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The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class plug-in hybrid looks impressive on paper, but how does it fare on the road?
LED headlights, 18in AMG alloy wheels, AMG body styling, satnav, MBUX with 'Hey Mercedes' voice activation, pre-entry climate control, 4m charging cable for wall box and public charging stations, collision mitigation alert and braking, traffic sign recognition and display
160hp 1.3 plus 102hp electric motor giving 218hp total system output
AMG Line, AMG Line Executive, AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus
Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
We have been keen to recognise the merits of the latest Mercedes-Benz A-Class at Business Car. A winner twice in its category at our annual awards, it has been able to forge ahead against an ageing but competent Audi A3 and a BMW 1 Series that always felt a little more cramped.
In 2019, it became the first car in the UK to be offered with RDE2-compliant diesel engines, which eliminated the 4% supplements on diesel - making those diesel versions more appealing from a tax perspective than its main rivals.
A new BMW 1 Series arrived late in 2019, also offering a RDE2 diesel, while a new Audi A3 was launched late in the spring, giving the A-Class much tougher competition.
But Mercedes-Benz was able to make further headway as the Audi came to market, with a new plug-in hybrid version of the A-Class.
The A 250e uses the 160hp version of the 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine found elsewhere in the range and adds a 102hp electric motor. The combined output is 218hp, giving the A 250e neat hot-hatch credentials, while the 15.6kWh battery capacity can deliver an all-electric range of up to 44 miles on the WLTP combined cycle.
The battery is water-cooled, so can sustain repeated charges over a short period. Charging time from 10% capacity at a 7.4kW wall box is less than two hours.
Combined with CO2 emissions from 23g/km, or as low as 22g/km for the more aerodynamic saloon variant, this is positive news for any drivers seeking to reduce their BIK tax liability.
The A 250e offers BIK tax at 6% for the current tax year, when many similarly priced plug-in hybrids can only achieve 10% because of a slightly lower all-electric range.
There isn't a hugely detrimental impact on luggage capacity, although it is somewhat reduced over the standard A-Class at a minimum of 310 litres for the hatchback and 315 for the saloon. But the appeal of the low company car tax will persuade many drivers to compromise, and there's an element of smoke and mirrors to luggage capacity these days, as so many cars include space once reserved for spare wheels as additional storage room and count it towards the total capacity, even though it might be rarely used.
The entry-level A-Class plug-in hybrid in the UK is the AMG Line, and it's possible to upgrade with Executive, Premium and Premium Plus packs. In standard guise, the hatchback comes in with a P11D value of £32,925, with the four-door saloon priced £595 higher.
Our Premium pack-equipped test car included Mercedes-Benz's 'widescreen' dashboard display, with a 10.25in digital instrument panel next to a 10.25in infotainment screen, among other things, but the AMG Line grade has a decent level of items as standard, including a number of active safety systems and a 10in dashboard screen.
The A-Class plug-in hybrid uses its lithium-ion battery to start the engine, instead of the traditional 12V starter, while one of the quirks to optimise packaging is the exhaust pipe ending in a centrally positioned outlet under the vehicle floor, with the rear silencer housed in the transmission tunnel.
Integrating the fuel tank into the axle installation space creates room beneath the rear seats for the battery. The fuel tank is understandably small at 40 litres, but with the charged battery being utilised often it shouldn't mean too frequent visits for refuelling.
According to the WLTP combined cycle fuel consumption is 256.8mpg, which is far too precisely linked to the official test to feel realistic, but with 44 miles of electric range potentially available from a charge, and most journeys likely to be shorter, it shouldn't be difficult to see extremely low fuel consumption.
The extra weight of the hybrid system doesn't have too big an impact on the A-Class's road manners, as it's mounted so low down in the chassis.
With 218hp in total, and the electric motor's readily available torque, the A 250e accelerates very strongly when required, making for safe overtaking.
The A-Class probably has the edge over its premium rivals in cabin design at the moment, too. And the enhanced satnav system's augmented reality arrows showing a live camera view of exits to roundabouts and the next turn needed in the route is helpful in complex road situations.
Mercedes-Benz A 250e AMG Line Premium
Residual value: 42.7%
Service, maintenance and repair: £2,556
Cost per mile: 46.7p
Fuel consumption: 256.8mpg
CO2 (BIK band): 26g/km (6%)
BIK 20/40% a month: £37/£73
Boot space: 310 litres
Engine size/power: 1,332cc plus electric motor/218hp system output