In association with MotorEasy
Car of the Year Awards 2024: Hot Hatch of the Year
Hot hatches should make even the most mundane of drives feel magical. However, this ability to entertain shouldn't come at the expense of everyday usability...
Mercedes-AMG A45 S Plus
Chances are, some of you will have skipped the other categories and gone straight to this one, and that’s a measure of how strongly people feel about hot hatches. It’s an extremely emotionally charged portion of the market, close to the heart of many a motorist, who might have aspired to own one since they were a kid. And no hot hatch is more emotionally charged than the Mercedes-AMG A45 S S. You could even say it’s emotionally turbocharged.
When a new family hatchback is launched, for some it’s a non-event until the high-performance version is launched; the Volkswagen Golf R reinvigorated the Golf range, and the Honda Civic Type R did likewise for Honda's hatchback. But the A45 makes all of its rivals seem a little on the wimpish side.
The numbers speak for themselves: 0-62mph in 3.9sec was the stuff of exotic supercars until relatively recently, and 416bhp – squeezed out of a mere 2.0-litre engine – is a formidable figure. The engine is extremely responsive when you press the accelerator pedal, too; the rev counter needle whips around the dial and the A45 does the full warp factor 9 thing.
It’s very quick, then, but it doesn’t squander its power on a country road; four-wheel drive means you can deploy every bit of it. Plus, even when the standard-fit adaptive suspension is in Comfort mode (its softest), there’s very little body lean, and Sport mode reduces it still farther. This, combined with steering that weights up naturally in corners and gives you a better sense of connection with the front wheels than the Audi RS3’s, means you can place the A45 with millimetric precision.
The extra-firm Sport+ and Race suspension modes are a bit masochistic for road use, but they all but eliminate lean when you venture onto a smooth race track, on which you can also use Drift mode – which leads to sideways entertainment but wrecks tyres and is unsuitable for public roads.
The Sport + and Race modes also make the engine even more responsive, as well as tweaking the exhaust flow for a racier sound, and an Individual mode enables you to combine these settings with softer suspension.
Speaking of which, in Comfort, the ride, while firm, is far from punishing when you have a long journey to make, and the A45 is just as practical as any other A-Class. That means six-footers will have plenty of space in the front and will be fine in the rear seats too, while the boot can take a respectable six carry-on cases.
The RS3 is more civilised, but if it’s the ‘hot’ part of ‘hot hatch’ you’re after, the A45 is fire, as the kids say today.
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