Plug-in hybrid member of A-Class family gains faster charging but loses hatchback option

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If you want a Mercedes-Benz A-Class that you can plug in, then you’ll now have to plump for the Saloon bodystyle. As part of a mid-life refresh, the hatchback version of the A250e plug-in hybrid has been dropped, which seems an odd decision – until you look in the back.

One compromise of the A250e hatch was that the relocation of the fuel tank and the packaging of the battery system significantly reduced the size of the boot. That’s less of a problem with the saloon because it has more space in the back on the standard model, so even with all that plug-in gubbins you can still cram in 332 litres of stuff. And even with the fixed roof and notable boot lip of the Saloon bodystyle, it’s still quite easy to get even big objects into the storage area.

Classic five-spoke 18in alloy wheels come as standard on entry level A250e models, with higher trims now getting 19in versions

When the A-Class A250e was first introduced, it helped give the firm something of an edge over rivals BMW and Audi, since they didn't have similar compact plug-in hybrid models. But with the push to full electric gathering pace, is there still such appeal to a posh pliug-in hatchback? After all, that head start didn't move it to the head of its class, even by default. And with an increasing number of EVs on the market, PHEV models no longer enjoy such an edge in company car tax that the A250e’s electrified powertrain afforded when launched.


The A-Class line-up at a glance

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The Mercedes-Benz A-Class range is as broad as you would expect for a high-volume compact model – broader, perhaps, due to the presence of the AMG-developed A35 and Mercedes-AMG A 45, which exist in stark contrast to the A250e tested here.

One thing the range does lack, however, is an all-electric offering, and while Mercedes has produced an electric B-Class in the past, there’s no sign that a zero-emissions A-Class EV will appear soon.


mercedes benz a250e 2023 02 tracking rear
Mercedes-Benz A250e rear

Having arrived in 2018, the fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class is now a familiar enough sight on Britain’s roads that we needn’t dwell on its appearance in any great detail, although the mid-life facelift as part of this update helps ensure it looks as desirable in 2023 as it did at launch.

There's a new 'star' pattern to the radiator grille, the addition of notable bulges on the bonnet and a revised bumper. The headlights have also been flattened in appearance, although it's LED lights are optional, and do not come as standard. Still, the total effect is to keep a familiar but decent looking car feeling fresh.

LED ‘High Performance’ headlights are standard fare on AMG Line Premium models. Range-topping cars get jazzier lights still, but these are plenty strong enough

In terms of powertrain, for this A250e PHEV Mercedes has paired a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine (which it developed with the Renault-Nissan Alliance) with a small electric motor, and they combine to drive the front wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Together, these two sources of propulsion endow the A250e with a system output of 215bhp, while the electric motor’s 243lb ft of instantly available torque complements the 170lb ft the petrol engine develops at 1620-4000rpm.

Power for the permanently excited synchronous electric motor is stored in a 16kWh (gross capacity) lithium ion battery that has been squeezed in beneath the rear seats. Mercedes has had to shuffle various bits and pieces around to make way for the battery, so the fuel tank has been shifted backwards – taking up a bit of that boot space – and shrunk slightly to 35 litres. Meanwhile, the exhaust system ends at the centre of the car rather than at the rear bumper, while the silencer is housed in the transmission tunnel.

While the powertrain and battery are unchanged for this mid-life update, the charging speed has improved. On the WLTP cycle, Mercedes says the A250e can cover 44 electric-only miles before needing to be charged back up again. Previously, the A250e used a 7.4kW on-board charger that.

That was competitive for the PHEV's launch in 2020, but the class has progressed fast. Mercedes has reworked the system with a new 11kW on-board AC charger that allows for a 10-100 per cent charge in 1hr 15mins.

The A250e offers an official electric-only range of 48 miles, although it was closer to 40 in our real-world testing. And ignore the ridiculous official economy figure that is commong with most PHEV models: in the real-world, with careful planning of your hybrid power it’s easy to exceed 50mpg on motorway journeys.

As for suspension, the A250e gets the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear configuration that appears on cheaper versions of the regular A-Class, and its springs and passive dampers are configured for comfort rather than sporty driving. Mercedes claims a kerb weight of 1680kg, with the battery accounting for 150kg of that figure. 


mercedes benz a250e 2023 03 driving

The interior has also received a reworking as part of this facelift, although it will feel very familiar if you've ever spent time in an A-Class – or any other current Mercedes model, for that matter. The biggest change for 2023 centres around the infotainment, with the latest version of the MBUX system, which is twinned with the firm's new sport steering wheel that features a range of haptic controls for quick access to functions.

The A-Class presents you with a cabin to admire: one of high perceived quality, fairly rich and lavish materials and plenty of ritzy technology in quite a particular vision of modern luxury that is easy to buy into. The generous use of glossy black plastic and satin chrome trim in the car won’t please everyone, and some might quibble that the cabin’s underlying quality isn’t any better than that of many other compact models. But most drivers will, we’ll wager, be impressed by the upmarket ambience they find.

Infotainment display can convey as much information about the state of the battery, and the mode of powertrain operation, as you’re likely to want.

The cabin is a broadly practical and comfortable one, too, with a couple of familiar A-Class caveats. The ‘integrated’ front sports seat design means you don’t get separate, adjustable head restraints (although the A-Class isn’t the only offender on that score these days), while the oversized interior door handles eat into knee room a bit unnecessarily and can even trap your outboard leg if you’re not careful when closing the rear passenger doors.

The A250e’s interior is just like that of any other Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The packaging of the car’s batteries and power electronics does rob the saloon boot of some space, although there's still a decent amount of storage for a car of this class. You're also prsented with a decent loading area, although the fixed boot does mean getitng larger objects in isn't as easy as it would be with a hatch. But lower the rear seats – a fiddly process, given the controls to do so are located in the boot – and you'll have ample storage space.

The A250e is offered in only AMG Line Executive trim and upwards. Even entry level models get sports seats and AMG-branded mats, while upgrading to AMG Line Premium adds advanced climate control, illuminated door sills and a 10-speaker audio system. The top-spec trim is AMG Line Premium Plus, which adds a panoramic sunroof and a 360-degree reversing camera, among other options.

Mercedes A-Class infotainment and sat-nav

Initially, only higher-spec A250e models featured the top versions of the MBUX infotainment system, but now every model comes with twin 10.25in screens – for the infotainment and digital driver info display – as standard.

High-spec models also gain its ‘augmented reality’ navigation prompts (which we thought gimmicky and borderline distracting at first but eventually warmed to a little). A 225W ‘Mercedes advanced’ sound system is also included – something our test car had – and it has all the power most reasonable adults would want.

The navigating logic of the infotainment system is easy to get along with. With the latest version of MBUX the firm has removed the touchpad input device, which isn't great news if you like to have physical controls instead of jabbing a screen. That said, once you've adjusted to them the thumbpad scrollers on the steering wheel spokes work well and the navigation system responds well to voice commands once you learn the order in which it prefers destinations to be input. All A250es have mirroring for Android and Apple phones.


Mercedes-Benz A250e 2020 road test review - charging port

The A250e’s powertrain is an intriguing one for the interested driver, as those of PHEVs often tend to be. It has plenty of outright power and lots of accessible torque when operating in Hybrid mode.

With an electric motor making useful power and torque itself and positioned upstream of the eight-speed automatic gearbox (so that it benefits from the car’s gearing at higher speeds), it also offers good performance when running in Electric mode, which survives a trip to the national speed limit without coming up particularly short on power or forcing you to rouse the car’s reciprocating pistons unless you mean to.

The charging port is located just above the rear wheel arch on the offside of the car. The fuel filler is directly opposite on the nearside.

However, for those drivers who aren’t so interested in how the car is doing what it’s doing but would rather it just got on with doing it well, the A250e might begin to disappoint. At times, the gearbox can be slow to shift, and frustratingly so when you’re trying to snag reverse quickly during a hurried reverse park or three-point turn. At other times, it’s the stark contrast between the refined operation in evidence when the engine is off and the eruption of noise when the engine suddenly needs to start – and to rev – that rather explodes the bubble of luxurious calm that the car might otherwise inhabit.

Unfortunately, the 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine that Mercedes chose for this car isn’t the greatest. It’s reasonably quiet and economical at a cruise, but it can be noisy and coarse at revs. It is, at least, fairly economical, which means that once the car’s electric-only range (44 official miles here turns out to be more like 35 in the real world, depending on usage) has been used up on your daily commute, you might still average better than 55mpg in ‘range-extended’ running – which, among PHEVs, is not to be sniffed at.

The car’s biggest driveability failing, however, is the regrettable unpredictability of its braking system. A brake energy management system in the car automatically blends its trailing-throttle ‘recuperation’ settings up and down based on information that it’s getting from the navigation system and its forward sensors in a bid to slow you down at just the right pace and time for roundabouts and junctions, and to help you scavenge energy in heavy traffic.

However, the worst consequence is that every time you come off the accelerator and on to the brake pedal, you do so with a little trepidation, not quite knowing exactly how much ‘engine braking’ retardation and subsequent pedal ‘bite’ you’re going to get – and that just makes the car harder to drive smoothly than it should be.


mercedes benz a250e 2023 02 tracking rear

It’s a fact that any other Mercedes-Benz A-Class you buy with the A250e’s power level would have lowered sport suspension, or four-wheel drive, or both. A heavy, 215bhp version of the car with neither of the above is never likely to represent Mercedes’ hatchback at its dynamic best, less still one with tyres most likely chosen more for their lack of rolling resistance than their adhesiveness.

Much as it might come as a surprise to anyone spending upwards of £40,000 on a compact saloon, that’s where the A250e starts in this section. It does at least handle benignly enough and in a stable and ultimately contained fashion, but you’re aware of its weight while steering it around tighter bends, waiting for that perceptible moment when its chassis settles laterally as you do.

Handling is reasonably benign, but body control is loose at times and the car feels ponderous in slow corners; ride is fairly comfortable but disappointingly noisy with it

Lateral body control isn’t actually too bad in outright terms – not least, you suspect, because Mercedes deliberately chose tyres that wouldn’t challenge the car’s suspension too much. But vertical poise is pretty poor, with bigger inputs disturbing the car’s levelness quite markedly and the car taking a long time to return to equilibrium after crests and over cambers.

Along with the quite meek mechanical grip level, there comes a slight untidiness to the handling when hurried out of a bend or away from standing – exacerbated by the fact that you don’t have precise control over powertrain response, of course. But understeer can rear its head even in steady-state cornering if you dare to rein back the car’s electronics or press it along a bit.

Comfort and isolation

The A250e does all right in one of these respects, but less well in the other. Mercedes’ decision to stick with the A-Class’s ‘comfort’ suspension for this derivative does at least make it fairly comfortable both at low speeds and high. It settles to a calm, easy motorway cruise and has plenty of compliance over bigger lumps and bumps around town.

More’s the pity, therefore, that the car’s ride is surprisingly noisy, resonant and occasionally abrupt with it. Coarse asphalt tends to cause quite a roar in the cabin – this might again be an unwanted side effect of hardish-compound, economy-minded tyres – while sharper ridges and bits of raised ironwork certainly thump their way through. If you didn’t already know that the car’s chassis was operating near the edge of its comfort zone due to the car’s outright mass, this apparent lack of isolation might well tell you anyway.

Aside from the limitations of the integrated headrests mentioned earlier, the driving position is good. The seats are comfortable, with extendable under-thigh support for longer-legged drivers, and plenty of outright driver leg room is available.

Assisted driving notes

The A250e has a lane-keeping system, a driver monitoring system and an active brake assist crash mitigation system as standard. However, you'll have to pay extra for Mercedes’ Driving Assistance package to get a car that can change lanes by itself on the motorway, can employ braking intervention to prevent you from wandering into the path of a car coming head on or at a T-junction, and can automatically adopt temporary gantry speed limits.

Our test car didn’t have it – and although it had all the necessary sensors to make an operating active radar cruise control, it didn’t have one of those, either. The radar-based recuperation system is one whose regrettable influence on the car’s driveability we cover below. We couldn’t easily find a way to deactivate it, although there might be such an option buried deep in a driver assistance menu.

Thankfully, the lane-keeping and automatic emergency braking systems are easier to turn on and off.


mercedes benz a250e 2023 01 tracking front

As we’ve seen, the A250e uses an usually large battery pack, and yet as a hatchback, it’s considerably lighter than the many saloon and SUV plug-in hybrids on sale. The 44 miles of claimed electric driving range that result from this combination of factors will sound very alluring for those who commute less than, say, 30 miles each way to work, and with the ability to charge at home or work, or both, it would certainly be possible to run the A250e like any other hatchback, except with meagre fuel bills.

Another advantage of the plug-in tech is that, with such low official CO2 emissions, company car drivers will enjoy a low benefit-in-kind rate: just 8%. And now that plug-in versions of the Golf and Audi A3 have been discontinued, the Mercedes also sits some way ahead of comparable cars in terms of depreciation. When we first road tested the pre-facelift car in 2020, our forecasts showed that after three years and 36,000 miles, the A250e will have retained 44% of its value, compared with 35% for the Mini Countryman Cooper S E Sport, and the (now discontinued) Hyundai Ioniq PHEV lags even further behind. This, of course, will be especially beneficial for those intending to buy on PCP finance.

With premium rivals now out of the picture, the Merc’s residuals easily better those of alternatives like the Mini Countryman and Hyundai Ioniq

In terms of day-to-day use, the only ergonomic caveat the A250e carries over its saloon range-mates is the slight fall in boot capacity, as a result of the electronics that sit beneath the floor.



Mercedes Benz A250e static

Although the A250e Saloon has a performance level that could be described as athletic, it is somewhat let down by loose body control and irksome driveability quirks. But it depends on what you're looking for: it's a comfortable cruiser on motorways and for long journeys, and the relaxed feel marries well with the upmarket interior.

While other models in the A-Class line-up are more dynamic, thanks to that 44-mile electric range rating delivered by its usefully large battery pack and the benefit-in-kind tax liability that confers, the A250e might be the only version that really interests you – especially if you're a company car driver.

Falls some way short of a rounded ‘premium’ driving experience

For someone keen to move progressively towards the electrification of their daily motoring but not ready for a full battery-powered machine just yet, the A250e could deliver a useful incremental step. It has a genuine 30-something-mile range and good, usable performance during electric running, plus it can be charged quite quickly and its electric driving characteristics can be adjusted to suit your personal tastes. That said, at the rate of progression of pure electric technology, you might be better just evaluating makiong the switch wholesale.

Those still waiting to dip a toe into the world of electromobility could do a lot worse than to dip it in the A250e’s direction. If you do, however, do so knowing you’ll be getting a car that misses at least as many dynamic standards expected of a Mercedes as it hits.


James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport, autosport.com, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets.