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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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%|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||131/85g/km/13%||126/92g/km/13%|
|Climate ctrl/leather/heated seats||No/no/£375*||£530/part fake/£300|
|Met paint/xenon lights/keyless go||£525/no/£355||£570/no/no|
|Tyre monitor/stability/cruise control||Yes/yes/£245||£320/yes/£260|