There's a war brewing in the hot hatch segment dominated for years by VW's Golf Gti. Already, Ford has chimed into the action with a hotrod Focus ST at a very sharp price, Opel has its Astra OPC waiting in the wings and as of early March, Mercedes-Benz will be targeting the Golf with its own version of a hot hatch called the A250 Sport.
And what a car it is thanks in no small part to input from performance outfit AMG which had a big hand in A250 Sport development. Better than the current Golf?
Probably though we would have to drive each back to back to really find out suffice to say the Benz is better equipped in “standard” trim and has a lot more torque rated at 350Nm from a low 1200rpm.
The Benz also out powers Golf Gti by 10kW on overboost which achieves some 165kW over 4000rpm. A new generation Golf Gti is seven months away.
If you need any more evidence Benz has Golf Gti firmly in its sights, look no further than A250 Sport pricing which starts at $49,900 - line ball with Golf Gti spec' adjusted.
Benz offers four accessory packages with the A250 Sport that can add up to 10 grand to the price if you tick all the boxes. But you don't need to be given the level of kit provided from the ‘base’ car.
It includes 18-inch alloys. A seven speed dual clutch manumatic, reverse camera, auto head lights, active park assist, sports seats, high end audio with extensive media interfaces, nine air bags, an electric parking brake, Pre-safe crash preparation, attention assist among an extensive list.
The Sport has requisite “sporty” kit inside including red rimmed vents, a carbon fibre-look dash, sport AMG wheel and sports pedals.
It's easy to pick on the outside because of the diamond-like grille that is a defining feature of the car and the face of the stunning concept on which the new A-Class was based. There's the usual front and rear air diffusers, body aero aids and a selection of attractive colours.
That new generation engine is a 2.0-litre and will form the basis of the forthcoming AMG45 super hatches powertrain.In the Sport, it has a single turbo, direct injection and variable valve timing on the inlet and exhaust side boosting output.
The turbo is conventional not twin scroll nor variable geometry. Given this fact, the level of available performance and flexible delivery is quite surprising.
It pushes the Sport from 0-100kmh in 6.6 seconds and will consume as little as 6.6-litres/100km of premium. Drive is to the front wheels modulated by electronics to eliminate any torque steer effect under full throttle something that can cause problems with high performance front wheel drive cars.
The underpinnings feature liberal use of aluminium and some clever technology designed to deliver a high level of sporty handling and responses coupled with a satisfying drive feel. AMG spent a lot of time at Germany's Nurburgring race track refining the A250 Sport's dynamics and it shows, right down to the throttle blip on down changes.
They added stiffer roll bars to the car and dialled in more toe-in than usual to achieve what is quite stunning handling characteristics for a front drive five door hatchback. The rorty sounding exhaust is AMG tweaked, steering ratio is more direct, brake cooling is enhanced and sports stability control added to the package.
ON THE ROAD
We took the car on a searching drive near Melbourne and loved it. The firm suspension might not appeal to everyone but those who buy this car for drive feel will love it. The steering through corners is impressive, body control is flat and the engine has plenty of kick to pull the car hard out of tight corners. Big brakes make light work of repeated hard stops.
The paddle shift is quick and the three mode drive select system offers Manual, Eco and Sport covering most applications.
Blink, love it.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class A250 Sport
Price: from $49,900
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, 165kW/350Nm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch manumatic, FWD
Thirst: 6.6L/100Km, 152g/km CO2