BEHIND THE WHEEL: Mercedes Benz A250 AMG
FRIDAY MARCH 7, 2014
The AMG styling has done a lot to make the A class look really pretty from the front, sides and the back. It is even pretty on the inside with design cues taken from the SLS looking genuinely sporty. Red seatbelts, alcantara seats with holes poking through the front seats and triple air vents smacked in the middle of the dash. I'm sure that many would buy it just for the looks plus it is under 240 grand for a Mercedes-Benz. I dare say the CLA and the latest instalment of the A class have to be the two prettiest Mercs in the last decade. Nought to a hundred takes an impressively quick 6.6 seconds means they must have fitted quite a large turbo to the 2-litre engine. Honestly, just buy one since the long waiting list has made it even more desirable than it already is.
Useless rear bench
Seriously stiff springs
Snail's pace gearbox
0-100 km/h: 6.6 s
Top speed: 240 km/h
This is all too good to be true as my driving skills has been on the decline where manoeuvring about town and parking has been quite a problem in days of late so the possible solution is to downsize. So I decided to find out if the new Mercedes is any good. First thing I wanted to know if the COMAND-APS is any better to use only to find out it is still as garbage as ever. It is nowhere close to being as user-friendly and the screen sticks out looking like an afterthought instead of a cohesive design. If it were any consolation, a Peugeot's system is worse.
In term of driving, I found myself seated in quite an awkward position where I have to stretch my arms like an ape to reach for the steering wheel even after having it fully extended. Having the wheels rolling, the steering was poorly weighted and if that's the case for most electric steering, it is still something I could live with. What was truly unacceptable is how the engine sounded and the colossal turbo lag in getting to go. Combining turbo blow offs and diesel sounds does not translate to the word sport that has been written all over this car. It might drive well for a front wheel drive in the bends but it sure wasn't a single bit enjoyable plus the turning radius is strangely huge for a hatch.
" People should stop buying cars in colours that they don't actually likewith the thought of resale "
Fortunately, braking is one of its strong suits and critics are not wrong about Mercedes-Benz not been able to make proper double-clutch gearboxes. Having the transmission on auto, it does a half decent job while on manual, it is more lost than lost. I'd say it is miles behind VW Group's double clutches and 8-speeds made by ZF (used in most BMWs and many Audis) but the 6-speed in the Mini can sit on top of the Merc's. The A250 also come with a few safety features that I couldn't quite care about and I do not like the lorry-inspired gear level being stuck on the right of the steering wheel. I also dislike the quality of the interior as the everywhere I tapped felt thin and sounded hollow. Under the ray of light, the carbon fibre film stickered dashboard looked unappetising.
After doing some driving, I went into the back of the Merc to experience what's life like being driven around. Mind you the AMG name means this A-class comes with sports suspension which provide a jarring ride and to be fair, it's liveable in the front but I'd rather be in a jail cell than in the back of an A250. I'm fine with small windows and sloped roof lines as I do not get car sick and enjoy being seated in a coupe profiled vehicle but the rear bench is close to a 90 degree angle. That combined with achingly stiff suspension I nearly ended up in tears because it was no less than sheer torture. Lastly, the automated side parking is quite a fail as it requires considerable effort and a convenience of such isn't exactly a necessary in a hatch.
As much as I like how it looks, I did not enjoy the way it drives one bit. I find it near impossible for anyone to buy the A250 if they have driven the greatest all-rounder Golf GTI or a characterful Mini Cooper S. The reason for its success in Malaysia had only strengthened my argument where people buy Mercedes just for the badge. Let's not be a badge whore and buy cars that are genuinely good instead of those that comes with perceived 'status'. I have not driven an A1 from Audi or the BMW 125i but it is very certain that I would not hate them as much as the Mercedes-Benz A250.