It's been almost three years since the current-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class went on sale in Australia. Since then, a new BMW 1 Series has arrived, and a new Audi A3 is just around the corner, which means a midlife update for the A-Class range can't be too far off.
The example tested here is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic (Mercedes-speak for all-wheel drive), which is priced from $55,500 plus on-road costs.
The A-Class hatch range starts from $46,400 plus on-road costs for the A180 (powered by a turbo 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive), before stepping up sharply to the next-in-line A250, with a 2.0-litre engine and all-wheel drive tested here.
According to the website for Mercedes-Benz Australia – which will switch to fixed pricing from 2022 – the A250 4Matic costs between around $63,000 and $65,700 drive-away depending on variations in stamp duty and registration fees in each state and territory.
The drive-away prices in Australia’s three most populous states are $64,443 (NSW), $64,702 (Victoria) and $63,781 (Queensland). West Australian buyers pay the most ($5,910 drive-away).
This pricing is not far off a new Mercedes C-Class sedan, which starts from $66,900 plus on-road costs albeit for a less-powerful, two-wheel-drive car – though more spacious inside. Worth noting, too, the C-Class is about to enter runout, so sharper offers may soon be available.
Standard equipment of the Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic includes an AMG-accented styling package inside and out, 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, brushed-aluminium interior trim pieces, cabin mood lighting, tinted rear windows, sports suspension, sensor key with push-button start, and a panoramic sunroof.
Dominating the interior – and likely to win buyers even before they take it for a test drive – are the two massive (10.25-inch) widescreen digital displays that together take up more than half the width of the dash.
The instrument display has three main viewing modes, and the infotainment screen houses Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio and embedded navigation.
Most of the infotainment and instrument cluster controls are accessed via sensitive touchpads on the steering wheel, and a larger mouse-style touch pad on the centre console.
City and highway autonomous emergency braking are standard, and nine airbags are designed to protect occupants should the worst happen. A rear-view camera, traffic sign recognition, lane-keeping assistance and blind-zone warning are also part of the standard safety package.
Compared with the Mercedes A180, the A250 gains auto-dipping high beam, wireless phone charging, AMG styling, sports pedals and contrasting interior stitching with suede-look seat inserts.
Optional extras on the A250 include a 360-degree camera, 12-speaker premium Burmester audio, multi-beam 'matrix’ high-beam headlights, a head-up display in the windscreen, electrically adjustable heated front seats, and rear air vents.
Interestingly, radar cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert are part of a $1890 option pack, even though such technology is standard on much cheaper vehicles, such as a Toyota Corolla hatch and an Isuzu D-Max ute.
The warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres, and service intervals are 25,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Three pre-paid service packages for routine maintenance are available: $2050 for the first three years/75,000km, $2950 for the first four years/100,000km, or $3500 for the first five years/125,000km. This works out to an average of about $700 per service, which is on the high side in any language.
|2021 Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||165kW @ 5500rpm|
|Torque||350Nm @ 1800rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||6.6L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||9.0L/100km|
|Boot volume (seven seats up/five seats up/two seats up)||370L / 1210L|
|ANCAP rating||Five stars (tested in 2018) - ANCAP report|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||BMW 1 Series | Audi A3|
On the road
As you may have noticed, modern hatchbacks are splitting into two design directions: practical or stylish.
Hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and Hyundai i30 have retained their more practical dimensions, and as such have slightly taller bodies, roomier cabins, and larger windows.
Other manufacturers argue small-car buyers who want space are gravitating to SUVs, and so some automotive brands have used that as an opportunity to introduce sleeker hatchbacks with lower roofs and smaller boots in favour of a more stylish design.
Which is why the new Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic hatch is smaller in almost every dimension versus its direct rivals such as the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, as well as more affordable class peers such as the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3.
For the number-crunchers, the Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic's dimensions are 4419mm (length), 1796mm (width), 2729mm (wheelbase), and 1420mm (height).
If you’re craving cabin space in the small-hatch class, the Volkswagen Golf and Hyundai i30 remain hard to beat. The A250 is not as cavernous as its rivals – with tighter shoulder room – due in part to the sloping roof line.
Boot space in the A250 4Matic (355L) is smaller than the BMW 1 Series (380L), but ahead of the outgoing Audi A3 (340L).
The high-resolution instrument cluster is a gorgeous design and offers a degree of personalisation; the infotainment screen in the centre of the dash is equally upmarket. However, navigating the functions within these screens is not as user-friendly as it could be.
The touchpads on the steering wheel – and the touchpad on the centre console – are quite sensitive and take some getting used to, especially when on the move. Mercedes’s voice control – which you can use to sidestep the touchpads – is a bit hit-and-miss, as with most in-car voice-control systems.
The turbo 2.0-litre engine (165kW/350Nm) is zippy enough, but we couldn’t match the 0–100km/h claim of 6.2 seconds (we stopped the clocks at 6.5 seconds, still respectable but not hot-hatch quick).
The fuel-economy rating label average based on laboratory tests is 6.6L/100km; we averaged between 8.0L and 10.0L/100km in light traffic and inter-urban driving. Premium 95-octane unleaded is required as a minimum.
It was difficult to ascertain the benefit of the all-wheel-drive system, which activates seamlessly as the car senses the need for extra grip.
The A250 also has a fairly sophisticated rear suspension system for a hatchback, but you’re unlikely to notice it in the daily grind or a roundabout. Unfortunately, despite this more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension set-up, the A250 is quite brittle over bumps and thumps. A standard Volkswagen Golf or Hyundai i30 has more comfortable suspension.
The A250's run-flat tyres (which have stiffer sidewalls to be able to continue driving when punctured) also don't help the cause. The squat stance and low-profile tyres mean there is a price for keeping up appearances: a bone-jarring ride.
The suspension, transmission, engine and steering have a number of modes to switch from comfort to sport. But it’s safe to assume that at least some buyers – especially those who’ve downsized from a larger luxury car – might find the ‘comfort’ mode not quite comfortable enough. Be sure to test-drive it on familiar roads to find out if you’re at ease with the sporty flavour of the A250.
My other reservation about this car is the seven-speed twin-clutch auto. As is typical of this gearbox design, the twin-clutch auto has a slight delay when moving from rest and between forward and reverse gears. It makes quick three-point turns a chore.
The gear lever – a wand to the right of the steering wheel – looks like an indicator stalk, so it’s worth being mindful of this as you get used to the car, otherwise you may find yourself unintentionally in neutral and going nowhere fast.
The Mercedes-Benz A250 oozes showroom appeal inside and out, and is genuinely a stunning design. But it comes at a price, and some of the optional safety tech is standard on more affordable cars, which is why our score is slightly lower than earlier reviews. And be sure to take it for a decent test drive on familiar roads to see if you can live with the suspension and the transmission in the daily grind.