Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport

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The recently launched 3rd-generation Mercedes A-class is the veritable ugly duckling-turns-into-beautiful swan story. The Philippine market was spared the cutesy 1st-gen 1997 model A-class, which became infamous in Europe no thanks to a Swedish magazine’s “moose test” that caused the car to roll over in that emergency lane change maneuver. Mercedes acted swiftly by modifying some of that car’s suspension components. Nevertheless, that 1st-gen A-class sold well in the global market. And so did its 2nd-gen 2004 model successor (which was marketed here in the Philippines). Fast forward to 2012. The Stuttgart-based luxury automaker rolls out the 3rd-gen model. It would take a few more months for it to reach Philippine shores—June 2013, to be exact. And while it’s still a subcompact-sized 5-door hatchback, it owes none of its looks to its much more pedestrian-looking forebears. For one thing, it’s absolutely gorgeous. With its dynamic assemblage of convex and concave panels, it looks more like a hatchback version of Mercedes’s sleek and sexy SLK sports car. Unlike its tall-boy predecessors, it struts with a wide, hunkered down stance, especially when fitted with the AMG Sport wheels and suspension. The red accents on the lower portions of the A 250 Sport’s front and rear bumpers look positively racy—as do the flashy red brake calipers that peer out from big 5-spoke 18-inch AMG alloy wheels wrapped with fat 235/40R18 tires. Ditto the red accents sprinkled all over the cabin, right down to the all-red seatbelts. The AMG Sport model boasts superb bucket seats finished in grippy Alcantara fabric. The lower and wider cabin might have reduced headroom (it still fits six-footers with ease), but it makes up for it with greater elbow and shoulder room. Legroom is more than adequate, although I’d stop short of describing it as generous. The cargo area should fit golf bags or a mountain bike with the rear seats folded down—something many cars in this class can do. Fit and finish, in and out, is typically German—which means that it’s about as solid as an anvil. If anything, I was a bit surprised by the sound of the doors when you close them; they seem to lack the solid thud that characterized Mercedes doors since time immemorial. It’s not to say they’re flimsy—they’re still heavy pieces—just that you’d be surprised if you’re used to the sound of an E-class or S-class door closing then you do the same with the A-class. On the road, the A 250 Sport shines. Power is definitely way more than adequate. More than generous even. A turbocharger pressurizes the A 250’s 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine to the tune of 211 ps and 350 Nm of torque. That’s enough to endow the car with a sub-7-second 0-100 km/h acceleration run—about the same as the racy Toyota 86 sports car. Mated to a 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters, the car should be able to reach 225 km/h. This is definitely serious sports car territory. Handling is equally accomplished. The front-wheel-drive A 250 turns and corners with razor-sharp responsiveness, thanks to its sport suspension and meaty, low-profile tires. The only concession to this dynamic heroism is the slightly too-firm ride that’s felt more by rear passengers. It’s smooth enough on paved roads, but bumps and humps can be jarring to occupants, especially those seated at the rear. Still it’s markedly better than say, the Toyota 86’s downright stiff ride. Safety is always a Mercedes strong point, and the A-Class comes complete with seven airbags, ABS, electronic stability program (ESP), acceleration skid control (ASR), tire pressure loss warning system, and Attention Assist. The A 250 Sport retails for P2,580,000. It’s not inexpensive by any means, but for that price, you get sports car performance, hatchback versatility, and the priceless Mercedes-Benz legacy of safety, luxury and prestige. If that’s not a winning combination, I don’t know what is.   Review by Manny N. delos Reyes