Mercedes A 250 AMG vs Volkswagen Golf GTI

5 Jan, 2016 9:30am

Can Mercedes’ new A 250 AMG dethrone one of the best-ever hot hatches, the Volkswagen Golf GTI?

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.

Best hot hatchbacks to buy right now

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.

Head to head

Design

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.

Sport upgrades

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.

Heritage

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.

Verdict

First place: Volkswagen Golf GTI

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.

Second place: Mercedes A 250 AMG

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.

Other options for similar money

New: MINI Cooper S Challenge

Price: £29,990
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.

Used: Mercedes-AMG A 45

Price: £28,756
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.

Figures

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%
Depreciation £12,416 £17,107
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)
Length/wheelbase 4,268/2,631mm 4,299/2,699mm
Height/width 1,442/1,799mm 1,433/1,780mm
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
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,351/544/1,600kg 1,415/545/1,500kg
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
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 48.5/33.7/10.4m 50.0/34.2/11.6m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 59/42/62/69dB 66/45/62/70dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 37.7/8.2/409 miles 33.1/7.3/364 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 37.7/55.4/47.1mpg 31.7/51.4/41.5mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 8.3/12.2/10.4mpl 7.0/11.3/9.1mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 175/139g/km/22% 197/158g/km/26%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Seven/yes/yes/£165 Seven/yes/yes/yes
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
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/£420/yes