Ever wondered how the three-pointed star shook off its ‘old money’ image? Well, you need not look further than the W176 generation A-Class hatchback. In effect, the reborn A-Class, as well as its CLA and GLA offshoots, proved critical in keeping the marque relevant with the times.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why many were eager to see how its replacement, the W177, would take things further. From what our editor Daryl Loy experienced in Croatia last year during the model’s global press drive, there was much to savour and marvel in, and that note resonates again once we got behind its wheel recently.
Featured here is the new premium-spec A250 AMG Line offering, which replaces the outgoing A250 Sport iteration. Unlike the base A200 offering, this sportier variant gets all the bells and whistles needed to be a proper hot-hatch starting with its blown 2.0-litre four-banger and slick 7-speed DCT setup that power its front wheels.
Power has gone up from 218hp to 224hp whilst torque remains at 350Nm, the latter now coming in slightly later at 1,800rpm. Predictably, it proved to be a very peppy one, bringing this hot hatch’s 1,455kg bulk up to 100kph from standstill in just 6.2 seconds in a typically effortless – read: rapidly – German manner
As you’d expect, there’s enough ‘go’ to match this car’s impeccable ‘show’, and there’s plenty of the latter to boot despite the A-Class’s rather understated new skin. Yes, we’ll agree with any budding 20-something that the new 18-inch alloy looks a tad too simple, but there’s more to love upon closer inspection.
What will catch the eye for most will be Merc’s dashing new identity up front, fuelled by the distinct new LED daytime running lights and diamond grille combination. There’s also enough sharp, angular lines and pretty curves in all the right places, followed by the distinct new taillights rounding things up.
In contrast, this new generation A250 is arguably prettier than its predecessor in many ways, but we’ll leave this bit for you to gauge. Certainly, what this hot hatch packs inside will impress the most, and we’re not just talking about the sleek new dash design of course.
On the surface, the twin digital display setup and novel turbine-like vents look just as good in the flesh as they do in pictures. What really takes the cake here is the high tech new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) voice command feature, not forgetting the new cabin mood lighting, the latter being the most stellar novelty, especially during night drives.
The former, on the other hand, is a neat novelty as it makes prompting navigation, making calls, switching between the mood lighting’s colour and even the air-conditioning settings seamless with the right commands. Just say ‘Hey Mercedes…” and you’ve got its attention to do all that.
Unfortunately, it seems the Malaysian-spec MBUX has lost some of its wittiness as seen during the global press drive. But fret not as Mercedes-Benz Malaysia (MBM) has a series of updates in the pipeline to bring it up to its full capabilities. We’ll just have to wait a little before we can really have some fun with MBUX.
In the meantime, there’s still plenty to love with the cabin, like the highly supportive and plush alcantara-wrapped bucket seats up front. Eye candy here includes the shiny new aluminium brightworks laid out around the dash, not forgetting the ludicrously customisable digital infotainment and instrument display.
What we reckon will not work for most is the cabin’s slightly cramped feel, especially if you’re seated in the back – both leg and headroom are a tad sparce here. But that’s no deal-breaker at all given just how much more refined this new generation A250 rides and handles over its predecessor.
The pre-facelift W176 A250 Sport, which came brimmed with AMG-tuned suspension, felt like it belonged on the track more than anywhere else. Though the face-lifted version addressed this issue with electronic adaptive dampers, it wasn’t enough to give this hot hatch a truly comfortable ride when one isn’t in the mood to carve corners.
This new generation W177 A250 AMG Line, on the other hand, finally addresses that quirk once and for all through an even more advanced electronic adaptive dampers set. Switch the drive mode into either ‘Comfort’ or ‘Eco’ mode and this hot hatch is ready to act as civilised and as classy as a C-Class in fact.
While it’s still miles off something like the S-Class in terms of ride comfort, you’d be glad to know that there is greater agility added in the mix now too. Just switch the drive mode into ‘Sport’ and this hatch turns itself into a respectably good corner-carver as its predecessors were, ready to bait something like the rivalling Mini Cooper S in fact.
Though the other rivalling and recently updated VW Golf GTI 7.5 begs to differ in several ways, it does lack the ‘wow factor’ against this Merc. By the way, this Merc feels arguably plusher too – something one naturally expects of anything that proudly bears the three-pointed star emblem up front.
Then there’s also the impressive after-sales service and coverage that MBM and its dealers offer, which add further to this peppy hot hatch’s ownership prospect. If anything, that plus the respectable performance and tech-laden kit count, should convince anyone in meeting the RM263,888 base price this hot hatch rightfully commands.
In a nutshell, it’s easy to see that with the new A250 AMG Line, Mercedes has opted to go down a different approach instead of trying to match and trump its rivals here, and we’re loving it.
And, given how good things feel here, we cannot help but wonder how the even hotter AMG variants will be like once they make landfall…
Not the sharpest nor the cheapest, but easily the coolest of the lot and stands much more refined than before. Get ready to say “Hey Mercedes…”
Smaller but is equally cool, and definitely sharper to drive too.
|Powertrain||1,991cc, 4-cyl petrol, FWD, 224bhp, 350Nm|
|Performance||0-100kph in 6.2secs, 250kph|
|Economy||6.6L/100km, 150g/km CO2|