We take the Mercedes-AMG A45 S – the most powerful hot hatch on the market – for a spin…
It could be argued that the concept of the ‘hot hatch’ – in the traditional sense – is now in its dying days.
After all, we live in an era where a family EV is often quicker off the mark than many a performance ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car.
There are only a few genuine ‘hot’ hatches left, including the Audi RS3, Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Type R and the Mercedes-AMG A45 S – the subject of this week’s road test.
Just to recap, the fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback was launched in 2018 and facelifted at the end of 2022.
Topping the range are a pair of performance models (the Mercedes-AMG A 35 and the even-faster Mercedes-AMG A 45 S), which have now also received a makeover.
The A 45 S is the most powerful hot hatch on the market (415bhp and 369lb ft of torque) and it features the world’s most potent series-production four-cylinder engine.
The key stats say it all, because that turbocharged 2.0-litre engine means it’s capable of 0–62mph in a blistering 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 168mph.
Oh, and all that power is directed to the road via an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and AMG’s 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system.
For what it’s worth, fuel economy is a claimed 30.8mpg. And frankly, unless you possess superhuman levels of restraint, the reality is closer to 25mpg.
First impressions count and the Mercedes-AMG A45 S is a statement car.
Apart from new front and rear lights and an AMG badge on the bonnet, the update hasn’t made much of a difference to the car externally – which is no bad thing.
With its aggressive stance, lower lip spoiler, quad-exhaust pipes, front bumper canards and a massive rear wing, it oozes performance.
Inside, the first thing you notice is the driving position, which is a tad high, while the seats are on the firm side. The dashboard is shared with standard A-Class models, so there’s an impressive dual-screen set-up and a head-up display.
If you prefer things minimalist, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S may not be for you. There’s a complex twin-spoke steering wheel incorporating two mode buttons, five circular air vents and a line of climate-control switches.
There’s plenty of room up front, but those bucket seats eat into the rear passenger space, so best to try the space for size.
The 370-litre boot is about average for a family hatchback and there’s a useful 40/20/40-split rear bench.
Of course, premium materials are used throughout the interior and it’s hard to fault the overall build quality, inside and out.
Naturally, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S is a little more vocal on start-up than your average hatchback, but it’s not anti-social.
In fact, it’s really easy-going, happy pootling around town and cruising on the motorway. Put your foot down and it’s a car transformed. The exhaust note is angrier, it pumps through the gears and before you know it, you’re up to the legal limit.
Traction is prodigious, but hot hatches aren’t just about straight-line speed – it’s how they cope on more challenging roads.
And it’s here that the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S is in another league. There are a bewildering amount of drive mode settings (there’s even a drift mode), and you can tweak the steering, suspension and exhaust, but ultimately, the sportier you get the more astonishing it becomes.
With sharp, responsive steering, phenomenal cornering ability, powerful brakes and a glorious rear bias, it’s remarkably forgiving and remains unbelievably composed.
I can’t pretend to understand all the clever, technical stuff going on behind the scenes. All I know if that it works superbly. Not only does it put a smile on your face, but it leaves you yearning for more. This could be an entertaining track day weapon.
My only criticism is that the ride is firm, even in comfort mode, but it’s certainly not a deal-breaker. Sadly, the starting price of £63,285 will be for many.
Verdict: Quite simply, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S is one of the best hot hatches ever – a heady mix of power, superb driving engagement, top build quality and practicality.