2013 Hot-Hatch Comparison: Golf GTI vs. BMW 125i vs. Volvo V40 vs. Mercedes-Benz A250

By Chris Aaron | December 31, 2013
2013 Hot-Hatch Comparison: Golf GTI vs. BMW 125i vs. Volvo V40 vs. Mercedes-Benz A250

Undeniably, they’re four of the latest and greatest everyday-friendly hot hatches in the market right now, and I’ve personally been privileged enough to have a go in all of them throughout the year.

Now, it’s time to break it down for you, to see which one of these RM200k+ cars is really what I’d personally spend on. First up…

Volvo V40

2013 Volvo V40 Cross Country – Score: 7/10

The RM198,888 Volvo V40 itself has an inspired look about it. In fact, ever since the new design language first took shape in the XC60 concept in 2007, and then the S60 and V60 models in 2010, the writings were on the wall for the V40’s superb design. And then, you throw in its Cross Country package – seen here with protective body panels and sportier and bigger alloy wheels – and things just go nuts (in a good way) for the most affordable car here.

The V40 Cross Country packs quite a bit in the way of speed as well, sorting out its 100km/h dash in 6.9 seconds. A valiant effort, but managing all that speed is a bit tricky in the Cross Country. Beyond 130km/h – if you dare it – the Cross Country takes away your confidence to go any quicker, courtesy of the ‘floaty’ ride which bobs the car along. This Volvo is quick in a straight line, but doesn’t do the performance stuff too well – best leave it as the ‘premium’ hatch it inevitably is, and leave the fast stuff to the rest. Speaking of which…

BMW 125i

2013 BMW 125i – Score: 7.5/10

Drifting its way into our radar next is the RM238,800 BMW 125i, which if you haven’t realised yet, is the only RWD car of the segment! And boy is it quick. The 2.0-litre TwinPower mill is fantastic, and goes toe-to-toe with the best, with ease.

Unfortunately, the new F20 1-Series isn’t exactly the most beautiful of the lot; it’s not bad, just that it sits in a different league from the Mercedes-Benz and the Volvo.

On the bright side, it does have a very comfortable ride which your aging bones will thank you for, and it doesn’t get lost in translation when it comes to handling speed. The 125i isn’t the fastest car here around a corner, but it’s certainly one you want to live with daily.

The biggest drawbacks of this BMW is that is seems to have been stripped of too many creature comforts. If you think the 316i is watered down, you’re in for a bigger surprise when you find that the 125i doesn’t even have rear speakers – let alone things like a rear-view camera. By comparison, the A250 Sport has an epic audio system, and everything else you come to expect in a premium hatch.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI – Score: 9.8/10

The new Mk7 GTI has been the ‘car of cars’ for me this year. Not only does it have all the performance you could ask for and more, it’s the ideal city slicker: soft, comfy and spacious one second; hard, ferocious and overtaking the other.

And there’s no compromise between its modes either. Set the car’s profile to ‘Sport’ mode, and it’ll go toe to toe with the biggest and baddest of its kind: we mean it; on a track, the Golf GTI is a fantastic machine.

Likewise with the everyday demands, the Golf GTI is just as good as a daily car, with its spaciousness, drivability and comfort being way ahead of the competition.

Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport

2013 Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport – Score: 8/.510

For just a bit more money than the 125i, the RM238,888 Mercedes-Benz A250 is my personal pick: it looks fantastic inside and out, has loads of refinement and quality, and it’s quick enough to get your heart racing. The A250 Sport is for me, the car of the year.

But, there are two notable setbacks. For one, it rides very hard: the suspension is stiffer than your passengers love you – great for the track, not so much for every day. Being a little selfish, I don’t quite mind it actually. Because for one, it all comes to life when it’s time to hammer the throttle, and two, all is well from the moment you step out of your car to see what you’ve just arrived in.

The second setback is with a waiting list that goes on forever, last I’ve heard. And even then, I’d much rather be on that waiting list, than not.

Verdict: Here’s what we think…

So there you have it. Which of these would we personally recommend? Well, that’s really down to what you come to appreciate in a car of the sort. The V40 Cross Country has the most attractive price here, costing nearly RM40,000 less than the similarly priced i125 and A250 Sport. And it’s not a bad overall package – it looks great, rides cosy, and has enough power to boot.

The 125i is comfortable to drive daily, and has lots of power – as the brand typically suggests. Unfortunately, for RM238,800, I don’t feel pampered enough by what’s supposedly a premium hatch, and it doesn’t even come close to looking as good as the rest here.

The Golf GTI is fantastic to drive everywhere, and is probably the best of both worlds, lacking nothing neither here nor there. It just doesn’t have enough flash in its frying pan to stand out in a crowd.

Where I’d personally spend my money is on the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport. The suspension’s a lot harder and doesn’t exactly bask your passengers with comfort, but I really couldn’t care with a car that looks this fantastic, has this much power, corners this flat, and is equipped so well. To think it only costs RM88 more than the BMW, is mind boggling. Pity there’s a pretty lengthy waiting period for one.

AboutChris Aaron
As much as the next guy, I love a good Lambo or Prancing Horse; but the minimalist lightweights are what really get me. I believe the hydrogen fuel-cell - not electricity, will replace petrol (if it ever does need replacing) one day, and that everyone needs to spend at least one day of their lives on a track day.

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