Review: Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG Line sedan - is it RM 48k better than the 218i GC?
Jason · Mar 21, 2021 11:00 AM
When I was collecting the keys to the Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG Line sedan, I thought to myself, "Please, please be good." Mercedes-Benz, as a brand, holds a special place in my heart. Growing up, my folks owned both the W201 190E and the W124 260E. Both were from an era where Mercedes cars were ridiculously over-engineered. So much so, the 190E became my first car.
So, you can understand if I am rooting for modern Mercedes cars to be good (it's been a bit of a hit-and-miss). Will this one be any good, or another duffer? Let's find out.
Exterior - cohesive, attractive and well-proportioned
Whether you're a fan of Mercedes' new design direction, you have to applaud them for trying. Personally, I haven't gravitated to the A-Class' physog just yet, but you can't argue that it's attractive. Perhaps another exterior colour would've further sweetened it for me, instead of our tester's Polar White.
In my time with the car, it attracted eyeballs everywhere it went. People would look, point and generally take a closer look. The A250 looks so sporty that at one point, my buddy asked me if it's a RWD car. I merely chuckled, but I understood why. This is in complete contrast to the BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport, which suffers from Perodua Bezza comparisons.
My favourite angle is actually the side profile, where it displays classic sports sedan proportions (long nose, short tail). Its proportions are bang on the money. Any way you look at it, the A250 Sedan (let's just call it the A250 in this review) makes the equivalent BMW 218i Gran Coupe look like an ugly duckling, all awkward and ungainly. You can disagree with me, but you're wrong (I kid, I kid).
Probably the only exterior bit that I disliked is the fake exhaust tips. Please, carmakers, I beg you, STOP DOING THIS. How hard is it to pipe the actual exhausts and integrate it with the bumper? This is one trend I cannot get behind.
Interior - One of the finest cabins, period
Let's not beat around the bush, the interior is where Mercedes does its best work, and nothing has changed in that regard. I know I threw shade at digital cockpits before, but Mercedes' execution of its one-piece, dual screen display (10.25-inches each) is pure genius. It is clear, crisp and sharp, even though there is information overload at times.
Be that as it may, I was annoyed when I saw that the MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) interface is still controlled via a touch pad. It's finicky, fiddly and distracting. Please, can we have a rotary controller? In this regard, BMW's iDrive system is definitely the one to beat.
Alternatively, the center infotainment screen is touch-capable, which is not much better since it is also an element to distract the driver. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay? Yes and yes.
The upholstery is a fine mix of Artico leather and Dinamica suede, giving off a sporty yet luxurious ambience. One would have no complaints with the selection of materials, and I didn't have any. This being an AMG Line car, the steering is of the Affalterbach variety, and it's lovely in design and to hold.
All the major touchpoints feel expensive, premium and hefty. Special mention goes to the air con vents, which really elevate the sense of occasion in the cabin. Make no mistake, this is a special interior, one that anyone would be happy to be in. Did I mention physical HVAC controls? Yes, glorious switches and not a touch screen one. Thank heavens.
If the A250's exterior makes the 218i Gran Coupe look dowdy, the interior positively makes the BMW look like it was launched a decade ago. The A250's cabin really murders the 218i's in every aspect, save for the iDrive's intuitive interface. Audio quality? Decent but don't expect audiophile levels of sound quality. For day-to-day use, it's perfectly fine.
Space wise, you'd already know what to expect of a car this size, don't you? Front occupants have not much to complain. At the rear, it does get a bit tight. There is only one tennis ball worth of both headroom and kneeroom. The boot is pretty sizeable, though, coming in at 420 litres.
Driving experience - punchy drivetrain, woolly but playful dynamics
I must admit, it was with trepidation that I approached the A250's driving experience bit. My previous encounters with modern Mercedeses resulted in slight disappointment. Why? The driving position was offset and the handling was nothing to write home about. It wasn't just me as well, many of my colleagues concurred similarly (like Shaun's recent C200 experience).
More of the same? Nope. My trepidation was completely unfounded. The driving position is still slightly offset, but much, much improved. The steering reacts with a clean, well-weighted accuracy, even if it's devoid of organic feedback. Throttle response is also up to scratch. In 90% of daily driving situations, the A250 is close to flawless.
As is the case with many modern turbocharged setups, this is very much a point-and-shoot car. Be it finding gaps in traffic, overtaking or just building up speed, the M260 engine (224 PS, 350 Nm) does all this with consummate ease. It's punchy and happy to rev out, although it runs out of puff beyond 5,000 rpm. Best just to enjoy the strong mid range urge.
It is ably assisted by the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Most of the time, it's swift, responsive and smooth enough. It still lacks the ultimate smoothness of torque converters, but we're really splitting hairs now. I didn't need to resort to using the paddle shifters, which is an indication of how good the calibration is in its default mode.
Yes, the A250 is close to flawless, but not flawless. The dual-clutch gearbox can be lurchy and slow to react in certain situations, especially when it's not warmed up yet. What it doesn't like, is traffic jams, where it's disdain for low speeds become painfully apparent.
What surprised me even more is the chassis (even though most buyers probably won't care). Putting it through a sequence of bends and high-speed sweepers revealed a slightly playful nature (I know, I can't believe it too). The A250 was happy to use its tail to help the car rotate round a corner, and that was very endearing.
Perhaps the suspension tuning and comfort-biased tyres played a part, but everytime it took a bend, body roll was apparent, the tyres felt on its tiptoes and I loved it! I imagined it to be very po-faced and locked down in understeer, how wrong I was. It may not possess the most precise handling, but boy was it entertaining. The BMW 218i will do well to match this.
The brakes, whilst immensely reassuring at high speeds, is grabby in town driving (too sensitive, not progressive). It's probably something you'd get used to over time. Finally, the engine, while being quite superb at what it does, sounds quite gruff, be it at idle or when punching the throttle.
Ride comfort - much improved, but short of supple
Another element that really impressed me is how well the A250 rides. It is literally day and night when compared to its predecessor (albeit in hatchback form), which had a ride so stiff my skin sagged a little. It's still not what you'd call supple, but it'll soothe your daily grind for sure.
Driving over bad surfaces now, it behaves like how you'd expect a Mercedes to behave, which is to soak up imperfections and round off ruts. The only blot in this package is road noise, which I would attribute to the standard-issue Bridgestone Turanza T005s. These tyres were definitely comfortable, what it is not is quiet.
On standard Malaysian expressways, the tyre roar was quite apparent. Our internal tests revealed a result of 70 dB at 110 km/h. Respectable but not the best. A tyre change could possibly improve on this score, as the rest of the car was pretty well insulated.
Fuel consumption - respectable for the performance on offer
A mix of 50% highway and 50% town driving, over a 105 km distance yielded a result of 8.7l/100km. This is a respectable score considering how punchy the engine felt. A more restrained driver can most likely return an even better score (I wasn't, for research purposes).
The fully-imported (CBU Germany) Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG Line sedan is for me, an easy recommend, but for one small issue, its price. You see, for its asking price of RM 259,255 (OTR without insurance, 0% SST) you have many other options in the market, some from even a segment above.
Yes it does many things exceedingly well, but let's face it, how many propective buyers care about how well this car handles? And would you rather be seen in a C200 (RM 251,587 OTR without insurance, 0% SST) or this A250? I'm afraid we all know the answer.
Still, I am one of those who would happily plump for the A250 (but I am an outlier) despite all the value propositions. Why? Because it encapsulates the Mercedes Benz essence better than the C200 will ever do. Moreover, the current C-Class model is at the twilight of its lifecycle, and feels its age.
At this segment, logic isn't something that always dictates buying decisions. So, is the Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG Line sedan RM 48k better than the BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport? On looks alone, yes. Buy what makes you happy, and I know I'd be happier in the A250 sedan.
Jason's foremost passion is all things automotive, where he spent his formative working years as a Product Planner and Trainer. An Advanced Driving Instructor by training and an all-round enthusiast, Jason loves going into intricate details about driving dynamics. Will drive anything with 4 wheels and a steering.