Mercedes-Benz A 250e review

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If you're looking at an upper-spec Mercedes A-Class, you have to consider this A 250 e Plug-in Hybrid Saloon version, thinks Jonathan Crouch.

Ten Second Review

Mercedes introduces A-Class buyers to plug-in hybrid technology with this A 250e variant. It can travel up to 44 WLTP-rated miles on a single charge that can be completed from 10-100% in just an hour and 45 minutes from a 7.4kW garage wallbox. And the 1.33-litre petrol engine and 75kW electric motor produce a sprightly 215hp total output, yet a super-low 25g/km CO2 reading. In short, if you can afford it, this Mercedes is easy to like.

Background

The forthcoming and ever-more stringent European emission regulations are going to cost manufacturers not well advanced in electrification an awful lot of money in punitive fines. Mercedes though, now has plenty of electric tech on offer to drive down its group CO2 reading. Its EQ Power brand covers almost every kind of electrification, from mild hybrids and full-EVs in the company's larger models to the space-efficient plug-in hybrid powertrain that fits into this maker's more compact cars. It's that latter PHEV tech we're looking at here, specifically as applied to the Stuttgart manufacturer's smallest model, the A-Class.

The model in question, the A 250 e, shares the same plug-in powertrain as the GLA, the B-Class and the CLA, a set-up that right now just happens to be amongst those setting the segment standard. But can it here justify a significant price premium over conventional petrol and diesel A-Class variants? Let's take a look.

Driving Experience

The powerplant on offer here is much as we first saw it back in 2020, expect that a slightly larger battery is fitted (up from 15.5kWh to 16.0kWh usable), which means a slightly higher EV operating range of 48-51 miles (up from a maximum of 44 miles before). As before, the PHEV powertrain is based around a 1,332cc petrol powerplant that manages to put out as much as 218hp. That figure combines the 160hp of this model's 1.33-litre powerplant with a 75kW electric motor linked to that new lithium-ion battery. These power sources collectively generate a pretty potent system pulling power figure of 450Nm. So, not surprisingly, performance is sprightly, 62mph dispatched in just 7.5s en route to 143mph. You have to have front wheel drive and an 8-speed 8G-DCT dual clutch auto transmission. Of most interest to a potential PHEV buyer though, will be that projected WLTP all-electric driving range figure we mentioned earlier. Obviously, you won't get anywhere near that figure if you regularly approach the quoted all-electric top speed of 87mph.

An 'Electric' drive programme keeps the car in battery drive unless the accelerator pedal's kickdown function is used. In the 'Electric' programme, the energy recovery level can also be selected via paddles behind the steering wheel. The paddles on the steering wheel enable the selection of five different recuperation levels ('DAUTO', 'D+', 'D', 'D-' and 'D--'). The usual additional 'Comfort', 'Sport' and 'Individual' mode settings are also available. According to the given requirements, the driver is thus able to give priority to electric driving, place the emphasis on driving dynamics or give preference to combustion mode in order to save electric range, for example.

Design and Build

This A 250 e's PHEV set-up now only comes with the A-Class Saloon body style - and, as before, it's been all very cleverly packaged. An innovative exhaust system layout explains the need for a relatively minimal reduction in boot capacity compared with a conventionally-engined A-Class Saloon model (332-litres, as opposed to 405-litres normally). The exhaust ends in a centrally positioned outlet under the vehicle floor, with the rear silencer housed in the transmission tunnel. Integrating the fuel tank into the axle installation space creates additional room beneath the rear seats for the high-voltage battery. Otherwise, it's much as it would be in any other A-Class Saloon. Visual differentiators as to this variant's plug-in status are limited to subtle badging.

Inside, the cabin is unchanged, save for extra 'Electric' and 'Battery Level' menus in the MBUX infotainment system. As with any A-Class, in standard spec, you get a couple of 10.25-inch infotainment screens - one in front of the driver for the instruments and a centre-dash one for the infotainment functions. And in the back? Well a six-footer might still struggle a little to sit behind another adult of similar height but overall, there's significantly more room for knees and legs than you might expect.

Market and Model

Mercedes has now decided that this A 250 e plug-in should only be offered with the saloon A-class body style. And the brand has priced this model at about £4,000 above an A 200 d diesel, so you're looking at needing from around £41,500 with base 'AMG Line Executive' trim, around £43,000 with mid-level 'AMG Line Premium'-spec and around £46,500 with top 'AMG Line Premium Plus' trim.

Standard kit across the range includes LED headlights, heated front seats and Thermatronic two-zone air conditioning. Infotainment's taken care of by a couple of 7-inch screens that feature the MBUX multimedia system with its 'Mercedes me' connectivity and the 'Hey Mercedes' voice-activated virtual assistant.

Even base 'AMG Line Executive' trim includes 18-inch AMG 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels, privacy glass, an AMG body styling kit, ARTICO/DINAMICA sports seats with red contrast stitching and carbon interior trim. Disappointingly, you have to stretch to pricier 'AMG Line Executive' spec to get basics like front and rear parking sensors and smartphone integration, a trim level that also includes wireless charging and a 10.25-inch central media display combined with a 10.25-inch instrument cluster.

Cost of Ownership

The 16.0kWh battery can be charged with AC or DC current via a socket located in the right-hand side wall of the vehicle. This A 250 e can be charged at a 11kW charging station with alternating current (AC) within 1 hour 15 min from 10-100%. Using an 11kW wallbox, it'd be one hour and 45 minutes. Keep everything charged up and Mercedes reckons that 90% of regular commuting journeys can be completed without using the petrol engine. One important comfort feature is the pre-entry climate control prior to starting a journey, which reduces energy usage and can also be activated conveniently by smartphone. The quoted WLTP combined cycle fuel figure is between 282.5 and 353.1mpg and WLTP CO2 emissions are rated up to 19g/km. That means a 8% BiK tax rating; compare that to 30 or 31% for a conventional diesel or petrol-powered A-Class.

The MBUX infotainment system assists the driver in finding charging stations. Just start a search simply by saying "Hey Mercedes, find charging stations nearby". Via the 'Mercedes me Charge' system, drivers of this plug-in hybrid model can optionally obtain access to one of the world's largest charging networks, with over 300 different operators in Europe alone (municipalities, car parks, motorways, shopping centres, etc.). Thanks to navigation, Mercedes-Benz customers can find these stations easily and can gain convenient access to the charging stations via the Mercedes me Charge card, the Mercedes me App or directly from the car. No separate contracts are necessary for this: apart from simple authentication, customers benefit from an integrated payment function with simple billing after they have registered their payment method once. Each charging process is booked automatically. The individual charging processes are clearly listed in a monthly invoice.

Summary

The engineering here is compelling: if you were shopping further up the A-Class range, it's certainly difficult to see why you'd buy an A 200d diesel variant for the same sort of money as is being asked here. It's just a pity that Mercedes doesn't feel able to offer this technology with its lowest, most affordable trim level - or now with the hatch body style. Still, you pay for plug-in sophistication and it won't escape the attention of the growing number of buyers in this segment that an A 250 e will now go nearly 20% further on an electric charge than a rival Volkswagen Golf GTE.

As usual with Plug-ins, there's lots to like about the PHEV formula if you can afford the asking price for it; superb refinement, clean emissions that lead to super-low BiK taxation and the appealing prospect of largely fuel-free commuting mileage. Ultimately, it's all about whether you can justify the up-front cost. But we still think this A 250 e could make more sense than a conventional model once you add up whole-life costs on a finance deal. And in return for that outlay, you'll get a premium package in return.

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