Mercedes A45 AMG review
The Mercedes AMG-A45 is a firebreathing version of the Mercedes A-Class with over 370bhp
The Mercedes-AMG A45 is the fastest hot hatchback money can buy. Considering the (relatively) tiny 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet, the Audi RS3 rival offers lightning pace for such a modest looking car. Four-wheel drive gives added all-weather traction, while the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox delivers razor-sharp changes for effortless cross-country sprints.
Prices are high – even the entry-level car is almost £40,000 – but you get what you pay for. Quality is second to none, and of course there's that all-important Mercedes badge on the nose. The Ford Focus RS offers almost as much for quite a lot less cash, but then that's not the fastest hot hatch money can buy...
When it comes to raw power, the Mercedes-AMG A45 currently rules the hot hatch roost. The original 355bhp was momentarily surpassed by the Audi RS3, but Merc quickly responded by adding an extra 21bhp – quickly eclipsing the already bonkers 362bhp Audi.
The A45 uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, four-wheel drive and rapid-fire twin-clutch gearbox to deliver supercar-rivalling performance in a practical hatchback body. There’s no manual gearbox option but the A45 is equipped with Mercedes’ seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Buyers love the subtle styling, but for some the fact this fire-breathing hot hatch could be confused for a humble A200d will leave many a little cold. The understated body kit can be enhanced with more aggressive add-ons, though, while larger alloys feature on the options list.
The result is the fastest accelerating hatchback money can buy, but this blistering straight-line pace doesn’t come cheap, as the A45 carries a hefty price tag – even the entry-level car costs almost £40,000.
Engines, performance and drive
As you’d expect for a car wearing the AMG badge, the A45 delivers scintillating performance. Helped by four-wheel drive and launch control it will rocket to 62mph in just 4.2 seconds, the mini Mercedes feels viciously fast through the gears.
On the road, if you keep the revs high, the A45 really flies. On paper it's even faster than a Volkswagen Golf R or Audi RS3, though there's little to seperate them driving back-to-back. The Ford Focus RS is more playful, but for ultimate bragging rights, the Merc takes gold.
Happily, the uprated chassis is more than a match for the engine’s explosive performance. The suspension is lowered and stiffened, resulting in rock-solid body control, while the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive transmission delivers limpet-like traction, even in slippery conditions.
The steering doesn’t offer huge amounts of feedback, but it’s extremely precise and well weighted. As a result, the Mercedes is a devastatingly fast point-to-point machine that carries huge speed through a series of corners.
The price you pay for this incredible agility is an extremely firm ride. Only since the car's facelift has the AMG been made available with adaptive dampers. These do help somewhat, but the standard passive units are stiff at low speed and a little fidgety on motorways. On the plus side, there’s very little wind noise, while a tall top gear keeps the engine revs at a relaxed 1,800rpm at 70mph.
Mercedes-AMG A45 buyers only get one engine to choose from, but quite the engine it is. The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder gets a mammoth 376bhp and a considerable 475Nm of torque, pulling strongly right through the rev range.
It'll do 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds and hit an electronically limited 155mph. The slightly less powerful Audi RS3 takes a tenth of a second longer, while the much cheaper – but almost as fast – Ford Focus RS completes the benchmark sprint in 4.7 seconds.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
With standard stop/start and emissions of 162g/km the A45 AMG is impressively clean for a car that produces more than 350bhp.
Cleaner than the BMW M135i (188g/km), the Merc sits three tax brackets lower, although its high price tag means the cheaper BMW will cost company car drivers similar amounts of tax. An Audi RS3 – with its potent five-cylinder engine emits 189g/km.
Mercedes offer monthly direct debit fixed price-servicing deals, which make it easier to budget for maintenance, while private buyers can take heart from the fact the AMG should hold on to 53.4 per cent of its value after three years.
However, watch out for the massive options list, as getting carried away here can easily add £10k to the bill and you won’t recover that expenditure come part-exchange time.
Insurance groups start at 44 for the entry-level Mercedes-AMG A45, while the Premium specification sits one group higher. Both the Ford Focus RS and Audi RS3 fall into group 40 – so no matter which super hatch you go for, insurance premiums will be high.
The A45 will retain between 48 and 50 per cent of its value after three years, which is impressive regardless of make, model or engine. This is a highly sought-after market, though, and most rivals can match – if not beat – at A45's depreciation numbers. A BMW M135i, for example, retains between 48 and 50 per cent, while an Audi RS3 blows it out the park by holding on to 57 per cent of its value after three years. Most other A-Class models will keep around 42-45 per cent.
Interior, design and technology
If you’re looking to attract attention, the Mercedes probably won't be at the top of your shopping list. While the standard A-Class turns heads with its bold styling, the AMG fades into the background somewhat, and could easily be mistaken for a humble A180 diesel.
That said, all cars get a subtle bodykit, twin-exit exhausts and 18-inch alloys. It’s possible to opt for the expensive AMG aerodynamic Package, which adds a large carbon fibre tailgate spoiler and front splitter if you really want to be noticed.
The sporty makeover is more obvious inside, where you’ll find AMG branding for the dials, heavily bolstered sports seats, floor mats and illuminated kick plates. However, unlike some pricier AMG models, you’ll have to pay extra for the tactile metal gearshift paddles and bespoke gear selector.
Highlights of the standard A-Class interior include circular, metal-rimmed vents for the air-conditioning and the tablet-style infotainment screen mounted on top of the dashboard. And while some of the plastic trim doesn’t feel quite as upmarket as its rivals’, the A45’s cabin is solidly built.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All cars come with the standard car's iPad-style screen bolted to the dash, with the familiar Mercedes infotainment interface. It's trickier to use than BMW's brilliant iDrive system, and the sat-nav graphic leave a little to be desired. That said, the rest of the dash it wonderfully laid out with high-quality materials and decently weighted switchgear.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Given its relatively humble hatchback roots, it’s no surprise to find the A45 delivers decent practicality. The interior is roomy, there’s plenty of useful storage and the boot matches the VW Golf R for carrying capacity, offering a solid 341 litres.
Yet while the AMG almost equals the Golf for rear seat space, the combination of shallow windows, high-backed front seats and dark interior trim means the cabin feels a little claustrophobic, with limited legroom. Also, the steeply raked roofline results in a low door opening, making it hard to load and unload children into their child seats.
The compact rear isn’t a problem for occupants sitting in the front, but the thick A-pillars have the potential to cause dangerous blindspots at junctions and roundabouts.
The beauty of a hot hatchback is that they're just as easy to live with as their lesser-powered siblings on a day-to-day basis. In terms of size, the A45 sits in the same class as the Audi RS3, BMW M135i and Ford Focus RS.
It's the shortest of the lot, yet wider than all three. This gives the A-Class a squat look, but can make it slightly harder to manoeuvre in tight city streets. Visibility isn't great, and if you spend a lot of time in town, a Golf R might suit your needs better.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The A45 loses nothing to its diesel siblings in terms of head and leg room, but that's not necessarily a good thing. The back feels quite cramped due to the sloping roofline, while the small rear windows make it quite dark in the back. Leg room isn't bad, but you'll struggle to fit three across the bench for longer journeys.
The 341-litre boot isn't great in the family hatchback class, but it far surpasses the space on offer in an Audi RS3. The Audi's load area shrinks from 380 litres (in the normal A3) to 280 litres thanks to a complex diff and relocated battery, while the A45's boot remains the same despite the extra power.
The boot in the AMG A45 is exactly the same size as it is in the A200d. Fold the seats flat and you'll reveal a 1,157-litre load space.
Reliability and Safety
The latest A-Class didn't do very well in our most recent Driver Power owner satisfaction survey – placing 119th out of 200 cars in our 2015 round-up, but some of the brand’s other models put in a strong performance. The new C-Class finished a respectable 42nd, though key rivals like the Audi A3 managed a solid 27th-place finish. The dealers didn't fare to favourably, either, finishing behind Lexus, Jaguar and Porsche – but ahead of BMW and Audi.
Mercedes has a hard won reputation for safety, so it’s no surprise the A-Class received a five-star Euro NCAP rating. Every model gets seven airbags, stability control, adaptive brake lights that flash during emergency braking and Attention Assist that monitors the driver for signs of fatigue. Further safety kit enhancements to the AMG include upgraded brakes and four-wheel drive.
The Mercedes-AMG A45 comes with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty. There are plenty of dealers dotted around the country, too, so keeping your hot hatch in check should be relatively straight forward. You can extend this for extra cost.
Mercedes recommends servicing your A-Class every year or every 10,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. A major check-up is recommended at around 18,000 miles and two years. There is a good service plan with several different payment options.