A few words in the Mercedes-Benz literature that accompanies the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG tell you much about the thinking behind this car: the target audience is drivers aged between 30 and mid-40s. A great deal younger than your typical AMG buyer, or any other super-saloon buyer, in other words.

The A45 – the most powerful hot hatchback yet built, and with currently the most powerful four-cylinder engine in production – is meant to open up AMG to a host of potential fans who have hitherto been denied access to the high-priced, usually V8-powered cars from Mercedes’ sporting arm. It’ll also add extra gravitas to styling kits and trim levels featuring AMG badging.

Road test editor
Despite the Mercedes being heavily turbocharged, there's not too much lag

It's unusual for a firm with Mercedes-Benz's historical heft not to be able to point to a forebear, but the 40-year-old hot hatch concept is a novel one for the three-pointed star.

The previous A-class, in seldom-seen A200 Turbo format, was blessed with a butch-sounding 193bhp from its 2.0-litre petrol engine, yet the elk-tester found it was patently unsuited to the business of boisterous driving. Consequently the smallest model that AMG previously fiddled with was probably the Mercedes-Benz SLK.

So not only is the A45 a different kind of AMG product, but it’s also a different kind of hot hatch. It's got part-time four-wheel drive system. It's also expensive. And with 355bhp, it’s a powerful hot hatch.

During the course of this review, we’ll find out if it’s also a compelling hot hatch. It will have to be if it is to justify its five-figure premium over a Renault Mégane 265 Cup, our current favourite hot hatch.