What Car? says...
The Mercedes AMG A35 is the cheapest proper AMG model, but still boasts some impressive vital statistics that justify the badge it wears. It's effectively a less extreme version of the AMG A45 S, which is the range-topping Mercedes A-Class.
Like that hot hatch, it’s been to the AMG tuning experts from the little town of Affalterbach in Germany, and has come back with not only a more aggressive look and four-wheel drive, but also a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine boosted to 316bhp.
Admittedly, that’s about 100bhp less than the Mercedes AMG A45 but the A35 hits back by being much cheaper to buy. What’s more, that power and a 0-62mph sprint of under five seconds means that it’s more than quick enough to worry direct rivals including the Audi S3, the BMW M135i, the Honda Civic Type R and the VW Golf R.
Better still, as well as a hatchback, the A35 is available in a version based on the Mercedes A-Class Saloon so you can choose between more rear space or a hatchback roof, depending on your requirements. Both are as fast and – thanks to their mild-hybrid engine tech – surprisingly efficient.
Does all of that mean the Mercedes AMG A35 should be your next pick of the hot hatch bunch or are you better off going for a rival – or spending more on the A45 S? That’s what we’re going to explore in this review, where we'll tell you how we rate it for performance, handling, practicality and costs.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
If the fact that the Mercedes AMG A35 packs 316bhp into a small car package sounds pretty potent, that’s because it is. Even on cold, wet roads, the A35’s official 0-62mph time of just 4.7sec (4.8sec in the saloon version) never feels in doubt. When you put your foot down, the A35 simply digs in and goes, and its four-wheel-drive system transfers all the engine's power to the road without a hint of wheelspin.
With its neutral, predictable cornering balance and superb body control, the A35 is a car that can cover ground extremely rapidly, regardless of what the weather is doing. That said, in terms of pure thrills, you’d get far more from the Honda Civic Type R because it puts you in the centre of the action. The A35, in comparison, feels like it never fully involves you in the process of hustling down a winding road because the steering is fairly numb. The BMW M135i sits between the two rivals in terms of driver involvement.
Despite a few cracks and pops from its exhaust when one of the sportier modes is engaged, the engine sounds rather tuneless – even when you rev it really hard. The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox isn’t as obedient as we’d like in manual mode either (you pull paddles behind the steering wheel for shifts). If you want something more engaging, the Civic Type R’s manual is almost unmatched.
If absolute performance is really important to you, the Mercedes AMG A45 is leagues ahead and rewards you far more when it comes to the driving experience.
More positively, in Comfort driving mode, the A35's engine settles into a distant hum while you’re cruising, the gearbox swaps ratios smoothly and ride comfort is perfectly acceptable for something this sporty. There is an awful lot of tyre roar, though, especially on a motorway.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The A35 gets plenty of racy touches added to the already spectacular-looking interior of the Mercedes A-Class. They include two AMG sports seats and an AMG flat-bottomed steering wheel with a pair of rotary switches built in. One switch is used to change driving mode, while the other has two configurable slots, allowing you to quickly switch into manual mode, turn on the sports exhaust or switch the engine start-stop system on and off.
The standard manually adjustable driver’s seat combines with plenty of steering wheel reach and rake adjustment to enable drivers of all shapes and sizes to find a comfy seating position. If you add the Premium Plus Pack, you get electric front seats with adjustable lumbar support and a memory function.
Regardless of whether you go for the hatchback or the saloon, visibility out of the front is good and narrow window pillars mean you get a great view out at junctions. Rear visibility isn’t quite as good, due to the view over your shoulder being impeded by the rear pillars. Luckily, parking is easy thanks to standard-fit parking sensors front and rear, and a reversing camera. That’s upgraded to a 360-degree camera if you go for top-spec Premium Plus trim.
Just like the standard A-Class, the A35 comes with a 10.3in infotainment screen as standard and a 10.3in digital instrument display behind the steering wheel. Sitting side by side, the two screens give the appearance of one big widescreen that stretches across more than half of the dashboard. It's quite a sight – especially at night.
When it comes to infotainment, the A35 gets plenty of features, including DAB radio, Bluetooth and built-in sat-nav plus Android Auto and Apple Carplay. If you opt for the top-spec Premium Plus version, you get a head-up display too.
Using the touchscreen is fine if you're parked, but with a lot of swiping and sub-menus to get through, it can be distracting while driving, even if you use the tiny touchpads on the steering wheel. The interface isn't quite as easy to use as the iDrive rotary controller in the BMW M135i but the menus are reasonably well laid out and the software is pretty quick to respond.
Unfortunately, the main thing that lets down the A35’s interior is the overall build quality. For example, the climate control panel flexes when you press a button, while the outer heater vent surrounds don't appear to be very well secured. Some bits of trim in our test cars buzzed too. The M135i feels much more robust.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
To put it simply, the Mercedes AMG A35 is just as practical as a Mercedes A-Class Hatchback or Mercedes A-Class Saloon (it's available in both body shapes). That means plenty of space up front for a couple of 6ft-plus adults, especially if you avoid the head room-stealing sunroof that comes with the Premium Plus trim. There's decent oddment storage too.
A couple of tall mates will fit in the back of both the hatchback and saloon, but can expect to find their knees close to the backs of the seats in front and their heads near the ceiling. Overall, rear space is broadly on a par with that of the BMW M135i so if you need to carry adults in the rear regularly, the more generous rear leg room of the Honda Civic Type R or the Ford Focus ST would come in handy.
There’s nothing spectacular about the boot of the hatchback version of the A35, but it’s roomy enough for a big weekly shop or a week away for two. In fact, when we did our carry-on suitcase boot test, it beat the BMW 1 Series by swallowing six suitcases (the 1 Series managed five), although the Civic Type R swallowed eight. The saloon version of the A35 actually has a slightly bigger boot, but the space itself is shallow and its opening is small, hindering access.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
As a cash purchase, the entry-level Mercedes AMG A35 is slightly pricier than the Audi S3, the BMW M135i and the VW Golf R but it comes with higher levels of standard equipment to justify the difference. Meanwhile, the more engaging Honda Civic Type R will cost you slightly more and that’s providing you can get your hands on one in the first place.
It doesn’t help that the A35 is predicted to depreciate slightly faster than all of those rivals. That’s something that can have an effect on PCP finance rates and could mean that the A35 retains less of your investment if you come to sell after three years.
Entry-level Executive trim comes with lots of standard equipment, including 19in alloy wheels, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, heated front seats, parking aids and touchscreen infotainment.
Even so, we’d upgrade to the mid-spec Premium trim because it doesn’t cost all that much more and adds a better stereo system and more safety features, including exit warning assist and blind-spot assist. We’d avoid the top-spec Premium Plus trim because, while it adds some extra kit, it’s quite expensive and might not cost much less than the Mercedes AMG A45 on PCP finance.
CO2 emissions are pretty competitive for something this fast and powerful, although if you use the full 316bhp very often, fuel economy will take a considerable nosedive.
The A35 wasn’t included in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but the regular Mercedes A-Class was. It didn’t fare particularly well and finished well down the pecking order in the family car class. As a brand, Mercedes came a disappointing joint 23rd (with Vauxhall) out of 32 manufacturers. Audi came 21st and BMW 16th.
Euro NCAP awarded the A-Class five stars out of five for safety in 2018. It scored higher for adult occupancy and pedestrian protection than the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series but they were tested under stricter conditions in 2020 and 2019, so it’s impossible to compare them directly.
Every version comes with a host of safety features, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, seven airbags and a driver alertness monitoring system, as well as a pop-up bonnet to help cushion a pedestrian in the event of an impact.
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As a cash purchase, the A35 looks a little pricey compared with the Audi S3, the BMW M135i and the VW Golf R – all of which have a five figure price tag starting with a four. Bear in mind that it gets more standard equipment than those rivals, though, to make up for the extra investment. Check the latest prices using our New Car Deals pages.
The A35 can sprint from 0-62mph in about 4.7sec (or 4.8sec if you go for the saloon version) before continuing on to 155mph.
The main difference is their respective levels of performance. Indeed, while the A35 is fast and grippy in pretty much any weather, the Mercedes AMG A45 turns everything up to 11.
Every A35 has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine that gets some mild-hybrid assistance. Those two things combined give a total of 316bhp and 295lb ft of torque.
|RRP price range
|£45,915 - £67,785
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|31 - 33.2
|Available doors options
|3 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£570 / £4,896
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£1,139 / £9,792