Used test: BMW M140i vs Mercedes-AMG A35 - interiors

Buy either of these two thrilling hot hatches at 18 months old and you'll save a pretty penny, but which one will put the bigger grin on your face?...

BMW M140i interior

What are they like inside?

The best interiors make you feel part of the car – important in anything designed primarily to put a smile on your face. The M140i’s low-slung seat and widely adjustable steering wheel give it the more natural-feeling driving position, although it isn't perfect: the pedals are offset to the right and its seat feels a bit shapeless and unsupportive when you’re cornering hard.

The A35’s sports seats are much better contoured, so although adjustable lumbar support isn’t available, you hardly miss it. But the range of adjustment in the A35’s driving position isn’t as extensive, so you can’t emulate the M140i’s legs-stretched-out, arms-close-to chest seating position.

Mercedes-AMG A35 interior

The M140i comes with a 6.5in infotainment screen as standard, although shop around and you might find some examples fitted with an 8.8in screen as part of a £775 (from new) media upgrade. The definition is pin-sharp and the graphics look great. The upgrade also brings a trackpad for making inputs with your finger; alternatively, you can access the system via the touchscreen or the user-friendly rotary dial. It’s one of the easiest systems to use. Our test car came with an optional Harman Kardon stereo, too (£600 from new).

As standard, the A35 has a 7.0in digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel. This has a trackpad controller that’s fiddlier to use than BMW’s neat dial controller, although you can also operate it via the touchscreen ( it was possible to upgrade to a 10.3in one from new courtesy of a £1395 pack). The screen is responsive and the menus are intuitive. Natural speech recognition is standard and works well.

BMW M140i infotainment

Seeing out the front of both is pretty easy, but the A35’s larger rear side windows and bigger rear screen grant you a better view of what’s behind. That’s not a major issue, because the M140i gets rear parking sensors as standard, although the A35 counters with a standard rear-view camera. Both of our contenders come with powerful LED headlights that you can upgrade to adaptive units for an extra charge.

Which has the higher-quality interior? Well, there’s no doubt the A35 provides more razzmatazz, thanks to its rich mixture of materials and vibrant style. The M140i, which has since been replaced by an all-new model, remember, looks stale by comparison and many of the materials used throughout don’t have quite the same upmarket feel. However, the A35 isn’t perfect, either; its heater control panel feels somewhat rickety, for example.

Mercedes-AMG A35 infotainment

You won’t feel cramped in the front of the A35, but the M140i has a fraction more leg room. Head room is also decent and similar in both – despite our A35 test car being fitted with an optional space-reducing panoramic glass roof.

If you’re more than six feet tall, you’ll find rear head room marginal in the A35, but you’d still choose it over the M140i. For starters, our M140i test car is a three-door, so getting in and out of the back is much trickier than it is in the A35. You could buy a used five-door M140i, but it’s still tighter on leg room and less able to manage three adults sitting side by side.

There isn’t much in it for boot space. Both can swallow five carry-on suitcases, but the A35’s boot is a little wider at its broadest points. It also comes with flexible 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, which you get on the M140i only if you’d paid £175 extra when new. Otherwise, you have to make do with a 60/40 arrangement.

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