There’s an unwritten rule in motoring journalism that you should never describe a car as ‘nice’. It’s a nothing adjective that says little about the product. Nevertheless, it’s the word that most frequently burrows its way into your mind when driving around in the new Mercedes-Benz A250.
Every premium hatch should offer an undemanding day-to-day drive experience and the A250 absolutely delivers on this brief. It shares its benchmark interior with its A200 baby brother, the combination of cutting-edge technology – MBUX infotainment, twin 10.25-inch digital displays, a wide array of active safety aids – with generally premium materials.
It builds on this by offering a much more persuasive mechanical package. The A200’s underwhelming 1.4-litre turbo engine is replaced by a larger 2.0-litre unit delivering a handy 165kW/350Nm for a hot hatch-like claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.2sec.
Furthermore, the optional multi-link rear suspension that transforms the A200’s ride and handling is standard on the A250, as is traction-enhancing all-wheel drive. That all this is offered for a mere $2300 premium makes choosing between the two a no-brainer in favour of the A250.
But it isn’t all roses and champagne. Mercedes loads local AMGs to the hilt but isn’t quite so generous with its more mainstream models, our A250 test car including $990 worth of keyless start and $490 for ambient lighting.
Still, the base price is such that adding a couple of the carefully crafted options packages is unlikely to break the bank. This is just as well, as like its slower sibling, one option the A250 definitely needs to deliver its best is the adaptive dampers.
Unfortunately, you can’t just option the dampers. For some reason, you first need to tick the $1290 Seat Comfort Package (heated electric front seats with memory function) and the AMG Exclusive Package, which in addition to those dampers adds ambient lighting, ventilated front seats, two-tone leather upholstery and dual-zone climate control.
Full disclosure: we have not driven an A250 fitted with adaptive dampers, but from experience in our passive test car and adaptive-equipped A200, we’re confident in making the recommendation that it is money well spent. The fundamentals are there in the standard A250: the steering is fluid and accurate, the balance neutral and the engine is potent enough for an impressive pace to be achieved.
Two things let the side down. The passive dampers get a little choppy on poor surfaces, yet struggle to rein in body movements as effectively as they should; for most A250 customers, the former will probably be a bigger issue than the latter. Secondly, the Hankook tyres protest early and vocally during enthusiastic cornering.
Appropriately optioned, the A250 is a talented, well-rounded premium hatch, but if you’re a keen driver, the A35 AMG will be worth both the wait and the extra spend.
Tested and rated MOTOR reviews
2019 MERCEDES-BENZ A250 4MATIC SPECS
Engine: 1991cc inline-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 165kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1800rpm
0-100km/h: 6.2sec (claimed)