This post is written by Tyler Spears (Guest Post)
I was reading some tweets on my timeline when I saw a few guys saying something along the lines that the latest Mercedes-Benz A Class is more popular than South Africa’s favourite – the Volkswagen Golf, more specifically the GTi. Being me, and working with cars all day everyday, I raised my brow a bit because well, I didn’t believe this. Thus, I went to investigate.
Sourcing various cars sales websites like BlueChip Dealers, I found some interesting stats. Not only is the A Class in either standard or AMG version not a top selling car in South Africa, the VW Golf is way ahead of it. In the first four months of 2014, the VW Golf has sold shy of 3000 units, putting it in the top ten most popular passenger cars in South Africa. Simply put, on the hot hatch sales side, there’s nothing hot about the Mercedes-Benz A Class. But that’s not to say that the A Class is not hot on the looks side. In fact, there’s so much brilliance in its design, that the Golf doesn’t even compete.
A radical change from the bulky and very unattractive body of the previous generation A Class, sees this current rendition of Mercedes-Benz’s entry level car gaining favour among those of us looking for a ride that’s beautiful, not seen before, and definitely powerful. The last bit is worth exploring even further, because as it stands, in its AMG version (the high performance division of Merc), the A45 AMG is the most powerful hatchback in the market right now. Think about it, the awesome Bugatti Veyron (yes, that super car which some chart topping rappers made a song about in 2013) does 92kW of power per 1litre of fuel, the A45 AMG (with its 2litre engine) does a 133kW. It is, as Benz puts it, “The most powerful series production 4-cylinder engine on the planet.”
While Benz completely changed the A Class, Volkswagen took a less radical approach with the 7th generation of the Golf. And unless you’re buying the GTi or Golf R, you’re really not getting much difference in terms of looks from a Golf 6, you might as well buy that used Golf 6 actually. However, the Golf is no where near a poor hatchback, and it’s still the most popular car in its segment. It’s also a former World Car of the Year winner.
So looks and power aside, why do South Africans still buy more Golfs than the A Class? That’s a very simple answer, having have factored all the above, it comes down to price. Compared to the A Class, a Golf 7 is more affordable. Merc charges a premium for its tri-star badge, one that VW can’t really compete with. That name and badge makes VW look like a cheaper German counterpart – cheap yes, but still a superb motor vehicle nonetheless. And with South Africans’ pockets stretched to the limits nowadays, it makes perfect sense that the Golf is a better option. In fact, there are certainly other options available if you’re a hot hatch fan, for example the Ford Focus ST and Astra OPC.
Ultimately, the tweets I’ve been following about the supposed popularity of the A Class over the Golf really indicate that Merc is doing a better advertising job than VW, that’s all. Yes, Merc’s A Class is popular in daily conversation, but certainly not where it really matters – the number of vehicles sold.