Mercedes A-Class hybrid engines, drive & performance
The Mercedes A-Class hybrid is more than fast enough, but an unrefined drivetrain and unexciting handling let it down
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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).
On the downside, when you do have to call on the internal-combustion engine, you'll notice its harsh and thrashy character under hard throttle, 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.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox can feel a little lumpen, which together with a sensitive accelerator pedal can make for a strange driving experience; the gearbox changes are at their least refined when the car is operating in pure-electric mode. In our experience, the switch between petrol and electric power is smoother than the first-to-second gearchange in electric mode.
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.
Mercedes A-Class hybrid 0-62mph, top speed and acceleration
The A 250 e uses a combination of Mercedes’ tried-and-tested 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor for a combined output of 215bhp. That’s good enough for a swift 6.6-second 0-62mph time; it feels very eager, particularly from a standing start.
As with the bulk of Mercedes cars, the A-Class is easy and comfortable for the driver, but it stops short of being engaging. There’s plenty of grip and the steering feels responsive, but keen drivers won’t be impressed with the lack of feedback. The well judged suspension does a good job of striking a balance between comfort and body control, but larger lumps and bumps make their way into the cabin far too easily.
Of course, there's 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 back road may notice a slight loss of agility, it's not going to be felt when cruising down the motorway or crawling around town.
The A-Class is easy to drive, but not especially rewarding: the steering is responsive enough, but with little feedback from the road surface, while the tyres are quite noisy – seemingly amplified due to the silence in electric mode. We were a more disappointed with the ride, though, especially as our car came with Comfort suspension. It’s firm and not too uncomfortable, but other small hatchbacks ride better.
In This Review
- 1VerdictThe smallest plug-in that Mercedes makes, the A 250 e is also one of the most efficient. It's a great, if not overly exciting, company-car choice
- 2Range, MPG, CO2 & chargingThe claimed figures don’t quite bear up in real life, but the Mercedes A-Class hybrid is still very efficient
- 3Running costsPricey servicing detracts from the Mercedes A-Class hybrid's otherwise-frugal nature, which includes very cheap company-car tax
- 4Engines, drive & performance - currently readingThe Mercedes A-Class hybrid is more than fast enough, but an unrefined drivetrain and unexciting handling let it down
- 5Interior & comfortAny niggles elsewhere are put to rest once you climb inside the Mercedes A-Class – it has one of the best interiors of any small car
- 6Practicality & boot spaceThe Mercedes A-Class hybrid sacrifices some boot space to batteries, but it’s still a fairly practical hatchback
- 7Reliability & safetyA stellar safety rating should bring peace of mind for Mercedes A-Class hybrid buyers, as should decent owner feedback