Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG review - Incredible pace but not much fun

Antony Ingram
23 Aug 2017

Dramatic performance and plenty of grip for AMG's smallest offering, but you can find more fun for less money elsewhere

Evo Rating: 
Blisteringly quick everywhere
Not as rewarding as some slower rivals

Page 1 of 6Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG review - Incredible pace but not much fun

There are few quicker ways of getting down a twisty road in poor weather than the Mercedes-AMG A45. Its combination of four-wheel drive traction and resolutely stable chassis gives it the sort of cross-country ability that used to be the preserve of homologation rally specials.

It’s got the firepower to make the most of its mighty grip, too. The A45’s 376bhp 2-litre, four-cylinder turbo motor might not be the most potent engine to sit in the front of a hot hatch – that title is now back with the new Audi RS3 – but its 188bhp per litre is still an impressive figure.

> See how the A45 fares against the Audi RS3

Combine this performance with Mercedes desirability, quality and day-to-day liveability, and you have an appealing package. Unfortunately the poor ride and one-dimensional approach to speed all conspire against it. Few others are as fast, but several are more fun.

Mercedes-AMG A45 in detail

Performance and 0-62 time > Sports and supercars alike should be worried because the four-wheel drive A45 AMG is staggeringly fast in a straight-line. Acceleration is fairly linear, however, so it's swift rather than terrifying. Read our full thoughts on the A45's performance and 0-62 time

Engine and gearbox > Gear changes are fast thanks to the fitment of a paddle-operated seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Unsurprisingly, given the 2-litre engine's heavy turbocharging, there is some turbo lag at lower revs. Find out more about the engine and gearbox

Ride and handling > The ride is hard thanks to a very aggressive suspension setup. This does enable the car to stay planted at high speeds, but can be a little unforgiving on British roads. Read our detailed report of the ride and handling

Interior and tech > The overall layout is pleasing, but the odd touchscreen and soft touch fake carbon-fibre let the side down. Find out more about the interior and tech in the A45

Design > There's no confusing the A45 AMG with the rest of the range, 18-inch wheels, a large rear wing and winglets confirm its more aggressive nature. Read more about the A45's design

Prices, specs and rivals

A few thousand the over the £40k mark puts the Mercedes-AMG A45 near the top of the hot hatchback tree. Get a bit trigger happy on the configurator and the final price can easily read over £50k. The specification sheet suggests the super-hatch is well worth it’s considerable price tag, while the level of equipment offered goes some way towards justifying it, too. That said, it’s still a significant expenditure for a car that’s not practical enough to serve double duty as a family bus.

A small adjustment period was required to accept such pricey hatches. At one point, the A45 was the dearest of them all, but the new Audi RS3 is nigh on showroom floors priced from almost £45k. The RS3’s 395bhp output trumps the A45, as does the whole driving experience. The RS3 is now much more involving than its predecessor but still favors speed rather than immersion like many past RS Audis . Interior surfaces are nicer to touch and the cabin’s ergonomics and general quality are superior to the Mercedes.

Down a cylinder, the A45’s four-pot can’t match the Audi’s exciting and warbly five-cylinder engine note. The A45 musters great performance but fewer thrills than more conventional hot hatches. Ford’s Focus RS, for example, is more interactive (if less prestigious), while the upcoming duo of the Hyundai i30N and the new Renaultsport Megane we expect to prioritise fun and provide more excitement.

> Clicker here to read our revview of the Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy review

Still the sole rear-wheeler in the class, BMW’s 335bhp M140i is dynamically polished and engaging. The throttle-adjustable chassis demonstrates that speed isn’t everything, as is the case with the A45, and that a sweet shifting manual ‘box is only every a good thing out on the open road.

If the your hot hatch penchant must be satisfied with an all-wheel drive German product there is, of course, VW’s 306bhp Golf R. It’s an evo favourite blending fun that balances talent and performance against practicality with little trade-off. It’s not as adjustable or as involving as the BMW, nor as quick as the A45 but it has traits of both in its charter. There’s even an estate version, although this is only available with a DSG gearbox.

Our favourite Golf, and hot hatch for that matter, of the moment is the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S. It may only have two-driven wheels and two front seats but it feels as solid and as premium inside as the Mercedes and yet it’s as involving as the Megane and exciting as the Focus. Its lack of rear seats may reduce its practicality, but its talents and capabilities are beyond the reach of any other hatch back on sale.

> Click here to read our review of the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S

Then there is, of course, another four-cylinder, turbocharged four-wheel drive hyper hatch that lines up against the A45 – Ford’s £31,000, 345bhp Focus RS. Not as refined as its German rivals, but what the Ford lacks in soft touch interior furniture it makes up for with a sharp chassis and blistering pace. It has more of an edge to it than the A45 and some may find the ride a little on the brittle side, but the Focus RS is the closest to the A45 in terms of real world performance than all of the aforementioned rivals and bests many as a real drivers’ car.

Page 1 of 6Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG review - Incredible pace but not much fun

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