The year is 2030, every car on the road is German, and every one of those is finished in ‘Nardo Grey’. However, you see a shining light in the distance, its light blue, and what’s that? It isn’t German? In fact, it’s Korean. It’s the i30N, and it is one of the most eye-catching rally-inspired hot hatches on the road. But you’ve always driven your Mercedes, and you’ve had no issues. So, should you stick with tried and tested or try something new?
Here’s a look at the Mercedes A250e vs. the Hyundai i30N Performance
When Mercedes, in the early 2010s, decided to completely redesign the A-Class no one was more a fan of the change than myself, after being a long-suffering passenger in the awkward middle child A-Class. The new entry-level Mercedes looked like a premium product, a stylish, fresh-faced, modern hatchback, as well as a better looking car than the 1 Series or Audi A1. How-
-ever, in my opinion, at least, the all new A class got boring quickly. I don’t think the new generation that came in 2018 did enough to make the car more interesting stylistically. If you haven’t seen the most recent A-Class (you will have) and you asked me to describe it to you, I’d describe it as something like the old A-Class if it got stung by a bee.
The i30N Performance is the polar opposite of the sensible, understated a250. It’s a performance car, and it wants the world to know it. It’s got angry eyes and vents and a front lip and a rear wing. Oh yeah, and if you want it in its proper color, it is also bright blue. Stylistically, I do have a few complaints, chief of which being th-
-e fake air vents at the back. I’m not the first, and I definitely won’t be the last person to point out a hatred for fake air vents, and unfortunately, the i30N is an offender. However, it isn’t a 2016 Civic Type R-level offender, so I’ll let it go.
Both cars take different approaches, and the a250e is a sleeper of sorts. If you saw it at the stop lights, you wouldn’t give it a second look. The i30N, however, you would think you’ve accidentally entered a rally stage. For me, the Hyundai wins the styling battle as I like an eye-catching car that can back up its looks.
Both cars come with an inline-four. The Hyundai has a 2 liter turbocharged engine that produces 271 horsepower. So you’d think the Mercedes wouldn’t stand a chance with its pokey little 1.3-liter engine. However, the A-Class has a secret electric surprise up its sleeve that helps it produce a respectable 215 horsepower. I know, compared to the Hyundai, that doesn’t seem a lot, but the Mercedes still puts out competitive numbers.
The 271 horsepower Hyundai, thanks to some pretty healthy torque numbers (260 lb-ft), is capable of propelling itself to 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds. The partially electrified Mercedies is a shade slower than the i30N, reaching 60 MPH in 6.2 seconds.
However, if for some reason you don’t like a loud exhaust note to emphasize your acceleration, the Mercedes will reach 60 mph in complete silence and continue all the way to 80 in silence (providing you remembered to plug it in).
Ah, my least favorite of all car performance metrics. The ‘my dad could beat up your dad’ of the car world. To get it out of the way quickly the i30N Performance tops out at 155mph, compared to the A-Class which runs out of puff at 143mph, a statistic which will probably never matter to you in real life. At least if you own an i30N Performance and you come across an a250e in the wild you can smugly tell them, ‘My car is faster than yours’. However, if you’re above the age of 12, I’m not sure you’ll be too pressed either way.
Given the i30N is Hyundai’s most extreme hatch, it handles as you’d expect; it’s sporty and fun around corners. This is partly down to Hyundai bringing on board Albert Biermann, formerly of BMW’s M division. Something you might not expect from a rally-derived hot hatch is that it’s refined when driving from A to B. Unlike others in its class, the i30N isn’t like an excitable puppy, which makes it a car for all occasions.
Compare this to the A-Class, which isn’t AMG-tuned and feels relatively numb. It’s comfortable, but my goodness, it isn’t exciting. I do get it isn’t supposed to be as sporty or fun as the super hot A45 AMG, but come on Mercedes, a bit of fun wouldn’t have gone amiss.
I’m not going to waste your time in making you wait to see which of these two cars is more eco-friendly, as it’s the A-Class, and you know that. But I do want to talk about how impressive the numbers are from the hybrid Merc.
However, if you are looking for an i30N Performance, you’ll still be interested and probably impressed to know that, according to the official numbers, you’ll get a combined 39mpg. In real life, this will most likely translate closer to 33-35, which either way, is a very impressive number for any level of nonhybrid performance car. On open roads, Hyundai claims 50mpg, which is a very good number. Things take an expected hit in the city where the hot hatch averages around 29mpg.
However, all of this is blown out of the water when compared to A250e. With its magical hybrid abilities, Mercedes claims you can expect 200+ mpg. With this, you get 44 miles of range on electric power before your power switches to fuel. This makes it perfect for most commuters covering short distances to and from work. On an open motorway, after your electric power has given out, you can expect around 45mpg for the Renault-sourced 1.3-liter engine. This is a healthy number from such a small engine.
However, in faster motorway traffic, a con of such a small engine is noise, and not the pleasant kind, due to the amount of work the tiny engine has to do to keep up. Either way, for economy, you’d take the A-Class.
Features and Interior
If you’re looking for a place you could sit for hours on long journeys the A250e is basically the place to be, both front seats are nice and bolster-y, hugging you just enough to be comfortable around corners but not too huggy that they feel like you’re wearing a straight jacket. The 4 usable seats all have lovely Alcantara center with leather bolstering, similar but better than the previous generation A-Class.
The biggest upgrades all come in the form of infotainment. The A250e comes with a large touchscreen (10.25 inches). Higher spec models have the option of an augmented reality Sat Nav, which, in my experience, is a game changer. It provides directions in a much more clear manner than any other traditional direction services, including those of Waze or Google Maps.
The i30N Performance isn’t as remarkable inside. It has well-builtered seats, but apart from that, it’s pretty mediocre in terms of quality, with a lot of plastic and a smaller infotainment screen (8 inches). Overall, inside the i30N leaves a lot to be desired quality-wise, and I would say you get what you pay for, but paying north of £20,000 (used) you expect at least a slightly better interior.
Prices & Costs
As new, both the A250e and i30N Performance started at around the £35k mark, with the automatic variant of the Hyundai coming out as the most expensive at £36,570.
But how do they stack up on the used market?
A low mileage dealership-approved A250e will set you back around £23,000-£26,000, which I know it sounds harsh to say is, for me, a bit much. For around the same price, you can get a dealership-approved low-mileage BMW 240i. This is the car I would take out of the two.
A good i30N Performance, according to my research on AutoTrader, will set you back around the same price as the Merc. I know this sounds hypocritical, but I would buy a Hyundai i30N Performance at that price tag. Due to the hype that surrounds the car, the fact that it’s original, and it isn’t a Ford Focus ST and boy, am I glad for that. I would still take a 240i over both at the same price, apologies.
Being a hot hatch with around 270 horsepower, the i30N Performance produces CO2 emissions in the region of 163 g/Km, which makes it not the cheapest on road tax. It’ll cost you £180 per year.
However, the A-Class, being a sort of car vegetarian, only produces 32 g/Km of CO2, and you’d think that would make it cheap to tax. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong as it costs £1
Both are good cars for different reasons. But to get straight to the point, I would take the A250e every weekday at least, and that’s what the problem is with the Hyundai. It is a really good car, but it’s comparing Hyundai at full sprint to Mercedes at a fast jog, and in that race, Mercedes wins on quality and as an overall product. For performance and exterior, Hyundai wins, but the interior quality of the Merc is just so far superior.
I originally was going to declare the A250e as my winner, but then I remembered something. My first car was a Nissan Juke. I hated the Juke, but it was relatively nice inside, comfortable, and got me from A to B. I then bought a Peugeot 208 GTi and realized I was missing out on so much. You need a bit of excitement on your daily commute because it’ll stop you from going crazy. That’s what the A-Class lacks. It’s fast but not exciting by any means. I’d even argue the AMG variants aren’t particularly exciting. So, the Hyundai wins it for me.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Hyundai does next as I genuinely believe they’re the most exciting manufacturer at this moment in time, and I hope if they do release a new generation of i30N with a petrol engine and improve certain quality aspects, they have an all-around winner.