The GTI, by contrast, merely embellishes a few features of the standard Golf. There’s the GTI badge on the grille, the tinted rear lights and the signature red line running across the grille and through the lights. It’s a slightly more angular variation on the mk6 Golf. It’s not a bad looking car at all, but it’s not as instantly eye-catching as the Merc.
Price wise, the A250 is more expensive, as you’d expect for anything with the Mercedes badge on the front. Prices for the A250 start at $37,600, but our loaded test car comes in at $44,809. Compare that to the GTI, which starts at $31,581, and costs $35,393 for our top-of-the-range model.
Open up the A250’s doors and a familiar scene greets anyone familiar with recent Mercedes models. It’s not quite the identikit interior that other models suffer from though; there are red highlights around the SLS-style air vents, red stitching on the leather covering the top of the dash and on the steering wheel. The centre stack is stock Mercedes however. The seats are sports-style with fixed headrests, again adorned with red stitching. Gimmicky? Maybe. But it looks good, as do the aluminium dials.
The gear stick is mounted on the steering column which leaves lots of storage space on the transmission tunnel, and there’s space in the back, so that’s the practical side of things taken care of, although the boot of the GTI is considerably bigger.
Settle into the A250’s sport seats and things are comfortable, classy and nice and low. Even with my lanky upper torso, I’m staring over, not down at the bonnet, which is the type of position you want in a sporty car. The only issue is with the very thick B-pillars, which mean I can’t see anything in my blind spot at all.
So far, so good. Let’s see what it’s like out on the road. A prod of a button fires up the 2-litre turbocharged engine with relatively little ceremony. AMG’s input clearly hasn’t extended to the soundtrack; although I wasn’t expecting an SLS-style bark, a bit of character would have been nice, rather than the anonymous hum that greets the ears.
There’s a lack of enthusiasm to the A250 to start with. By default on ignition, it puts itself into Eco mode – the button to engage and disengage this set up takes pride of place next to the hazard warning button. Where’s the ESP disengage button? Buried away in menus. Could this be an indication of the A250’s real priorities? The transmission too is set to E for Economy. The other choices are M for Manual or S for Sport. In default mode, the upshifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox happen ridiculously early. They’re quick, but it’s all a bit weird. This car looks like a hot hatch, but so far it’s driving like an econo-box. Its priorities are in the wrong place. We’ll set aside the fact that the car is not exclusively designed for the Middle East, where fuel concerns are minimal, but if you want to save fuel obsessively, don’t buy a car fettled by AMG.
Change the transmission to Sport and turn off Eco mode and things are better. The engine sings more, although it’s still no songbird, with a linear delivery that feels smooth but lacking in drama. It seems content to accelerate at its own pace no matter how mashed the throttle is, steadily moving to the red line. With 208bhp heading to the front wheels it’s close to the GTI in power, but doesn’t deliver the excitement I’m expecting. The shifts are jerkier – intentionally I suspect, to give a more dynamic feel. It sort of works when pushing on, but a middle ground setting would be nice for everyday use, with all the of the speed but less of the neck wobbling.