For those of you who may not have read my previous Owner Reviews, my name is Will Varvari and I am 14 years old. I am a massive car aficionado, and absolutely love writing… hence the reason why you see me on CarAdvice doing these reviews and sharing with you my views.
My two previous reviews were about BMW X5s (the E70 and the F15). I thought I would change it up a bit and in this review, switch to the 'enemy' and review our second car – a 2014 Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport (this is my Mum’s car).
Let me begin by giving you a bit of a run-down of the A-Class. The A-Class is currently Mercedes’ entry level variant into their extensive portfolio of vehicles. It is currently in its third generation, which was first launched here in Australia back in 2013. With this generation of A-Class, dubbed ‘W176’, Mercedes seriously upped the ante on two main aspects of the car compared to the previous frumpy, ‘minivan-esque’ generations – those two things being style and driving dynamics (fun factor).
I still remember the day we got our A250 back in late July 2014. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and after a month of test drives, calling dealers and haggling on price, we were finally taking delivery of our new car!
We had looked at the BMW 125i, but thought the A-Class was too good to go past. As you would guess, my 12-year old self was extremely excited… I rushed home (for a change) from the bus stop and ran home, school bag in tow, to see our new baby being delivered off the back of a truck (we purchased it from a dealer in Rockhampton, and had it trucked down to Brisbane).
I will never forget how my heart pumped on first hearing that raspy 2.0-litre fire to life, and seeing the beautiful Mountain Grey Metallic reflect in the beautiful afternoon July sun. Oh, the sweet memories! Anyway back to the review!
In fact, this brings me on to the first point of the A-Class – its gorgeous design. As I mentioned before, for the W176 A-Class, Mercedes-Benz’s designers placed a strong emphasis on style to differentiate it from previous A-Class designs and the BMW 1 Series it competes with. This is particularly evident on the A250. The way the Mountain Grey paint contrasts with the red accents on the front and rear bumpers is sporty and yet classy. Up front, the headlights even have small rings of red in them! Neat eh?
Speaking of the front, exclusive to ‘half’ AMGs (more on this later) is the Diamond Grille, which differentiates this model from other A-Class models, while also adding much style to the front end.
Along the side of the car, the A-Class sits nice and low to the road, giving it an athletic stance and making it look like it is about to launch off a start line (or traffic lights if you are my Mum). There is a character line that has a nice kink to it on the rear door. Out the back the ‘C’ shaped LED lights are a treat to look at night, and the oblique exhaust pipes are finished beautifully in chrome which promote the raspy two-litre burble.
The sporty vibe of the exterior has also been integrated into the cabin of the A250. There are red accents everywhere but not in an overdone way; the seatbelts, perforated leather, air vent surrounds, steering wheel stitching, dash stitching, carpet piping, you name it.
The cabin also includes classy circular air vents, oodles of open pore carbon fibre on the dash, and Arteco leather covers the top of the dash too. Generally, a sporty, yet classy cabin – yes, the A-Class’ cabin is indeed a pleasant place to be – however, there are a few shortcomings to the cabin of the A-Class.
I am talking about the materials Mercedes has used. Yes, I know the team at Mercedes has offered up a leather dash, and it is only an entry level model for them, but once you sit in one, you’ll see what I mean.
The door plastics down low are hard and scratchy, there is more hard plastic on the centre console, and the trim pieces are flimsy and hollow. The seatbacks are once again, covered in plastic and it's the same for the rear air conditioning unit. There is more plastic here than a Tupperware cupboard! This is bit of a shame, because if this cabin had better levels of quality, it would be a much more pleasant place to spend time. Having said this, the materials are bearable, but nothing to write home about.
For instance, the Audi A3 which competes against the A-Class, has a much more premium feeling cabin in terms of the materials used. And yes, I do know because I have been in my Aunty and Uncle’s (which I will be reviewing in due course). My view is the A3 has the same grade of build quality and craftsmanship as an A … and I am not sure that can be said about the S-Class and A-Class.
Another downside to the inside of the A-Class is the interior noise. The A-Class is quite a loud cabin to drive in. Recently, we took the A250 away down to the Gold Coast for a holiday, and during highway driving, I thought that there was an unwarranted amount of wind whistle and tyre roar in the cabin. Maybe it is because it is a small car, but I didn’t expect this from a Mercedes! Luckily, I could put my headphones on.
But just to be clear – I am not saying the A Class’s cabin is terrible, I am just making the point that it does have some issues with the way it is built and some opportunity to improve its level of noise suppression. Both of these issues aren’t deal breakers, as there are so many other great things about owning an A-Class, the main one being of course, how it drives.
Our car, as I mentioned previously, is the A250 variant, which sits towards the top of the A-Class range. It is the closest thing that you can get to the fully-fledged AMG model in the A-Class range, and has an AMG badge that won’t break the wallet like the A45. It has a light sprinkling of AMG dust, as it is an AMG ‘Sport’ model. It is essentially the C43, while the A45 is equal to the C63 in the A-Class range. My Mum thinks it is her sports car… which may explain why we went through a set of tyres after two years (more likely to be the torquey front end).
The A250 packs a 2.0-litre turbo fur-cylinder, producing 350Nm of torque at a low 1200rpm and 155kW at 5500rpm, sending everything to the front wheels. The sprint to 100 km/h is a spritely 6.6 seconds in this model. Certainly powerful enough for suburban roads.
The car we replaced with the A250 back in 2014, was our '09 Audi A4 with S Line pack, which was a manual. So, the seven-speed dual-clutch A250 is a bit of a change for my Mum in that she is not having to shift herself (and bearing in mind Mum has always had a manual car in our garage). Mum says that she finds the seven-speed transmission great, as it provides fast shifts on the move and great acceleration. However, she does find some lag when putting your foot down… read on…
Like with most DCTs, nonetheless, it tends to be quite jerky during stop-start traffic and in combination with the auto start-stop, makes a very shaky start up from standstill. Again, this is not a deal breaker, just something that could be better refined, possibly with the 9G auto used in the rest of Mercedes’ range. This is something I believe will be implemented in the next generation A-Class (fingers crossed).
As I said earlier in the review, Mercedes employed AMG to work some of its magic on the A250, and while it is not a true AMG, its Affalterbach “special sauce” is evident on the A250. Alterations to the A250 by AMG include a more direct steering ratio, AMG-tuned suspension, a louder exhaust, AMG front brake discs with drilled holes, and ECU changes for a more focussed driving experience.
The exhaust work Mercedes has done is truly magical. The baarrrps on overrun, the crackles and pops on downshift, are truly intoxicating (my Dad loves this!). The AMG work makes this A-Class, unlike its predecessors, quite fun to drive in the corners.
The chassis balance is near perfect, meaning you can drive fast and let the harmonious 2.0-litre sing. You chuck it into a corner and it remains composed, but not in a clinical way – it is playful. The steering too, is very communicative, and offers excellent feedback.
As much as I would hate to say this as a BMW fanboy, the A-Class handling is on par, if not, better than the rear-driver 1er. The A-Class corners flat, and the seats hold you in place nicely, albeit they are lacking some thigh support for taller people (I am now taller than my Mum so can say this with some authority).
The trade off with the A250’s excellent handling, is a less than impressive comfort level. The ride is very firm, almost crashy, and not something that you would associate with a Mercedes-Benz. Everything is transmitted through the chassis, and you can feel every little rock in the bitumen, and the car thumps over most road imperfections. This has been fixed with the 2016 facelift (through adaptive suspension), but even still, if you are looking for a comfort oriented hatchback, then I would suggest having a good look at the Audi A3. However, if you love driving, and are happy to live with a slightly more demanding car on a daily basis, the A-Class or 1 Series is the car for you.
So, now is the point in the review where I talk about some of the things I (and my parents) absolutely hate about the A-Class, so you don't think that I am biased, or someone who loves their car too much and claims that “it is perfect,” when no car really is… maybe the new E63, but you get the gist.
Maintenance-wise, this car has been a bit of a pain. Now before you start thinking stereotypical things like “Typical Mercedes reliability…”, please let me explain.
The issues with the car’s maintenance have no issue whatsoever with the car itself. It has never broken down, no parts have failed, the engine is still just as good as what it was when it rolled off the production line, and there have been nothing indicating that this car is a lemon, as such.
All the issues lie with how expensive everything is to replace on the car – which could simply be because it is European and I guess my Mum and Dad will have to simply grin and bear it!
For those of you who don't own a recent Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes operate on a “tick-tock” method of servicing. This means that the first service (Service A as it is known as), is a smaller service, it is inexpensive, and generally involves all the basics including the following jobs:
• Service data read out from instrument cluster and ASSYST PLUS service interval display reset
• Warning and indicator lamps in the instrument cluster checked
• Horn checked for correct function
• Vehicle exterior in the driver’s field of vision checked for damage
• Windscreen checked for damage
• Wiper blades checked
• Engine: oil changed and oil filter replaced
• Brake System: Fluid level checked
• Coolant level checked in coolant expansion tank
• Brake test carried out on dynamometer
• Condition and tread depth of tyres checked (visual inspection)
• Condition of brake disks checked (visual inspection)
• Combination filter replaced
Service B, is the “tock,” and it is the pricier of the services (occurs every two years). It is a more extensive service, where they cover all the nitty gritty that isn’t part of Service A. In addition, it offers:
• Exterior lighting checked for correct function
• Headlamp range control checked for correct function
• Windscreen wipers, windscreen washer system and headlamp cleaning system checked for correct function
• All visible parts checked for damage and leaks
• Poly-V-belt checked for wear and damage in visible area
• Tyres checked for damage and cracks
• All visible components on the vehicle and underside checked for leaks and damage
• Front axle joints checked for play, rubber sleeves inspected
• Tie rod and steering arm joints checked for play, rubber gaiters inspected
• Headlamp settings checked, corrected
The first time our Mercedes needed servicing, we took it to Mercedes-Benz Brisbane. My Dad said that the service was very expensive, and compared to BMW at least, the quality of the service (including customer) wasn’t as good.
For instance, Dad was advised we needed new tyres, and the car was just over a year old at the time. Dad told them not to fit new tyres… fast forward to a year later, not only did we change the tyres a full year later (there was plenty wear left after being told they needed changing), the tyres we got at the conventional tyre shop were cheaper and much better in terms of quality, road noise and grip than the ones offered by Mercedes-Benz.
After this less than impressive experience from Mercedes-Benz, in 2016, we took the car to an authorised, independent Mercedes mechanic. They serviced our car with all genuine Mercedes-Benz parts, for a fraction of the price that a Mercedes dealer would have, and they weren’t trying to unnecessarily charge us for parts of the car that didn't need to be replaced. Mum takes it there and she says she feels comfortable that they aren’t trying to put one over her.
So, if any of you are in the same boat as us, I would highly recommend saving yourself some cash and get your Merc serviced at a genuine, independent mechanic rather than putting up with type of sub-par servicing from your local dealer that we experienced. I suspect the service experience from the dealer would have been different if we had the car serviced by the dealer in Rockhampton.
Turning back to the A Class features, I would have to say that the technology in the A-Class is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some really helpful and nifty features that we can’t live without now, such as forward collision alert, heated seats, automated parking, auto folding mirrors (when you lock the car) just to name a few… and then there is COMAND.
If you think COMAND is bad in the new E-Class, wait until you try it here in the A-Class. Navigating the system is so painful as there are buttons on the dash, the console… so infuriating. Also, there is no navigation on our car, and it really should be standard on a car of its price tag and time. All in all, BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI both do better than Mercedes’s COMAND with clearer menus, easier and more intuitive navigation i.e. they are just less clunky than the A250.
In summary, the Mercedes-Benz A250 is a is a great little car which we love driving and owning. It finally shows to the world that Mercedes can build an exciting little hatchback that can prove a serious rival to a 1 Series in the ‘fun to drive’ criteria.
It is stylish, with a beautiful interior, even if it does have a bad infotainment system and dodgy plastics. However, it more than makes up for its shortcomings in the way it drives and the way it makes you smile when you hear the overrun symphony. And, the good news is, a new model is coming out in a few years, meaning that there might just be a faultless German hatchback just around the corner, if Mercedes takes notice of the adjustments and refinements they need to make to this current model… let’s hope they read my review, because I would love to see how far they can raise the bar in this class, just like they have with pretty much everything else in their range.