Trying new things often means keeping an open mind and accepting beforehand that you may not always like the experience. However, most of the time you’ll find that you have gained a new perspective or some new knowledge perhaps.
That’s sort of what the new Mercedes AMG A45 S is like. It’s a completely new sensation. It might still be called a hot hatch but to me that is lunacy. With the amount of power and tech in this little car, it is a far cry from the term. Hot hatches were meant to bring driving pleasure to the masses by taking a conventional bestselling hatch and then adding a bigger engine and some fancy suspension while still being reasonably priced.
Yes, the A45 has a bigger engine and improved suspension but at over $100,000 NZD, it is hardly reasonably priced. However, I am not going to criticize it for that because it has clearly been designed for a very specific type of hatch enthusiast. Right from the get go, you can tell that Mercedes didn’t just stumble upon this flaming fast hatch. It has been meticulously engineered to blow the doors of anything else that dares call itself a hot hatch. Which is one of the reasons why it has a hand-built four cylinder engine signed off by an AMG engineer, the first of its kind.
Just looking at the car, you get the notion that this hatch is pretty extraordinary and fully deserving of its AMG badge. While you can choose to have a more discreet look with no rear spoiler and less aero bits, making this car look understated would almost seem like a crime. Therefore, this Edition 1 is probably the way to go with its bright yellow paint and big rear spoiler.
You also get red brake calipers perhaps inspired by the original hot hatch *cough* Golf GTI *cough*. The 19 inch black wheels add to that wasp style colour scheme and so do all the vents, functional or not.
The A45 and this edition 1 version more specifically looks insane both inside and out. While the exterior gets black striping and decals on yellow paint, the interior has yellow details on black leather. The most distinctive of which is the yellow striping on the seats which looks fantastic by the way. Then there’s some yellow contrast stitching in the cabin along with some yellow and black decals on the dashboard to match the edition 1 colours.
The optional AMG sports seats are a little uncomfortable admittedly but if you wanted comfort then you would’ve gone for the docile A35. The 45 is meant to be brutal and it is for the most part but the interior does offer a fair bit of luxury. You get a lot of leather on the top of the dash but the lower half is filled with scratchy plastics even though this is a 100k+ A-class. Mercedes’ staple 2 screens and retro vents add some more class to the cabin. The screens control all the AMG driving modes and things, your driving modes can also be changed using the adjuster knob on the steering wheel. Other than that, there isn’t much to the interior that you haven’t seen on other AMG Mercedes’. The real point of difference is in the performance.
I’ll be honest with you and say that my GTI doesn’t have that much power. It has 207bhp and 155kW which was a fair amount back in the day but to classify as being a modern hot hatch, the magic bhp figure seems to be around the 300 mark. The fact that manufacturers can get 300 bhp out of a 2 litre single turbo engine never ceases to amaze me but then Mercedes come along with their twin scroll turbo four pot that puts out over 400 bhp and propels the hatch to 100 in 3.9 seconds. No matter what you drive, that’s fast in anyone’s books! Actually, it’s not just fast- it’s flaming fast. The A45 will not only put out lots of power, it makes a great deal of noise as you go along.
This car has been designed for the sole pleasure of the driver and nobody else, it is unapologetically brash in its ways. Obviously all that power is useless without a smart differential and drive system, good thing the A45 has both of those. The 4Matic + system offers you a rear diff with two clutches, one for each wheel. The + also means that you get an additional seventh driving mode that is drift mode. Drift mode in an AMG, ’nuff said. And of course, that 8 speed gearbox does a great job of keeping you in the power band at all times. Being in the power band means that the turbo is often engaged, a turbo so complex that it needs three different cooling systems- oil, water and air! I’d be checking my oil level often if I were you.
We’ve established then that this is a fast car but what makes it truly entertaining is that chassis. It has a go-kart like ‘chuckability’ to it. The way it handles corners almost reminds me of times when hot hatches were more about handling than power. Remember that the chassis in the regular A-Class was designed by AMG so it has to be a special underpinning for a car like this.
In the end, the A45 offers something new. It wanders into the territory of much more expensive cars while being a practical hatch but also impractical with its fat price tag. The A45 S AMG then has left me furious, furious that it has binned all the values that hot hatches were based on but at the same time, furious that it’s so damn good!
The Mercedes A45 S AMG gets a 4.5/5
Thanks for reading! Pictures and words by Matthew Dsouza