Back in 2016, we got a chance to test the bonkers A45 AMG, 2016 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG – Car Review – Track Focused Breeding. To say that hot hatch was a hardcore vehicle was putting it lightly. In light of this and hearing the news that the A45 would be replaced with the A35, I was keen to see what it would be like. It was hard to think about where you could go from the A45, with backwards being the only option.
Considering how hardcore the A45 was, backwards may not be a bad idea for the new A35. As many say, less can sometimes be more.
Since the review of the A200 last year, 2018 Mercedes Benz A200 – Car Review – A better class of hatchback?. The range has grown considerably from only one variant which was the A200, to six variants. The range now starts with the A180 ($55,100), A200 ($60,900, existing stock only), A250 ($63,700), A250 4MATIC “Limited Edition” ($63,900), A250 4MATIC ($69,600) and AMG A35 4MATIC ($85,800).
Both the A180 and A200 feature the 1.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine driving the front wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The A250 4MATIC and AMG A35 4MATIC share the 1.9-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine, driving all wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission except for the front-wheel-drive A250.
There are now ten colours available; red, white, black and yellow are all standard colours available. The additional whites, black, blue, and three silvers are a $1,190 option.
Standard features across the range include 225W sound system with 9 speakers and a sub, ambient lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, climate control, satnav, wireless phone charging, directional indicators, keyless start, reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, auto wipers, 18-inch alloys, Active Parking Assist, cruise control, heated electric mirrors, LED headlamps auto lights, parking sensors (front and rear), Active Brake Assist with semi-autonomous braking function, adaptive high-beam assist, brake drying function and Hill Start Assist, 9 airbags, ABS, Blind Spot Assist, Brake Assist System, Crosswind Assist, ESP with ASR, Lane Keep Assist (active), and Traffic Sign Assist.
The AMG gets all the options from the models below it, a full list can be found on Mercedes-Benz New Zealand website. It’s standard options include ENERGIZING Comfort Control, AMG drive unit, AMG leather package, AMG performance steering wheel, sport seats, TIREFIT with electric pump and pressure loss warning system, AMG exhaust system, AMG performance brakes, AMG night package and AMG ride control.
I was really hoping that the car would be in the yellow launch colours, but it was white. Even so, it looks slick, streamlined and sporty. You can tell it’s not a base model, nice shape lines, big brakes and exhausts, front bumper diffuser and a cheeky lip tail on the boot. This was a very hot looking hot hatch indeed. If like me you loved the huge wing from the A45, you can option it on to the A35 too.
Wow, that’s where I will start. The inside of the new A-class was nice, but the A35 is amazing. The moment you’re inside it feels like a $200,000 car. The high tech twin LCD screens, minimalist and functional dash design, performance steering wheel. Stainless steel trim panels with a splash of red on the seats to scream sporty. It’s so nice that I am surprised to say that I have been in alot more expensive cars and was not excited about it.
I really linked how minimal the generic string of buttons under the central vents was. Small slim buttons that are not centre stage, but easily accessible. It really made the entire cabin feel clutter-free. Same too with the centre console, the touchpad and surround buttons were low profile sleek design, all to make the cabin feel more spacious.
The steering wheel is straight out of the S-Class, so it’s already a serious bit of kit. Easy to use swipe buttons and toggles, all wrapped up in a two pattern sporty leather number.
The driver’s dash was one of those cherries on top features. You could have the normal two dial displays, or you can switch to a rather sporty and Tron-like futuristic. It was the kind of display that made you want to interact with it, watching the gears change, the peak of the RPM and the climbing speed. I just loved how it was not the norm and still functional.
One thing that never seems to but subpar is the audio systems. Every A-Class has the advanced sound system from Mercedes-Benz. Its got a total output of 225W, featuring 9 loudspeakers, 1 subwoofer & 1 booster amplifier. Clarity is suburb, and the overall range and positioning of the speakers engulf’s you perfectly.
The seats are never a cause for concern in a Mercedes. However in saying that I did find the seats in the A45 a bit too hard, the only Merc I ever had that issue with. These seats were more what I was used to from AMG; firm, supportive, well-shaped, comfortable and stylish.
The back seats were just as good, both visually and for comfort. Space was a bit tighter for tall folk, with knees right up against the back of the front seats. I never tested it, but I could visually see that the rear-facing baby seat we were using last year for our daughter would have a tough time in this car. The passenger front seat would have to go forward a bit more than expected.
The boot is a surprisingly good size at 360 litres. It also has a larger opening compared to the previous A-Class generation. There are two handy pockets with bungee cords on each side, to stop those smaller loose items rolling around the boot.
I do enjoy driving hot hatches, of course, they have to be packaged just right, they can be exhilarating. The steering, driver feedback, performance and sound all have to be just right, something that never takes long to figure out when testing these vehicles. The interior was right on point, I just hoped the driving experience would match up to the interior.
It did not take long behind the wheel to realise that the A35 was a cheeky little thing. It has a peep in its step, and a twinkle in its headlights, as to say “Let’s do this”. Even in Comfort mode, the A35 was quick on its feet, light, nimble and accurate. The engine note also hinted at the possibility of additional performance lurking under the hood. I really liked how the car handled in Comfort mode, mainly to do with it actually being comfortable, as in many performance cars Comfort mode can still be rather stiff for day to day driving.
As it was there, I tried the ECO dynamic select driving mode. Normally I wouldn’t spend that much time on the mode as they normally make the car sluggish, forcing you to limit the throttle control. But I didn’t notice any difference to Comfort mode, which somewhat surprised me. I couldn’t even feel a difference with the engine, which made me wonder whether it was able to be more ECO than Comfort mode. This is an AMG, so econamy driving is not really its target market.
Sport and Sport+ are where the fun begins. Normally I find Sport is the mode you can use on everyday roads, as it’s not setup as hard as Sport+. With the A35, this was not the case. When in Sport mode, I found myself going straight to Sport+ on the steering wheel controller. The engine puffed up its chest, the suspension got a bit stiff, steering sharper and the noise was louder. The A35 had woken up.
Anywhere the opportunity presented itself, I switch to Sport+. Which is the true sign of an exciting, fun vehicle. The car created a cheeky smile when you drove it with purpose. Carving up the twisty back roads, accurately placing it in each corner, jumping up and down the gears as if you were some motorsport driver on a Targa stage. The feeling was amazing, and the sound was perfect. I could not fault this car during my time in it. I even kept comparing it to the VW Golf GTI 40th Edition, one of my favourite hot hatches. It did everything it could do, and a little bit more.
You can’t keep a good hot hatch down, and the market is full of them. Many floats around the $50k price tag, leaving you a lot to choose from. There are however a small number of high-spec performance hatches on the market too, right where the AMG A35 sits. Many of these hatches are good, but only some are great.
|Brand/Model||Engine||Power/Torque||0-100kph, seconds||Fuel, L/100km||Seats||Boot Capacity,litres||Price Highest to Lowest|
|Mercedes-Benz AMG A35||1.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo||225kW/400Nm||4.7||7.6||5||360||$85,900|
|BMW M135i||1.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo||225kW/450Nm||4.8||7.5||5||380||$83,500|
|Audi S3||1.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo||228kW/400Nm||4.6||6.5||5||340||$82,900|
|Volkswagen Golf R||1.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo||228kW/400Nm||4.6||7.2||5||340||$72,990|
|Mini Clubmanr JC Works||1.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo||225kW/450Nm||4.9||7.7||5||360||$67,900|
|Honda Civic Type-R||2.0l 4 cylinder turbo||228kW/400Nm||5.7||8.8||4||420||$59,900|
The Pros and Cons
LCD dash, so cool
Punchy sound system
An exciting everyday hot hatch
|Cramped in the back for tall people|
Tight for rear-facing baby seat
At first, I did not know what to expect, I had always been on the fence about the AMG A45, but it was too much to live with on a daily basis.
The A35 was packed with gadgets and the latest tech, making it feel special. The interior is perfect, the right level of sporty feel and luxury, the goldilocks zone.
Thankfully, I can say that the AMG A35 has filled the void that I never knew was there. It packs a punch, sounds great, handles like a performance car while being fun and everyday practical.
The balance is perfect for a hot hatch package. I just loved it.
2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG A35 4Matic
|Vehicle Type||High-performance Hatchback|
|Price as Tested||$85,900|
|Engine||1.9-litre, turbo inline 4 cylinder petrol|
|Transmission||7-speed AMG Speedshift automatic|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||n/a|
|Length x Width x Height, mm||4419x19922x1440|
|Cargo Capacity, litres||360|
|Fuel Economy, L/100km||Advertised Spec – combined – 7.6Real World Test – combined – 9.2Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+|
|Fuel tank capacity, litres||51|
|Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked||n/a|
|Turning circle, metres||11.54mSmall: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+|
|Warranty||Three year, unlimited kilometre, Owner Protection Plan|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 Star|