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27 August 2014 Last updated
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Long-term reviews

Long-term review: Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport - week 5

By James Hewes
Added 13:32 | July 4, 2013
  • Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport

    Straightline performance is perky but the steering weighs up in an odd manner around the bends.

    Source:Dennis B. Mallari/ANM

James Hewes is looking to buy a car and an advert for a used A-Class has him shaking his head in disbelief

This week I spotted a silver version of the A-Class in the used car ads, which is pretty good going given they’ve only been on sale here for a few weeks. I’ve been thinking about buying a car and this prompted me to ask myself whether I would part with my own hard-earned cash for the Merc.

The past few weeks have shown up plenty of positives — the sharp handling, comfortable interior, great styling and responsive engine among them — but a few niggles too. The most notable of these in day-to-day driving, other than the ridiculously small boot, is the steering, which uses Mercedes’s Direct Steering system. This “varies the steering ratio according to the steering angle”, which in practical terms means that the front wheels turn more quickly the more you turn the steering wheel.

Unfortunately, this means there’s plenty of hydraulics and motors between your hands and the road. On constant radius turns, for example, the system seems to get caught between two stools, meaning you can feel the steering ratio changing mid-corner, which can be a bit unsettling.

The biggest flaw, though, is the price. Now, I’ve mentioned this before but the used car ad threw it back into sharp relief. Although this optimistic trader was hoping for a premium on the expected Dh140,000 list price, a quick flick through the ads revealed that for similar money, I could take my pick of five-year-old 911s, hot Bimmers or Audis. And if you want to go new, then it’s hard to see past similar offerings from Ford and Volkswagen, both of which are nearly as good but half the price.

Fact file

Driven by: James

Start mileage: 6,460km

Recent cost: Fuel

Average fuel economy: 11 litres-per-100km

Highs: Good driving dynamics

Lows: Steering feel, it’s expensive

There’s no doubt that the A-Class represents the cutting edge in terms of technology for the hatchback sector, and its style and class are second to none. But I think if I was in the market for a hot hatch, I wouldn’t buy this one. I’d probably buy a Focus ST and pocket the difference, or maybe even dig out the ad for that used 911…

THE PROGRESS

Week 4: The A-Class’s frugality impresses, but an electronic glitch surfaces.
Highs: Economical
Lows: Faulty airbag sensor

Week 3: The in-car entertainment is a joy to operate, with smart iPod connectivity
that lets you use the central control knob to navigate through your music library.
Highs: Great handling, easy-to-use features
Lows: None

Week 2: It’s nothing like the old A-Class. In fact it’s a real head-turner, but our long-termer is too small for a family, not sporty enough for the money. So it remains to be seen who really is the target customer.
Highs: Engine, styling, great stereo
Lows: Price

Week 1: The all-new A-Class makes a strong first impression. It looks great and the
turbocharged fourcylinder engine ensures it goes well, too. Our tester is on the pricey side at Dh160,000.
Highs: Looks, engine, hot-hatch manners
Lows: Smallish boot