The reinvented Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport takes on the latest incarnation of Volkswagen’s legendary Golf GTI on the roads of the Middle East.[Not a valid template]
Hold on to your hats, hot hatch fans. There is a wealth of fiery compacts heading the public’s way this year, some of which are coming to the Middle East, and some of which are undecided. Don’t get your hopes up for the Ford Fiesta ST, but signs are encouraging for the new Renault Clio Renaultsport.
While the French make their minds up, there are two new hatches already touched down in the region. Seems like a good time to get the new Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport together to see which is the petrolhead’s weapon of choice.
The Golf GTI likely needs little introduction, but in case you’ve been living in some sort of sealed cave, the latest GTI is the seventh incarnation of a machine that since the mid-‘70s has become an automotive legend. Once again it sports a 2-litre turbocharged engine, now producing 217bhp and attached to the now-familiar seven-speed DSG transmission. And once again it’s promising affordable excitement and precision dynamics, courtesy of a thoroughly reworked chassis. The man behind the chassis used to work at Porsche and signed off the 997-generation 911 GT3. So he should be well place to know what’s good and what’s not.
It’s time to declare an interest: so confident have I been that the GTI will be great, I’ve bought one before even driving it. Our experience of the standard mk7 Golf, together with the GTI’s long heritage, has meant I’ve been sufficiently confident that Volkswagen couldn’t possibly mess this up. At the time of this test I’ve yet to take delivery of it though, and today’s test model will be my first indication of whether my informed punt will backfire or not.
The Mercedes A250 has, I admit, got me a little worried. It looks to be a superb package, on paper at least, banishing memories of the old, slightly gawky A-class superminis that have gone before. Even after 16 years, most of the people to whom I mention the car refer first to the infamous elk test failure of 1997, when it tipped over during hard changes of direction. It’s got some negative connotations to get rid of, and such things don’t disappear quickly. Just ask Skoda.
Still, with the two cars sitting side by side in front of me, Mercedes is off to a good start. It is, to my eyes, the better looking of the two, especially with the ‘diamond’ front grille – a legacy of the 2011 Concept A-Class on which the new machine is based, and a standard feature on all models coming to the GCC. The lines are sleek and stylish, a contrast to the smart-but-conservative tweaks that form the new GTI. The A250 has been fettled by AMG, Merc’s performance arm, and thus sports revised, lowered suspension and sports seats, all topped off by a bright red crossbar on the front bumper. There’s no doubt upon looking at the A250 as to what its intentions are.