The engine, mostly. This, it could be argued, is Mercedes’ answer to the VW Golf GTi and this is our first taste of it on British roads.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine with 190bhp, which gives it 46bhp more than a regular A200 — so it’s similarly powerful, similarly priced and, on paper at least, similarly fast to the hot Golf. Spring and damper rates are revised and the anti-roll bars are a bit thicker than the A200’s, too.
What’s it like?
Because peak torque comes in at just 1800rpm, and continues all the way to 4850rpm, this is a very flexible engine. The power delivery is then linear to the 6000rpm red line and free from turbo lag. Unfortunately, the engine doesn’t sound very special, lacking the aural excitement of hotter hatchbacks’.
The uprated suspension gives more grip and less body roll than in an A200, but not significantly more enjoyment. The rest of the driving experience also contributes to the mature feel, although there is some torquesteer if you’re liberal with the throttle in lower gears.
At least the interior is well constructed and offers comfortable seating for five.
Should I buy one?
Probably not: this is the best-driving petrol-engined A-class, but the most expensive turbodiesel is still cheaper. And if you want a proper hot hatch, you’re still better off with a Golf GTi or a Ford Focus ST.