Mercedes A-Class hybrid review
|Car type||Electric range||MPG||CO2|
|Plug-in hybrid||42 miles||201.7g/km||33g/km|
In common with other premium manufacturers like BMW and Volvo, Mercedes is in the process of rolling out plug-in hybrid versions of almost everything it sells, and the latest to get the PHEV treatment is the big-selling Mercedes A-Class hatchback.
It gets the model name A 250 e, in line with larger Mercedes hybrids such as the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class. It's also early to the party, with no sign yet of the planned BMW 1 Series plug-in hybrid, the upcoming second-generation Volkswagen Golf GTE or, indeed, a new Audi A3 e-tron.
But although it's facing an open goal in terms of direct competition right now, the A 250 e is impressive enough it its own right that we reckon it won't just be bought because it's the only option.
For starters, it boasts everything that makes the regular petrol and diesel A-Class variants so appealing: sharp, modern styling, a luxurious interior and some of the most advanced in-car technology on the market right now. To that combination, the A 250 e adds the promise of ultra-low running costs – particularly for the company-car users who'll account for a lot of its sales.
It uses the same 1.3-litre, 158bhp turbocharged petrol engine as the non-hybrid A 200 model, but here there's a 101bhp electric motor and a 15.6kWh battery in order to ensure significant zero-emissions running capability and a total system output of 215bhp.
Promised efficiency figures look very good on paper: a 42-mile electric range, as well as 33g/km CO2 emissions and 201.7mpg fuel economy when you use that range in full all the time. And for company-car users, the A 250 e is in the very lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band during the 2019/20 financial year.
From a home wallbox supplying electricity at 7.4kW, the A 250 e will recharge from 10 to 100% capacity in an hour and 45 minutes. And if you can locate a public DC charger (a rare sight in the UK for the moment), then you'll be able to top up from 10 to 80% in just 25 minutes.
On the road, the A 250 e's hybrid system works very well. While older plug-in hybrids have a tendency to bring the petrol engine into play a little too readily, the car stays in electric mode even under quite strong acceleration and at fairly high speeds (up to 87mph, says Mercedes). And with a 6.6-second 0-62mph time, it feels very eager, particularly from a standing start.
Of course, there's a bit of a weight penalty to pay for the addition of the hybrid battery (in the region of 150kg), but while a keen driver on a twisty backroad may notice a slight loss of agility, it's not going to be felt when cruising down the motorway or crawling around town.
On the downside, when you do have to call on the combustion engine, you'll immediately notice its harsh and thrashy character, which seems a bit at odds with the Mercedes image. Also less than ideal is ride quality: it's never overly harsh, but some rivals – such as the Volkswagen Golf – do better in this regard.
Drivers can select from one of four driving modes in the A 250 e: Electric, Comfort, Sport and Individual. As the name suggests, Electric prioritises zero-emissions running, Comfort aims to blend the motor and engine for the most efficient overall running, Sport keeps the engine on to give you maximum power and Individual allows you to set certain parameters to your own taste.
Regenerative braking is offered in Electric mode, and its strength can be adjusted using paddles on the back of the steering wheel. One niggle is that in Comfort mode, the same paddles are used to operate the gearbox, which can cause the engine to start up when you didn't intend it to.
Exact UK specifications for the Mercedes A 250 e haven't been issued yet, but it's believed that AMG Line will be the default trim level, bringing a smart-looking bodykit, along with sports suspension and large wheels that won't do the ride quality any favours.
On the plus side, that trim also includes privacy glass, sports seats, LED lights, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry. Familiar option packs will also be offered, giving owners the ability to spec features such as larger infotainment screens, AR (augmented reality) satellite navigation and a panoramic glass roof.
We don't have an exact UK price for the A 250 e yet, either, but it's expected to come in at around £32,500 – or about £3,500 more than the petrol A 200. We think it's a premium many will be willing to pay in order to enjoy those very low running costs along with the prestige of the three-pointed-star badge up front.