Hot hatch is a term that’s used rather liberally these days … most car manufacturers with a hatchback in their line-up have a version with sporty trim and tweaked performance, but few actually stand up to the likes of the benchmark Golf GTi.
Mercedes-Benz’s entry into this market, the A250 Sport certainly has the not-so subtle sporty trim. And it has that wicked Mercedes front grill … and it looks fast from every angle.
But, as you’d expect from Mercedes, this isn’t just cosmetically enhanced – this is smile-inducing, white-knuckle fun to drive.
The acceleration pins you to your seat and, being all-wheel-drive, it takes curves incredibly well, with minimal body roll like a sports car with a much lower centre of gravity.
This is a true hot hatch but it knows how to behave appropriately via adjustable performance settings, including Eco, Comfort and Sport, which change the suspension, gearing and steering control. You can either select the default modes or customise your ride using, say, the Sport engine setting with Comfort suspension and steering. There are noticeable differences between the settings. In Sport, the suspension is quite hard and the engine revs at redline before gearing down.
Comfort mode does well to appease passengers who might not share the driver’s enthusiasm for G-pulling, bone-jarring performance. Eco mode is good for city driving and fuel economy is enhanced by Autostop.
You can drive in manual mode with paddle shifts, but the ‘4Matic’ system goes through the seven automatic gears so well, it’s just as much fun to put the accelerator down and let the car do the rest.
The interior doesn’t hold back either. Lights in the door trims, headrests change colours, the striped, heated front seats are sporty, with firm high backs and cushion extension for longer legs. The back seats are firm but comfortable for two adults, though legroom isn’t in abundance.
The gauge cluster looks wicked and there’s an 8-inch screen with all the media settings including digital radio, sat-nav and reverse camera display. These are controlled by a dial on the centre console.
Speaking of the centre console, one Mercedes trait I had to get used to was the lack of a gear shift. The automatic gear selector is a small stalk on the right side of the steering wheel.
Being a European car the turn indicator stalk is on the left with the wiper controls, so for the first day, I was shifting into neutral when trying to turn right – classic rookie error. The cruise control stalk under the windscreen-wiper/indicator added to my confusion.
This was further compounded by the cruise control and Speedtronic speed limiter sharing the same stalk, which isn’t good when your speed limiter is set to 48km/h and you want to go to cruise control while doing 100km/h. It wasn’t too long before my muscle memory adapted and I really got to enjoy driving.
The rear cargo area was pretty small for a hatchback. And there’s no spare tyre, instead you get a little machine that temporarily fixes your flat.
Driving aids include the reverse camera and parking assist lights on the dashboard and at the back. It also has automatic park assist, which I don’t usually like using, but I like the simplicity of the Mercedes version, which asks if you want to engage when it senses you’re backing into a spot. Active cruise control, adaptive braking, lane keeping assist, collision prevention assist and electronic stability are some of the many active safety features you’d expect from a Mercedes.
The A-Class A250 Sport 4Matic starts at $58,361 drive away. The Motorsport edition I drove will set you back another $5000 and features an AMG aero kit and wheels and plenty of green highlights.
The Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport is available at Geelong City Motors, 1 Settlement Road, Belmont. mbgeelong.com.au