket exhausts should always be an option on any sports car.
Consumption is impressive in sedate commute mode and we dropped to about 6.2 liters per hundred at 123km/h. not bad at all for a 1.4 ton car. The kilometers disappear as the award winning adaptive cruise control works with casual grace and infinite patience. The usual safety suspects are all present, including the active lane keeping assist, emergency autonomous braking and blind spot warning. These are normal features on these vehicles now, so I may stop talking about them in the future.
The road from Villiers to Reizt presented some ample opportunities to dodge glaring potholes with run flats. The A250 handled most of my weaving with confidence and remained calm. The run flats are still noisy and we had to crank the Burmester sound system way up to be heard.
Before handing the car back, we decided to go hooligan for the evening and took a quick burst up on our favourite patch of tar to check the top speed of the little sport. The A250 soft limits at about 249 km/h and manages to be stable enough to not cause any undue flutters or anxiousness on the tarmac. Its personality improves dramatically when driven hard and I must say it bumped up its ratings a few points under these conditions. It revels in aggressive contact and the entire body works in unison to create a far more engaging and race orientated experience. The dash sparkles under these conditions and the closeness of the cockpit keeps you enthralled as you battle other would be activists in the midnight routes of uncensored speed.
The A250 promises a lot and delivers on many fronts, the consumption, infotainment and gadgets are some of the most provocative on the market while the engine , chassis and finish all live up to the brand while showing its evolution with modern times.
Mercedes Benz A250 Sport
Price R596 969.00
Engine 2.0 Liter 4 cylinder petrol turbo
Top Speed >230km/h