From £41,8759
Mercedes' blistering hot hatch gets a raft of changes for 2015. More power, a reworked chassis and more equipment are among the revisions

Our Verdict

Mercedes-AMG A 45
The Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG features a 355bhp turbocharged engine

AMG pops its hatchback cherry in singular, inimitable fashion

10 September 2015

What is it?

A facelifted version of the two-year-old Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG 4Matic.

The rapid five-door hatchback receives some mild exterior styling changes for enhanced aerodynamic efficiency, a lightly reworked interior with higher-quality materials, a more powerful engine, a revised chassis featuring adaptive damping and, in line with the German car maker’s latest naming strategy, a lightly altered name: Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic.

The styling changes to the most affordable AMG model are predictably subtle. There’s a reshaped front bumper with larger cooling ducts, a lightly reshaped spoiler atop the tailgate and a reprofiled rear bumper with better integrated trapezoidal-shaped chromed tailpipes. Buyers can also choose an optional AMG aerodynamic package, which adds small winglets and a more prominent splitter element to the front bumper as well as a prominent wing and revised diffuser at the rear.  

Inside, there is a newly designed tubular-shaped instrument binnacle, a revised steering wheel, front seats offering greater cushion adjustment and new trims and colour combinations. There’s also an optional 8.0in free-standing monitor, which is compatible with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink, allowing integration with a wide range of smartphones.

Under the bonnet, the A 45 gets a lightly fettled version of the existing turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, featuring mild changes to the induction, combustion and exhaust processes. Power climbs by 21bhp and torque is up by 18lb ft, raising the reserves of the transversely mounted unit to a heady 376bhp at 6000rpm and 350lb ft at 2250rpm.

The flagship of the facelifted A-class line-up also gains a revised seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with shorter third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh gear ratios, along with revised software aimed at shortening shift times.

As before, drive is sent through an electro-hydraulically operated multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system, which when combined with an optional Dynamic Plus package, includes a mechanical locking differential in place of the electronic locking differential mechanism that continues to come as standard.

Together with the mild changes brought to its driveline, the 2016 model year A 45 also features an optional adaptive damping system in a bid to improve the outgoing model’s ride quality. The new arrangement forms part of a so-called Dynamic Select system that also allows the driver to alter the responsiveness of the steering, gearbox and steering.

What's it like?

The Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic has never wanted for sheer speed or dynamic ability, but this upgraded model clearly raises the bar in both departments, making it an even more enticing and accomplished car to drive, whether on public roads or a race track.

The engine remains the undisputed highlight, now feeling even more muscular and determined than before on a pegged throttle in lower gears. Smoother qualities at the lower end of the dial and a more resolute feel through the mid-range also provide the new A 45 with a wonderfully effortless feel when hauling taller ratios at constant cruising speeds.

The 376bhp power peak provides a power-to-weight ratio of 242bhp per tonne – 15bhp per tonne more than its keenest rival, the latest Audi RS3.  

Mercedes-AMG claims the sprint to 62mph now takes just 4.2sec, which is a scant 0.1sec inside the time quoted by Audi for the RS3. To put this into perspective, the newly facelifted Porsche 911 Carrera hits the same mark in a claimed 4.6sec.

Significantly, the boost in performance does not come at the detriment of economy, which remains highly impressive. The official combined figure of 42.2mpg is the same as that quoted for the original A 45, endowing it with average CO2 emissions of 161g/km.

Accompanying the increase in raw speed delivered by the upgraded driveline is a noticeable improvement in straight-line stability. With subtle aerodynamic upgrades, including an optional rear wing that comes as part of an AMG aerodynamic package to provide a reduction in lift, the new A45 tracks with enhanced poise all the way to its 155mph top speed. The rear end is now particularly well tied down at higher speeds.

As accomplished as it is in a straight line with its throttle against its stop on a lightly trafficked autobahn, it is the way the A 45 delivers over a challenging back road that really raises eyebrows. Few cars at any price are so swift yet as accommodating from point to point on the road. Its sheer effectiveness, no matter what the weather conditions, places it ahead of many big-name supercars for outright dynamic prowess.  

Grip levels are colossal. It takes a huge cornering speed to unseat the stunning purchase of the 225/40 18 front tyres, either in the dry or wet. The inherent firmness of the dampers in anything but Comfort mode also endows the A 45 with rock-solid body control on smooth roads. There’s some roll, but it never impedes progress.

We’ll have to wait to see how it responds with a typical British B-road, but the reworked underpinnings clearly deliver improved impact qualities, so it is less prone to being thrown off line by mid-corner bumps when you’re really charging. There are also lower levels of tyre roar, making this facelifted A 45 a more accomplished longer-distance proposition.

A rotary dial on the centre console offers the choice between Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Race modes, providing it with distinctly different properties in each setting. As well as altering the damping qualities, a Dynamic Select system alters the characteristics of the throttle, gearbox, steering and damping.

The inclusion of adaptive damping serves to broaden the dynamic envelope, allowing you to dial up a far more cosseting ride than before. Greater levels of compliance have been introduced to its previously unrelenting chassis, making the A 45 a more acceptable proposition in town than before.

If there is a criticism to be level, it is the vague feel imparted by its electro-mechanical steering. There is genuine feel during initial turn-in and the overall weighting is well judged. However, there is a lack of feedback off-centre as lock is increased.

Should I buy one?

The appeal of the A 45 goes well beyond its scintillating speed and outstanding dynamic ability. Like other recent models to exit AMG’s skunkworks on the outskirts of Stuttgart, it is also a genuinely impressive piece of engineering and high on perceived quality.

Yes, £39,995 is a lot of money – £1800 more than the old model, no less. But when it is this good, it almost seems like a bargain. In years to come, we’ll look back on this new Mercedes as a car that redefined the performance hatchback ranks, bringing with it supercar-like qualities for a fraction of the price of more celebrated offerings that are slower, less engaging and of lower quality standards.  

Mercedes A 45 AMG

Location Dresden, Germany; On sale Now; Price £39,995; Engine 4 cyls, 1991cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 376bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 350lb ft at 2250rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1555kg; 0-62mph 4.2sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 42.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 161g/km, 27%  

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Comments
14

10 September 2015
Volkswagen hapless bosses must be scratching their bald heads and cursing the day that Mercedes forced an entry into this segment hitherto dominated by the ...

13 September 2015
fadyady wrote:

Volkswagen hapless bosses must be scratching their bald heads and cursing the day that Mercedes forced an entry into this segment hitherto dominated by the ...

13 September 2015
fadyady wrote:

Volkswagen hapless bosses must be scratching their bald heads and cursing the day that Mercedes forced an entry into this segment hitherto dominated by the ...

13 September 2015
fadyady wrote:

Volkswagen hapless bosses must be scratching their bald heads and cursing the day that Mercedes forced an entry into this segment hitherto dominated by the ...

You clearly are clueless to the fact that VW is producing the R 420 wih over 400 horsepower that will have you and the old men at MB scratching your bald heads as their hot hatch inhales exhaust fumes from the R 420.

16 September 2015
420 bhp GTI - oh please.....'you can put lipstick on a pig....it's still a pig'

11 September 2015
It's useful that the ride issues of the A45 seem to have been addressed, but no improvement will be able to make the cabin feel less claustrophobic. The first Mercedes Q car was the 300SEL 6.3, which was great to look at, very fast (for its day), easy to place despite its size (because all four corners are visible from the driver's seat), rode beautifully and its airy cabin was a joy to be in.

11 September 2015
brush aside a power increase of 21 bhp as "mild" nowadays. My first car only had 37 in total and I drove it to Yugoslavia and across the Apennines to Rome! We are now living in a period a bit like 60s and 70s when top models in family saloons such as the Mini Cooper and the Lotus Cortina were just as attractive to enthusiasts as any supercar - and faster in the real world. Where the current rush towards 500 bhp for hatches and 1,000+ for supercars will end I can't imagine. And all at a time when roads around the world become more and more restricted by speed limits. Weird stuff.

11 September 2015

Morning John. It's worth bearing in mind that a 21bhp hike represents a sub-6% increase here, so in some respects it is a comparatively mild hike. The RENNtech version we tested a while ago packed a staggering 452bhp and 398lb ft, for comparison. Stunning figures for a 2.0-litre engine. Be interesting to see how long it lasts, though.

11 September 2015
Or buy a Golf R and save £10k. Will be impressed if AMG has made this car compatible with broken UK roads.

11 September 2015
scrap wrote:

Or buy a Golf R and save £10k.

That extra 10k buys meaner looks and an overt crackly exhaust which may be important to some when cruising the city streets. A black R is likely to go completely unnoticed in comparison. Horses for courses, of course.

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