Mercedes A-Class hybrid review

The new Mercedes A 250 e plug-in hybrid looks set to be a winner with company-car users, thanks to its potentially very low running costs

£32,990 - £38,085
Plug-in hybrid

Pros

  • Stylish and desirable
  • Superb efficiency
  • Great in-car tech

Cons

  • Firm ride
  • Slight weight increase
  • Engine not that smooth
     
Car type Electric range Fuel economy CO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid 42 miles 202mpg 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, in both hatchback and saloon form.

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.

In the UK, the A 250 e drivetrain is being offered in both hatchback and saloon bodystyles, but only in the relatively expensive and high-spec AMG Line trim level, with a variety of available options packs. Hatchback prices range from £32,990 to £37,490, while the saloon runs from £33,585 to £38,085 – in all cases about £1,500 more than the equivalent petrol model. But we think it's a premium worthy paying for those ultra-low running costs.