Although much less so nowadays, like many self proclaimed petrolheads, I’m still reticent about EVs. There’s something unnatural about a vehicle that doesn’t roar into life upon start -up, EVs just seem anti-climatic. Same goes when on the move, silence is not what I want to hear when heading towards treble digits. BUT, I must confess that the Mercedes-Benz NZ’s new A250e would be my preference over its standard, fossil-fueled, A250 sibling.
Don’t panic, I haven’t gone all tree-hugging and spiritual just yet, and the pick of the A-Class litter for me is still by far the AMG 45, however, for everyday life and realistic expectations, the A250e is a real standout.
My review model came in Denim blue with Macchiato beige interior, it’s a nice combination that certainly, interior wise, is a welcome break from regular black – not so sure it’s a good option for those with kids or fur babies though.
What’s unusually usual about the A250e is its exterior, rather than making this PHEV outwardly different from the Mercedes range of vehicles (just because it’s electrically powered), the differences are subtle. There’s an EQ power badge on each front wing, the 19-inch wheels are more aerodynamically designed and there are two refuelling flaps, petrol and AC/DC.
Of course the powertrain is different too, Under the bonnet lies a 1.3L turbocharged ICE engine (118kW/250Nm) and a 75kW electric motor, combined they offer up 160kW and 450Nm. 0-100km/h is just 6.6 seconds and it provides a fuel-efficiency of just 1.6L/100km (yes you read that correctly). On top of all that, the 15.6kWh battery gives you around 60km of EV only range which is probably more than enough for your daily commute.
The interior is virtually the same as an ICE powered A-Class hatch, with extended screen, ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control and expected Mercedes cabin refinement. The differences would include an EQ logo on the instrument cluster upon entry and an EQ section on the infotainment screen to assist with charging times and see what’s what with things such as power distribution.
I picked the PHEV up from Mercedes-Benz Auckland and the two range gauges displayed 475km in petrol and 58km in EV, more than ample for the week ahead (I’ll get to that in a moment).
The A250e’s drive itself does take a little getting used to. If I’m honest, the way the hatch switches between ICE and EV is a little less refined than I would have expected and feels slightly ‘hiccupy’ and the brakes take a bit of getting your head around. Sometimes the regenerative slows you down reminiscent of Adaptive Cruise Control (other times not) and then it’s a pretty abrupt stop after that.
Let me tell you what’s going on. The techs at MB have actually been really smart, even when not in Adaptive Cruise, the brakes are linked to the radar system and monitoring the traffic ahead. So when you take your foot off the accelerator and ‘coast’ towards the vehicle in front, if the system thinks you’re heading along too fast (so potential for impact) it applies the regen brakes for you. If you’re matching the speed of the vehicle ahead, then it will happily coast – hope that makes sense.
Aside from that, the A250e drives like an A-Class only the ‘off the mark’ speed feels quicker and (in the wet) there’s an extensive use of the traction control light – it’s a lot of power for those front two wheels with eco tyres. There is a bit of road noise that enters the cabin but I guess I’m comparing it to the E-Class that I drove last week.
I ended up using the new hatch a lot for the week, including two trips to the Matakana area and a return trip to the airport. The result was that I needed to fast charge the A250e four times – but only when I happened to be near a Vector free charger (the joys of having a petrol tank back up). The 30-minute limit is essentially long enough to fill the battery and enough time for a barista-made coffee.
Despite being a little lumpy, the drive in the Mercedes-Benz A250e PHEV is good. The speed is quick and (once you understand what’s going on) the braking is smarter than ever. People didn’t gawp at my futuristic design or my ‘I’m saving the planet attitude’ and I didn’t have a single concern about range or being stranded anywhere. In fact (without venturing anywhere near a petrol station) I returned the hatch with more fossil fuel range (524km) than when I picked it up, you’re welcome Mercedes NZ.