New Audi A3 TFSIe and Volkswagen Golf GTE vs Mercedes A250e: interiors
These plug-in hybrid family hatchbacks may be upmarket, but they promise bargain-basement running costs. Let’s see which is the best buy...
Behind the wheel
Driving position, visibility, build quality
All of our contenders have steering wheels that offer plenty of adjustment, although the A-Class’s pedals are more offset to the right than the Golf’s and A3’s. Thankfully, this doesn’t prove too uncomfortable, so the bigger issue is the fact that you have to spend £1500 on the Premium Plus Pack to get adjustable lumbar support on the A-Class. This is standard on the Golf and a reasonable £260 option on the A3.
Still, you won’t have issues with forward visibility in any of our trio, thanks to relatively slim windscreen pillars, while the side windows are a decent size too. Look back over your shoulder and you’ll find that the A3 has the thinnest rear pillars to give a slightly clearer view out, but all get rear parking sensors to help with reversing. The Golf adds standard front sensors, while the A-Class gets those and a reversing camera. These items are bundled together as part of an £1195 Driver Assistance Pack on the A3.
All three come as standard with digital instrument panels instead of traditional analogue dials. And all of these are able to show a wide range of information, although the A3’s is the easiest to configure, in part because it has proper steering wheel buttons to control it rather than touch-sensitive controls like the others.
The Golf goes even further in the wrong direction by also having fiddly touch-sensitive controls on the dashboard for the likes of the air-con and sound system; these are harder and more distracting to use while driving.
While we appreciate the Golf’s carpeted door bins to stop objects from rattling around, there are more hard plastics and cheaper materials than you’ll find in the other two. The A3’s interior isn’t quite as glitzy looking as the A-Class’s, but it feels more solidly constructed, giving it the edge on quality.
The A3’s 10.1in touchscreen is one of the better ones out there. It’s sharp and easy to see, and it’s responsive to your inputs whether you’re prodding, swiping or pinching. We appreciate the shortcut icons for functions you’ll use regularly, while sat-nav and smartphone mirroring are both standard. We do have a couple of gripes, though; we wish the screen was mounted a bit higher, and some of the icons in the sub-menus are a bit on the small side.
Opt for AMG Line Executive trim or higher and the A-Class’s standard 7.0in touchscreen is replaced with a 10.3in display that’s far clearer and more responsive, albeit still with a few small icons. It can also be controlled via a small touchpad on the steering wheel; this is a bit fiddly, but is preferable to using the bigger touchpad between the seats, because you don’t have to take your hand off the wheel. Sat-nav, phone mirroring and wireless charging are standard.
At first glance, the Golf’s fancy graphics and menus that rely mainly on images rather than text look pretty snazzy. The problem is that the system’s software is writing cheques the hardware can’t cash, proving jerky and hesitant to respond to commands, as well as being the most confusing to use. We also experienced a few connectivity glitches and situations where the system had to restart. Volkswagen has updated the software to help, but it hasn’t cracked it yet.