Mercedes-Benz A250
Mercedes-Benz A250

Cool hatch has mood lighting to match

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class went on sale with a hefty price jump - but with even heftier standard inclusions - over the model it replaced. The prestige small hatch made impressive strides forward in infotainment, safety, body styling and serious cabin cool.

We throw the three-pointed star keys of an A250 4Matic to our family of testers.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

JULES: When I was growing up, Mercedes were old-people cars.

IAIN: No longer. Merc has a model to suit every size, use, niche and desire … if you can afford one.

JULES: I suppose the price accompanying a prestige badge has to remain.

Jules: “It’s sleek and subtle.” Iain: “It starts from $50K … for rorty 165kW turbo and AWD.”
Jules: “It’s sleek and subtle.” Iain: “It starts from $50K … for rorty 165kW turbo and AWD.”

IAIN: The A-Class range starts at $42,300 for a really well-equipped hatchback. The limited run A250 4Matic costs $49,500 and this one is optioned up to $57,440, more in line with the A250 now hitting showrooms at $54,800. We have a rorty 165kW turbo, all-wheel drive and lots of goodies for the privileged Merc owner.

JULES: It's sleek and subtle, if a tad plain.

IAIN: The drama comes in the cabin. Rivals are the Audi A3 Sportback TFSI quattro ($50,400), BMW 125i ($49,990) - or, if you prefer performance over prestige, VW Golf R ($57,190).

THE LIVING SPACE

JULES: I'm in love. For a "cheap" Mercedes, I expected a basic cabin but this is something else. The dashboard is like a spaceship's.

IAIN: Most striking are two 10.2-inch digital screens mounted side-by-side across the dash.

JULES: Fire up those screens and the ambient lighting, car sold. It's like a blissful mood room in here.

Look cool: Choose your favourite from 64 ambient lighting colours, says Jules
Look cool: Choose your favourite from 64 ambient lighting colours, says Jules

IAIN: How about those centre air vents? Three whopping circular things like jet engine intakes brimming with bling.

JULES: I was driving at night and they lit up like a funfair. You choose your favourite colour, then if you turn up the temperature they briefly go red, or blue if cooling it down.

IAIN: A tiered dashboard, carbon-fibre inserts, lovely feeling buttons, touchpad controller, wireless phone charging and USB-C ports for modern smartphones. It's bang up to date.

THE COMMUTE

JULES: It's a steep learning curve. Gear shifter is on a stalk, seat controls on the door and navigating digital screens is, at first, boggling.

IAIN: It clicks into place with regular use though. And there's a trump card - let's talk about the M-BUX interface.

JULES: I love showing it off. Most people know about "Hey Siri" voice recognition on iPhones, and the A-Class has a similar set-up. You say "Hey Mercedes" and it asks how it can help.

Steep learning curve: It takes practice to work out the controls and screens
Steep learning curve: It takes practice to work out the controls and screens

IAIN: A bit Big Brother but it's like having your own little slave. You can ask it to open the sunroof, navigate or change the ambient lighting.

JULES: Tell it you're cold and it cranks up the temperature and turns the seat heater on.

IAIN: Back to normal car stuff - the seats are hard, aren't they?

JULES: They made my back ache on long trips.

IAIN: It cruises nicely, is well insulated and ride is firm but not harsh. Radar cruise control for the commute is absent but the included satnav and Apple CarPlay are wins.

 

THE SHOPPING

JULES: A classy little car to pull up outside fancy shops. "Hey Mercedes, where's my credit card?"

IAIN: Does Woolworths count as a fancy shop?

JULES: The boot's big enough for the weekly shop, the turning circle is excellent for tight spots and cameras stop you bumping things. The boot lid is heavy.

 

SUNDAY RUN

IAIN: The mongrel AMG A-Classes are due shortly, so for now the all-wheel drive A250 is the performance choice. Unless you're planning track trips, it's really all you need.

JULES: Acceleration is belting but it could sound sportier.

Impressive: AWD gets the power down and trick suspension enhances handling
Impressive: AWD gets the power down and trick suspension enhances handling

IAIN: It hits 100km/h in 6.2 seconds - quicker than a VW Golf GTI - and its all-wheel drive and fancy multi-link rear suspension deliver impressive road holding and balance. Gear changes can be hesitant, so back roads are best enjoyed in Sport mode, using paddle-shifters.

 

THE FAMILY

JULES: Just enough space for our two kids in car seats but no rear air vents for them.

IAIN: They get blasted by the trio in the dash.

JULES: The kids tried to take charge of "Hey Mercedes". Not fun after a while.

IAIN: And our little girl insisted on Barbie pink out of the 64 ambient lighting colours.

JULES: Safety's really good, with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot assist and traffic sign recognition. But what's with lane keep assistance? It's so aggressive I thought we were crashing.

IAIN: Nothing subtle or gentle about it, it's noisy and harsh. If concentration has wandered, it jolts you to attention.

JULES: Mercedes demands driving perfection!

 

THE VERDICT

No title, From: Supplied
No title, From: Supplied

IAIN: Brilliant all-round package here. A sensible amount of performance for sporty driving but the cabin is the standout. Luxurious, intelligent and spectacular in terms of presentation and technology.

JULES: Not long ago a 30-something like me wouldn't dare consider an "old man" Mercedes. The new A-Class flips that on its head. Simply put, it's a very cool car completely in tune with modern life, no matter your age.

 

MERCEDES-BENZ A250 4MATIC

PRICE $49,500 plus on-roads

WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/unlimited km, $2480 for 3 years

ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 165kW/350Nm

SAFETY 5 star, 9 airbags, AEB, rear camera, attention/parking/blind-spot/lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition

THIRST 6.6L/100km

SPARE Repair kit

BOOT 370L


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