First drive: 2013 Mercedes-Benz A-Class in the UAE
After its dramatic birth back in the late 1990s as a 5-door Smart Car-alternative that went up on two wheels at the sight of a moose, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class went on to become rather popular in Europe, even though it was nothing more than a city runabout that shared the same badge as an S-Class. Of course, it never caught on in the UAE, where people prefer their luxury cars to look like, well, cars. But more than a decade later, the A-Class changes its ethos completely and comes back as a proper hatchback, apparently in search of buyers who don’t have white hair.
To appeal to that younger demographic, the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is offered only in A 250 Sport trim for now. It immediately gives off that “youthful” impression with its aggressive front fascia, featuring a large ‘diamond-encrusted’ radiator grille bearing the brand logo, sporty bumpers, big 18-inch AMG alloy rims, painted red brake calipers, and red accents on the front lip. On the side, you get body-lines that slope upwards, while the rear has a small lip spoiler and dual chrome exhaust tips.
Inside, the A 250 gets a lot of goodies as standard, such as power windows, electric mirrors, multimedia screen, navigation, CD/MP3 stereo, USB port, Bluetooth, cruise control and other features. There is enough soft-touch material around the dashboard and doors, but hard plastics in the centre console area. The red accents on the exterior carries over inside as well, with the a/c vents featuring red rings around it, red speedometer needles, red stitching on the upholstery and red seat-belts. The manually-adjustable bucket seats were comfortable enough and provided enough support during spirited driving. It gets paddle shifters behind the steering wheel and an engine stop-start function to save fuel.
The A 250 Sport comes with a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, good for 211 hp and 350 Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It can do the 0-100 kph run in a claimed 6.6 seconds, but it does not feel particularly fast, as acceleration is too smooth off the line and the exhaust note is as loud as you’d expect in a sporty car. Keep pressing that accelerator pedal and you can theoretically reach speeds of above 240 kph.
The car is easy to manoeuvre around the city thanks to its sub-compact size, and visibility is good all around. Wind noise starts to creep up at speeds above 100 kph, while road noise and engine noise are minimal. The ride quality is slightly on the firmer side, which can be felt on road imperfections, but smoothens out well on the highway.
We got a chance to test its handling characteristics on an autocross track. Body roll is minimal, and while the electric steering feels light, it is still sharp in its responses, with the tyres offering tons of grip. We could not find a button to turn off the stability control, so it kept the drama in check when pushed hard, which slightly mellowed the fun factor. What stood out were the strong brakes. One of the track exercises was to accelerate up to 100 kph and hit the brakes. We did that numerous times with our test car, each time halting to a stop very quickly and in a straight line.
Only one engine variant of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is currently being offered here, so buyers will have to depart with around Dhs 136,000 for the base A 250 Sport. That’s cheaper than the BMW 125i and only slightly more expensive than the latest Volkswagen Golf GTI. For people looking for a bit more oomph, the A 45 AMG is coming later this year, with a price-tag to match.
Keep track of the latest prices and updates in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class buyer guide.