Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Let’s start with the obvious: the Mercedes AMG A45 S is indecently fast. With launch mode engaged (in the dry at least) there’s barely a single horsepower wasted as it hunkers down and fires you forward like few other cars of any type, let alone hatchbacks. Even in the rain we managed a 0-60mph time of 4.0 seconds.
That’s all well and good, but how often do you really use launch control? More important is how the A45 AMG accelerates when you just plant your right foot on the accelerator pedal. Whether you’re stationary or moving, there’s the briefest of hesitations before the A45 rockets forward ferociously, firing through its gears swiftly yet smoothly.
Now, if you’re reading this thinking the A45 must be a temperamental beast that behaves like a bear with a sore head in traffic, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Left in comfort mode, it feels no more recalcitrant than the regular Mercedes A-Class and is happy to trundle along quietly.
Yes, its standard adaptive suspension is firmer, but only nasty potholes or manhole covers really cause any discomfort. If you avoid scrappy surfaces, the A45 AMG is actually quite easy to live with by hot hatch standards, proving far softer than the often jarring Renault Megane RS Trophy. The RS3 fitted with adaptive suspension is even more agreeable, though.
So, what happens when you turn away from regular roads and on to something more sinewy and interesting? Well, the steering isn't hyper-quick but it gives you a much better sense of connection with the front wheels than you get in the RS3. Crucially, the steering always feels natural and precise, making it a cinch to place the A45 exactly where you want it on the road.
Even in Comfort mode, body lean is minimal, and you can easily ramp things up to Sport mode to further reduce it without completely ruining ride comfort. The Sport + and Race suspension settings are a bit too much for all but the smoothest of roads, but you can opt to apply these most extreme modes to the engine and exhaust without affecting the ride.
The A45 is four-wheel drive, but the rear wheels always seems happy to receive plenty of power to prevent the nose running wide through corners.
Then, of course, there’s Drift mode. Although it doesn’t make the A45 fully rear-wheel drive, which the equivalent setting in the larger Mercedes AMG E63 does, it does help the car to slide sideways easily when you accelerate hard and steer into a bend. Its propensity to destroy tyres and unsuitability for road use mean it's really just interesting gimmick, though.