Motoring:

Review: 2019 Mercedes-benz A250

BY: Sana Panjwani
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A250 is a technology game-changer. Oasis Living took the hot hatch for a weekend spin – and a conversation
Luxury is a given when it comes to any Mercedez-Benz model, especially when the brand's slogan is "the best or nothing". It isn't a surprise then when the global automobile marque rolled out a hatchback of the highest order — the five-door hot hatch A250.

Sporty and sleek

On its exterior, the A-Class model boasts a grey matte finish as its paint job, bearing the look of a smooth pebble that you can't help but run your fingertips across. The car's flat design features subtle creases and is coupled with a sporty look afforded by large, pointy headlights, smaller backseat windows and two exhaust pipes hinting a powerful engine.

Looks can be deceiving though so it's worth noting that the two exhaust pipes are simple embellishments. How do I know? I stuck my hand in.

We all know that it's what is on the inside that counts though, and the A250 does not disappoint. A first glance shows seat designs resembling those found in race cars, further elevating the sporty look the hot hatch is aiming for. The inside is also larger than one might expect considering the compact feel of the car from the outside.

Inside, along with the turbine-like air conditioning vents, ambient lighting strips and the brand-expected elegance and sleekness, there lies a long panel stretching from behind the steering wheel to the middle, varying from a 14 to 20.5-inch display depending on your model. The panel's display splits in two, one featuring the dashboard and the other the general control systems of the car.

The steering wheel is home to a set number of buttons and two finger pads as well to control each individual panel display while driving but the screen is touch-sensitive too, and there is a touch-pad control system placed in between the driver and passenger seat as well.

Oddly enough, among the sleek controls, you will also find silver toggles scattered about for quick changes in the car's dynamics, climate control, volume and such - valuable inserts but the design doesn't translate well with the overlying aesthetic and ends up looking cheap in comparison.

Hey Mercedes

Sporty, shiny, luxurious and other adjectives aside, the A250 might have come off as a glorified hatchback had it not come equipped with the brand's new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system which premiered earlier this year in January.

Fundamentally, it's Siri in your car. A quick "Hey Mercedes", or a press of a button on the steering, will be met with the car's artificial intelligence system inquiring how it can help. You can ask her to open or close the sunroof, switch on/off the reading light, direct you to a specific destination, play a certain station or specific song, place calls and plenty of other fun things.

The system is intuitive, learning in the background during user interaction and can then list suggestions for proposed radio stations or destination stops as well. It's highly user-friendly as it minimises distractions from the road by allowing you to rattle off certain commands - nothing that impacts the motions of the car though like rolling down windows, indicating, or switching on headlights. You can, however, state that you feel hot or cold and the system will accommodate accordingly.

There are a few hitches though. Accents can be a small issue as can foreign words. Asking the car to direct me to Dubai didn't work, for instance, but after physically typing in the destination, it pulls up a clear map. However, it isn't real-time, and it doesn't vocalise the directions. If you take a wrong turn, the system is quick to map a new path.

Another exciting feature is the augmented reality function which is supposed to pull up an AR video of your surroundings while navigating and display it alongside your map.

I say supposed to as I wasn't shown the video to the degree I was expecting (according to my research online) but I was shown road lines. This provides a visual aid to reduce your chances of missing a turn - an excellent feature for Dubai, undoubtedly.

One thing I found was that the system responded to the call of "Mercedes" as well which led me to believe that the "Hey" wasn't needed. I experimented by using different forms of greeting ahead of "Mercedes" but received no response. Likewise, if I casually dropped the word Mercedes in conversation, the system did come to life.

The system also has a knack of subsiding once it takes care of one task which is a tad irritating as you must keep calling out if you need a few things altered in the system.

If accidentally called, a simple 'Nevermind', 'Nothing' or even 'Shut up' works but I advise against abusing your AI just in case the computers do rise against us one day. Better to play it safe.
Conversing with the AI had its annoyances as well then but it's hard to not appreciate the technological stride made - a definite game-changer and an exciting feature to look forward to in future series.

Other quirks tech-savvy drivers will appreciate are NFC wireless charging, seat kinetics which adjust automatically throughout your journey (for the passenger seat as well) and the option of the safety features Mercedes-Benz offers such as auto-steering, lane assist, parallel parking, attention assist and such.

This car is not one for the technophobes.

Under the hood

The engine is as good as can be expected from Mercedes-Benz but it does let out loud revs when accelerating quickly. Its gripping is not the best either, but the A-Class isn't meant for zigzags and quick turns. The average driver will be satisfied with its performance unless they're looking to squeeze every last bit of its power out, that's when they'll find the gears to be slow to shift at times.

Most models are FWD but AWD is also available. The car is a huge step-up from its predecessor and for an entry-level Mercedes-Benz, it packs a lot of content and will be attracting new buyers. If you're looking for a sporty-looking, tech-savvy car that gets you from one spot to another in optimum comfort, then the A250 is a good place to start.
 

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