The rise of the ‘warm’ hatch has been a really interesting phenomenon over the last few years. The European hatchback manufacturers are now tending to offer at least one relatively quick grade in their lineup: the BMW 125i, Peugeot 308 GT, and Volvo V40 T5 come to mind.
Mercedes-Benz is no different. Sitting one rung beneath the proper Benz hot hatch, the A45 AMG, is the $51,000 A250 Sport, which Chasing Cars recently sampled at Sydney’s Eastern Creek raceway. While the A250 isn’t greatly differentiated visually from the rest of the A-Class lineup, under the bonnet it is quite characterful indeed.
The A250’s turbocharged two-litre four produces numbers about on par with its competitors: it makes 155kW at 5500rpm, and 350Nm of torque right through from 1200–4000rpm. There’s plenty of twist, then, but to really maximise the A250’s power, it likes to be worked hard. That’s just what we did—and wringing the A250 Sport’s neck around Eastern Creek is thoroughly enjoyable.
Switch the adjustable drive mode to ‘Sport’ and the car really amps up the feedback. The seven-speed dual-clutch gets snappier and delays shifts to just about redline; but it’s the noise that really changes character in the ‘Sport’ mode. Suddenly, it produces all sorts of lovely little overruns through the exhaust notes, and plenty of pops and crackles. It does a fair old job imitating the much pricier A45 AMG in this manner.
Dynamically, the A250 is in a different league, of course. It’s still compact, light and quick, but its front-wheel-drive architecture means understeer is fairly commonplace when you push the A250 hard through tight corners under throttle. It also misses the trick electronic differential of the Volkswagen Golf GTI to cut that sort of behaviour – but learning when to let up a little bit brings the A250’s cornering largely under control.
The cabin’s a bit tight but not an uncomfortable place to be: the front bucket seats are quite comfortable, though the busy dash hasn’t dated especially well. The A250’s interior isn’t as cohesive as the Audi A3 it competes against, though it’s more interesting than the BMW 1 Series.
Priced in the mid-fifties on road, the A250 Sport excels in offering accessible, everyday performance in an enjoyable package – it’s competitive in its class, though the rear-wheel-drive BMW 125i will sway some away from the Mercedes on a dynamic basis.
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