Mercedes’ official tuning arm, AMG, has produced some of the finest fast cars of the past few years. We’re not just talking about the brilliant bespoke SLS, but also fantastically fettled versions of the C, E and S-Class, plus a few more besides.
We loved AMG’s first foray into the hot hatch world, too, the A45 AMG, so this exuberantly titled Mercedes A250 4MATIC Engineered by AMG model, in effect the A45 AMG with a little less power and for a lot less cash, promises much.
In essence, this is an A250 AMG Sport (the AMG is more of a trim level than an engineering job in that case), but with the AMG tuned suspension from the A45 that turns the A-Class into a hot hatch superstar.
The 4MATIC moniker means there’s four-wheel drive, too, just like the A45 (although you can get a two-wheel drive version of this car for £1550 less). And the 250 indicates a 208bhp 2.0-litre engine, of course.
As well as that lowered AMG suspension, there are sexy 18” AMG alloys, an equally racy body kit with a few speedy dashes of red, and a rather fancy ‘pin’ grille that looks like one of those pin art toys you used to push your face into as a kid.
The racy theme continues inside with more splashes of red across a stylish dash, plus firm, figure-hugging sports seats that will grip you as well as the four-wheel drive system grips the road. The seatbelts are red, too – very red.
Quality is a mixed bag: good up top, disappointing lower down – Merc’s bean counters have clearly had their say. It’s not exactly generously equipped, either.
But it’s fair to say that few cars look as good as a spruced up A-Class – it’s sleek, wide, modern and classy, exactly what a modern Merc should be. But does the static appeal translate into on road verve?
The 2-litre engine is certainly perky enough and keeps on giving all the way through the rev range – there’s a hint of a racy burble, too.
It’s hampered by a schizophrenic seven-speed, double clutch gearbox, though. It’ll punch through the gears swiftly when you’re on a charge, but there’s an annoying delay from low speeds.
Once it (eventually) gets going, the grip from the 4MATIC system is superb, as is body control – this car changes direction well, and with the engine on the boil and the gearbox humming, it will punch out of corners or roundabouts leaving you grinning all the way to the next bend.
We’d like a bit more feel from the steering – it’s a bit numb just away from the centre and is nowhere near as tactile as a Renault Megane RS or Ford Focus ST’s – both similarly quick, more fun to pilot and much cheaper, even if they don’t have the cache of the Merc’s badge.
Where the full-blown A45 AMG really scores is its ability to blend suspension and body control in a way that takes the edge of what is, on other A-Classes, a pretty horrible ride. Sadly, this A250 has to be filed alongside its lesser brethren: the ride is just plain poor.
Sure, it’s a sporty car, but passengers, who won’t be reading the road the way the driver does, will be wincing as you go over what look like minor road imperfections. The A45 feels weightier, more tied down and easier to live with – shame really.
You are saving yourself over £7000 by opting for the lookalike model, but we’d either wangle the finance and break the bank, or go for a Volkswagen Golf GTI if you want a fast, premium hatch that you can truly enjoy every day.