Mercedes-AMG A45 review

Performance & drive

Mercedes-AMG A45 2019 rear left tracking
Review continues below...

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Let’s start with the obvious, the A45 is indecently fast. With launch mode engaged in the dry at least, there’s barely a single horsepower wasted as the car hunkers down and fires you forward like few other cars full stop, let alone hatchbacks. We didn’t have our timing gear with us, but we can fully believe that 3.9sec 0-62mph time.

That’s all very well and good, but how often do you really use launch control? More important is how it 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. There is, of course, a manual mode which is pretty faithful to your inputs, but not isn’t quite as engaging as the Civic Type R’s uber-satisfying manual gearbox. 

But don’t expect the power to arrive all of a sudden like in some heavily turbocharged cars, this is an engine that thrives on revs. Peak power doesn’t arrive until a heady 6750rpm, while peak torque arrives at between 5000-5250rpm. Don’t think of this as a hardship, though, you’ll enjoy how the turbo wakes up at around 2000rpm, and how the power increases in a linear fashion all the way to the redline. Sure, it might not sound as good as the five-cylinder Audi RS3, but it’s still pretty good for a ‘mere’ four-cylinder and makes using all the revs pleasurable.

Now, if you’re reading this thinking the A45 is a peaky monster 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 A 250 and is happy to trundle along quietly. Yes, the standard adaptive suspension is stiffer than the 250 or even the AMG A35, but only nasty potholes or manhole covers really cause it to thump. Avoid scrappy surfaces, and its perfectly liveable by hot hatch standards, proving far softer than the often jarring Renault Megane RS Trophy 300.

So, what happens when you turn away from regular roads and onto something more sinewy and interesting? Well, although its steering isn’t exactly bristling with feedback, you do get a few messages from the front tyres once you’ve got a little bit of lock on. Vitally, though, the weight feels natural and it’s a cinch to place the A45 exactly where you want it on the road.

Even in comfort mode, body lean is minimal although you can happily ramp it up to sport mode without it wanting to bounce you off the road. Not only does this reduce roll and help it feel a little keener to turn in, it starts to alter the behaviour of the rear differential. Sport + and Race suspension settings are a bit too much for all but the smoothest of roads, but thankfully you can soften it off in the more extreme modes if you want.

Despite being front-wheel drive in normal driving, the back end always seems happy to receive plenty of power to help prevent the nose running wide. Push harder and you can really feel it dig in and help steer the car out of a bend. Slacken the electronic assistants and go past sport + and into race mode, and that clever rear differential becomes even more aggressive, allowing you to neutralise any mid-corner front tyre slip with a big dollop of power. Keep your right foot planted, and it’ll even slide oh-so-slightly in a jolly entertaining manner. An Audi RS3 is nowhere near as much fun as this.

Then of course there’s drift mode. Although it doesn’t make the A45 rear-wheel drive like the bigger AMG E63’s own drift mode does, it does help the car slide sideways easily when you accelerate hard and steer into a bend. Given its propensity to destroy tyres and its unsuitability for road use, though, it’s really an interesting gimmick and nothing more.

Mercedes-AMG A45 2019 rear left tracking
Mercedes-AMG A45 2019 left front cornering
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