I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s near customary to start any Mercedes A-Class review with a reference to its disastrous elk test in 1997. The previous A-Class wasn’t very good. It was cramped, expensive, comically tall and was defeated by an imaginary beast. Simply put, it wasn’t a car you’d readily buy, at least not if you wanted to arrive at your destination facing the right way up. But this here is the all-new A-Class, and I’ll cut straight to the point; it is nothing like the old one.
The new A-Class is Mercedes’s challenger in the premium hot hatch segment, getting up the noses of the BMW 1 Series and a specced-to-the-gills Golf GTI. Although it’s available exclusively in A 250 guise with a starting price of Dh138,000, our South Sea blue tester costs a whopping Dh160,000. That said, it looks and feels every bit as good as a grown-up Merc.
The nicely bolstered seats are draped in sporty Alcantara, while the dash features a faux carbon-fibre finish, which surprisingly doesn’t look cheap at all. The cabin also gets the optional COMAND infotainment system slapped on the top of the dash, which unfortunately does look like a cheap aftermarket bolt-on. That apart, there isn’t much else to complain about in here.
Not least the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine pushing out 211 horsepower to the front wheels via a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox. Progress is brisk and the little Merc displays proper hot hatch manners, hitting 100kph from standstill in a respectable 6.6 seconds. And the sporty intent is effectively conveyed by the sharp new styling. Its squatted muscular stance is punctuated by AMG body bits, and makes you want to throw a bone to the 1 Series every time you see one.
On the practicality front, rear legroom is adequate for adults but anyone taller than 1.8m will probably be unhappy back there. Oh, and the boot is slightly on the smaller side, too. All in all though, the A 250, at least as far as first impressions go, is a really likeable car. But that, of course, can change as the weeks roll by...