THE A-Class has done great things for Mercedes-Benz since its arrival in 2012, dominating the pointy end of the luxury small-car segment, and this mid-life update is building on that momentum by bringing new, younger conquests to the brand.
There are a few nips and tucks for the exterior and a handful more inclusions but it is under the bonnet that the most work has been done with the model tested here - the A250 Sport - a major benefactor, trading its front-wheel drive system for an all-wheel version which brings more grip and stability but also the ability to tailor your ride.
You've got to love red seat belts - so bold, brash and instantly fun.
That they are partnered with super supportive seats is a further advantage ensuring that while the interior of the A250 has not changed much, it probably didn't need to anyway.
The red is echoed in the trim, both on the seats and around the dash with the turbine air vent outlines a particular highlight.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel feels nice in the hand, the controls are logically set out and the 8.0-inch colour screen that fronts Benz's COMAND infotainment system is difficult to fault other than that it would make more sense for it to be an actual touchscreen.
The rear seat is now much more comfortable to sit on although headroom is still a compromise for taller passengers and legroom is dependent on the generosity of those in front. The boot (at 341-litres) is a bit on the small side yet even so we managed to fit a ¾ Cello in there so it's best not to complain too bitterly.
On the road
This A250 Sport is a touch more powerful, up just 5kW mind you, with torque the same at 350Nm but it the move to all-wheel-drive that is the catalyst for change.
The 4Matic system offers torque to the wheels that need it most, noticeably improving traction, which, when coupled with new adaptive suspension dampers make for an enjoyable, energetic drive.
The outgoing A250 model was high on performance but low on ride comfort but these continuously variable dampers seem to do the trick with the suspension sharp enough to stay true and flat though corners but with softer edges to add comfort over bumps even on poor roads.
Dynamic Select allows drivers to choose from Comfort, Sport, Individual and Eco modes with the transmission, suspension and steering settings changing accordingly.
Sport was our mode of choice for much of the week, with the sharper response and improved steering feel keeping our interest although Comfort is satisfying enough if you prefer a more relaxed drive.
There is no doubt you can have some fun here, whether you are bustling around town or stretching out on the highway, the A250 Sport feels accomplished under foot. The seven-speed gearbox shifts smoothly without straining for the optimum gear, handling is crisp and the all-round performance quite fabulous.
What do you get?
You are not going to feel like the poor cousin in this A250 with a host of standard inclusions featuring keyless entry with push-button start, AMG 18-inch alloys and body kit, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting and COMAND infotainment system with 8.0-inch colour screen and Apple CarPlay.
Safety is five star but cheekily you have to hand over more money for Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Prevention Assist.
The introduction of the all-wheel drive system has dropped consumption to 6.7l/100km. Warranty is three years unlimited kilometres with fixed-price servicing an optional extra.
Prospective buyers are also probably looking at the Audi A3 Sportback (from $35,900), the BMW 1 Series range (from $36,900) and even the Infiniti Q30.
The A-class as a whole has been a major success story for Mercedes-Benz in attracting younger buyers to the brand with dynamics of the A250 an advantage for more enthusiastic drivers.
The all-wheel drive system has taken away some of the sharpness and a lot of the steering feel but it has also all but nullified the tendency to stick out its rear when pushed quickly through a corner.
There is also a fair bit of road noise which can be intrusive. Like most luxury brands Benz has a number of optional packages, useful features that really should be offered as standard given the price.
You have to look closely to see the changes in the new A250 but that's hardly a hardship given the outgoing unit was so pleasing on the eye.
Designers have added new tail lights to a reshaped bumper with dual exhaust cutouts while at the front there is a more aggressive stance and re-profiled headlights. The look is understated but with enough awe to turn heads.
Benz has done well here by using the mid-cycle update to not only address some of the shortcomings of the previous model but to also ensure that this A250 Sport has at heart the practical performance that will continue to keep it relevant.
Improved ride quality certainly enhances the experience offering up fun and frivolity in a classy package.
What matters most
What we liked: Styling, improved comfort, Dynamic Select system.
What we'd like to see: Actual touchscreen, quieter cabin.
Warranty and Servicing: 3 year unlimited kilometre warranty with capped-price servicing package.
Model: Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport 4Matic
Details: Five-door all-wheel-drive compact premium hatch
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 160kW @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1200 - 4000rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed DCT auto
Consumption: 6.7 litres/100km combined
Bottom line plus on roads: From $53,500
Driving experience 18/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 18/20
Value for money 17/20
Style and design 18/20