Think of fast Mercedes, and visions of V8-powered saloons, estates and SUVs from its AMG performance division will instantly spring to mind. Yet the sub-brand has expanded its remit in recent years, with cars like the A 45. This pocket rocket features 2.0-litre turbo power and four-wheel drive, and is one of the fastest hatchbacks on the market.
And while there hasn’t been a pure front-drive hot hatch in the ranks, Mercedes has revised the A-Class range and included the A 250 AMG. It features the same 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine as the A 45, although it has been detuned from 381bhp to 215bhp in an effort to give the front wheels a chance of keeping control.
That power output puts the A 250 AMG just about level pegging with one of the best hot hatches in the business: the Volkswagen Golf GTI. While VW has gone through the mill in the past few months over its diesel models, there’s no doubt that the GTI is still a top all-rounder thanks to its sharp chassis and 2.0 TFSI turbo petrol engine.
However, if the A 250 AMG finds a way to have the measure of the GTI, it can lay claim to being the best hot hatch in the business.
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With its chrome-finished diamond pattern grille, sporty bodykit and red detailing, the A 250 AMG looks flashy compared to the Golf GTI.
However, it can be easily confused with lower-spec versions of the A-Class, whereas the GTI has a unique look that means it stands out from the rest of the Golf range.
Mercedes offers adaptive dampers for £595, plus a DCT auto box for £1,415, and you can add 4WD to that for £1,535. The VW has adaptive dampers for £830, and the £995 Performance Pack adds 10bhp, bigger brakes and a limited-slip differential.
The GTI badge appeared in 1976 and has been used on every generation of Golf ever since.
AMG was founded in 1967 and became part of Mercedes in 1999, while the A 45 AMG was the first small car to be launched by the brand in 2012.
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In the seventh-generation Golf GTI, Volkswagen built a gem of a hot hatch. It hits the class formula on the head by combining accessible performance and sharp handling with a practical body and refined road manners. Add in lower everyday running costs, good-value servicing, low tax bills and strong residuals, and it’s a clear winner here.
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While the A 250 AMG has the performance to match the Golf GTI in a straight line, it can’t hold a candle to it in corners. The chassis is leaden and unresponsive compared to the VW’s, and it resorts to understeer all too readily. It’s not as comfortable when you’re taking it easy, either. The A-Class looks good, but a higher list price and steeper running costs count against it.
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 208bhp
If you don’t need five doors, then the special-edition Challenge version of the Cooper S will turn just as many heads as the A 250 AMG, plus it’s an exciting car to drive. The sharp chassis will put a smile on your face, while 48.7mpg economy is an added bonus.
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 381bhp
You can get a two-year-old A 45 AMG for a similar price to the new A 250. It has four-wheel drive, a DCT twin-clutch gearbox and a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds. Just beware that running costs will be a lot higher as a result.
|Volkswagen Golf GTI 5dr||Mercedes A 250 AMG|
|On the road price/total as tested||£28,155/£28,155||£28,995/£30,925|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)||£15,739/55.9%||£11,888/41.0%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£1,231/£2,461||£1,497/£2,995|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,584/£2,640||£1,779/£2,965|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||29/£562/E/£130||31/£606/G/£180|
|Servicing costs||£288 (2yrs)||£576 (2yrs)|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/1,984cc||4cyl in-line/1,991cc|
|Peak power/revs||217/4,500 bhp/rpm||215/5,500 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque/revs||350/1,500 Nm/rpm||350/1,200 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd man/fwd||6-spd man/fwd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||50 litres/space saver||50 litres/repair kit|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||380/1,270 litres||341/1,157 litres|
|Turning circle||10.9 metres||11.0 metres|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (60,000)/3yrs||3yrs (unltd)/3yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||Variable/223||Variable/136|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||22nd/30th||11th/21st|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||94/89/65/5 (2012)||93/81/67/5 (2012)|
|0-60/30-70mph||6.5/5.3 seconds||7.0/5.3 seconds|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||2.8/3.7 seconds||2.8/3.8 seconds|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th||4.7/6.1 seconds||5.6/7.0 seconds|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||152mph/2,500rpm||149mph/2,400rpm|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||37.7/8.2/409 miles||33.1/7.3/364 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||175/139g/km/22%||197/158g/km/26%|
|Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control||£1,415/yes/yes||£1,415/yes/£260|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||Yes/£1,720/yes||Yes/part/yes|
|Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go||£540/yes/yes||£575/yes/£1,895|