The A250 Sport has a fine handling front-wheel-drive chassis, giving confidence on twisty roads. But it’s not the last word in hot hatch fun, as the engine lacks character and the dual clutch gearbox isn’t as good as VW’s DSG system. Still, it makes up for this with its desirable badge and cool design – especially so in Engineered by AMG spec.
When the flagship A45 AMG arrives next year, it will have “the most performance in its sector”, according to Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche. Until then, the most powerful version of the new A-Class you can buy is the A250. Only available with a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic gearbox, it uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 208bhp, which is almost identical to the output of a VW Golf GTI.
In AMG Sport spec, the Mercedes actually undercuts the VW on price by £735 – yet at first glance it seems like the more desirable hot hatch, not only because of its badge, but also the dramatic styling.
Even the normal A-Class is striking. Factor in the Sport’s AMG bodykit, lowered suspension and a grille with silver and chrome highlights, and this A-Class really looks the business. It’s the same inside. A flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, body-hugging seats and suede trim with red stitching add to an interior which already feels pretty sporty thanks to a relatively low seating position and high flat-faced dashboard.
Car group tests
AMG Sport cars also get thicker anti-roll bars, stiffer springs, firmer dampers, variable rate steering and uprated brake discs. The result is a fine handling car. Chuck it into a corner quickly and the car remains almost flat, and you have to try very hard to get the front end to run out of grip.
All this means you can fling the A250 AMG Sport around a twisty road with great confidence, although there is a trade-off over the standard car in terms of comfort, as the ride can get quite bumpy on broken surfaces.
If you can cope with an even firmer ride still, for an extra £1,920 you can opt for the ‘Engineered by AMG’ version of the A250, which takes the handling up another notch with an even more aggressive chassis set-up. This car is identified by its unique pin-style grille and red brake calipers, as shown in these pictures.
If there is one area for improvement for the A250, it’s the powertrain. For starters the 7G-DCT paddleshift automatic isn’t as good as VW’s DSG system either in auto or manual mode, while the engine just doesn’t feel as fast as its 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds suggests.
Still, you can’t complain about the impressive economy and emissions figures, which are better than the slightly slower Golf GTI. However, if it’s real firepower you’re after, the A45 AMG will soon be here with an expected 350bhp.