Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion vs Mercedes A180 CDI ECO

25 Mar, 2014 3:24pm

Latest eco hatches appeal to heart and head. But is new Mercedes A180 CDI ECO better than Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion?

Car buyers looking to avoid high running costs have never had it so good. Manufacturers are constantly launching new models that incorporate the latest energy-saving technology, and help motorists drive down their fuel consumption.

The compact hatchback class is at the cutting edge of this charge to boost efficiency, and now Mercedes has introduced a new low-CO2 A-Class into the fray. The A180 CDI ECO is based on the standard A180 CDI, but uses tricks such as lowered suspension, skinny tyres and long gearing to reduce emissions to 92g/km and boost fuel economy to a claimed 78.5mpg.

Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion review

Mercedes A180 CDI ECO review

Against it we’ve set a pioneer among eco hatches: the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion. This was one of the first low emissions family cars, and the latest third generation promises strong emissions and economy figures of 85g/km and 88.3mpg respectively.

On paper, the Golf looks the better bet – it’s cheaper, too – but which of these eco-friendly models makes more sense in reality? Click the links above to read each review, and then read on for our road test verdict.

Head-to-head

Eco tweaks

Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion vs Mercedes A180 CDI ECO rears

These eco models benefit from lowered suspension in an attempt to reduce aerodynamic drag, plus designers have also tweaked the bodywork to smooth airflow.

The Golf features a distinctive gloss black grille panel and lower side sills, while the A180 has received a more subtle update, with a body-coloured grille. At the back, both cars have extended spoilers with special side vanes that help to channel airflow.

Economy log

These cars also come fitted with comprehensive trip computers that help you to keep an eye on your mpg. The Mercedes has a bar graph that gives live info minute by minute (below); the Golf can show fuel usage for a single trip, from when you last filled the tank or even for the lifetime of the car.

Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion vs Mercedes A180 CDI ECO readout

Options

look at the standard kit lists, and these models are pretty basic, but on options the Mercedes edges slightly ahead, with sat-nav and climate control on offer. VW’s extras are a little bit cheaper, and more packs are available.

Verdict

1st place: Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion

Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion front tracking

The Golf BlueMotion couldn’t quite match the Mercedes’ economy, but it’s a better car to use on a daily basis. It performs just like a regular version of the hatch and is beautifully built, while the six-speed gearbox makes it well worth the £280 extra over a standard 1.6 TDI.

2nd place: Mercedes A180 CDI ECO

Mercedes A180 CDI ECO front tracking

The A180 CDI ECO gave excellent economy on test, but it feels like the engine’s been strangled to reduce emissions. A vague gearbox and firm ride take the edge off a package that is otherwise appealing, thanks to its equipment list, style and upmarket image.

Figures

Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion 5dr Mercedes A180 CDI ECO SE
On-the-road price/total as tested £21,270/£21,795 £21,965/£29,705
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000) £10,486/49.3% £10,899/49.6%
Depreciation £10,784 £11,066
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £552/£1,103 £570/£1,139
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,298/£2,163 £1,246/£2,076
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 15/£319/A/£0 16/347/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £384 (3yrs/30k) £175/£440/£175
Length/wheelbase 4,255/2,637mm 4,292/2,699mm
Height/width 1,452/1,799mm 1,433/1,780mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,598cc 4cyl in-line/1,461cc
Peak power 109/3,200 bhp/rpm 108/4,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 250/1,500 Nm/rpm 260/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/fwd 6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 50 litres/repair kit 40 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 380/1,270 litres 341/1,157 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,280/535/1,000kg 1,385/465kg/N/A
Turning circle/drag coefficient 10.9 metres/0.27Cd 11.0 metres/0.26Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60k)/1yr VW 3yrs (unltd)/4yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers Variable/223 Variable/136
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 16th/25th 5th/12th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars 94/89/65/5 93/81/67/5
0-60/30-70mph 9.2/8.9 secs 11.9/11.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.4/6.5 secs 5.2/8.7 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 8.1/11.7 secs 11.7/15.6 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 124mph/1,800rpm 118mph/1,850rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 51.0/37.1/9.7m 57.3/40.2/10.5m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph 61/47/62/67dB 64/46/62/68dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 57.6/12.7/634 miles 60.0/13.2/528 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 74.3/94.2/88.3mpg 67.3/88.3/78.5mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 16.3/20.7/19.4mpl 14.8/19.4/17.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 131/85g/km/13% 126/92g/km/13%
Airbags/Isofix/park assist/camera Seven/yes/£600/£165 Seven/yes/£690/£300
Climate ctrl/leather/heated seats No/no/£375* £530/part fake/£300
Met paint/xenon lights/keyless go £525/no/£355 £570/no/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth No/yes/yes/yes £2,100/yes/£420/yes
Tyre monitor/stability/cruise control Yes/yes/£245 £320/yes/£260

Disqus - noscript

What's the point of these comparison tests? I used to look forward to them, but the VW Golf is impossible to beat it seems, except for the Seat, which is a VW.

I've driven the Golf and the A-class; in my opinion, I would choose the A-class, unless I used the boot for a stroller on a daily basis. The Mercedes is simply more special and better to drive.

I think it's about time that AE consider writing a short explanation as to what the criteria for the tests are. Certainly it seems a little arbitrary at the moment. In an economy test, one would imagine economy would be of the highest order. Furthermore, when the Golf costs 8000 pounds more than the counterpart, it barely gets a mention, but when it is the other way around it suddenly becomes more relevant.

On paper it would seem that the Golf has the better numbers, but in reality there would be too much embarrassment being seen driving the Golf, so the Mercedes wins.

Surely the Audi A3 is more likely to be the rival to the Merc?

Rather 1000 times the Mercedes. Autoexpress is too much VW Trend!!

I THINK VW PAYS!

Nothing to see here folks, just another advertising article to pay for AE salaries. We need to accept these in exchange for free reading.

Absolutely, AE is quite obsessed with VAG Group products which I feel are some of the most dreary and clinical cars available.

The A3 holds the distinction of being even more boring than these two cars.

I agree with every point you just made. Taking depreciation into account, the A-class is only around £300 more expensive. I doubt that would be a major sticking point for anyone paying over the odds for a German car in the first place.

For a while I drove the new Leon 1.6TDi and initially I liked it but after a while I realise how disappointing it was. Driving comfort is overall okay but they have got simple ergonomics wrong. On long journeys, the stitching and shape of the steering make it uncomfortable to hold and the door arm rest is rock hard and after a while actually causes quite severe discomfort at the elbow.

The engine is rattly and unrefined. The gearing is way too long which causes it to take an age to accelerate up to 70mph, even in 3rd gear.

Compare this to the older Megane 1.5dci I had driven before, and it really begs the question of whether AE know what they're talking about, or as has been said, what they're criteria actually is.

The Megane was always comfortable, very quiet, engine was smooth and felt much quicker through its silkier 6 speed gearbox. Leon probably is a little sharper but nowhere near as grippy. In day to day use, I'd prefer more grip than anything. And before people bring up reliability - not a single mechanical or electrical breakdown in almost 4 years from new until over 50k miles. This is completely subjective of course, but the Leon bored me after a couple of months - it's a lot of style and no substance whereas the latest Megane is arguably the opposite. It felt completely solid.

I have never ridden in a Leon but that particular power unit in other cars made by the group is exactly as you say. Although no fan of three cylinder engines, the replacement for the current four cylinder unit cannot help but be better (I hope).

Is the replacement the reworked version in this Bluemotion, or is there a new version being developed now?

But yes, the 1.6TDi is really appalling. I would argue that the French make the best diesels by far. For me, it's just another example of how VAG rip off their customers. If there is an automotive conglomerate out there who absolutely has the financial and technical resources, not to mention economies of scale to develop class leading cars and engines, it's VAG. Yet they have churned out an engine that falls well short in most areas compared to their rivals. If PSA, Renault or Toyota placed an identical unit in their cars, they'd get slaughtered (more than they are).

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