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Mercedes-Benz AMG A45

£20,660£38,455
7/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Enormous ground covering ability, traction and power, faster gearbox

Against: 

Still on the firm side, very expensive
An immensely fast and capable car to drive. But Golf R remains better to drive.

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Our choice

Mercedes-Benz

A45 4Matic 5dr Auto

£37,960
N/A
41mpg
4.60s
360bhp
161g/km

What we say: 

Merc’s hot hatch has had a revamp. Now even more of a monster

What is it?

The new straight-line speed benchmark, so far as hot hatchbacks go. Noses out of joint at the upstart 362bhp Audi RS3, AMG has responded with a 376bhp A45, up from the hardly tardy 355bhp predecessor. Torque’s up 23lb ft to 350lb ft, and consequently the 0-62mph time is down 0.4secs to 4.2 seconds – a handy tenth faster than the RS3’s conservative claim. 

Merc also offers a locking front differential, adaptive suspension and an even sillier sports exhaust system this time around.

Driving

More power isn’t perversely, what makes the new A45 so much faster. It’s shorter gear ratios for third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh that graduate acceleration from ‘quite silly’ to ‘relentlessly silly’. You’ve got to be fairly brutal with the steering and throttle application to feel the front diff working – it doesn’t dominate the experience like it does in, say, an RS Megane – and this is still an understeer-first-at-the-limit kinda car. You can play with the rear with a hefty trailbrake, which is fun though. 

Adaptive dampers are welcome but don’t carry the breadth of comfort and stiffness that a Golf R offers. However, the dual-clutch gearbox beats the Golf’s – it’s faster on downchanges and doesn’t auto-upshift at the redline. The engine it is bolted to remains a monstrous thing, too. For a 2.0-litre turbo it’s charismatic and rorty, and boy, is it effective. It’s so highly tuned, it feels not dissimilar to a racing car motor. It’s really rather special indeed.

On the inside

Obviously the facelifted A-Class hasn’t changed much inside, but the A45 has seen some welcome changes. The steering wheel, for instance, is pinched straight from the AMG GT sports car. This is A Good Thing. It’s a great shape, size, thickness, and trimmed with Alcantara and cool metal paddles. It’s the cherry on the cake of an ideal driving position. 

Your passengers, already perturbed at the A-Class’s rather pokey innards and somewhat restricted view out, are likely to be less than impressed with the droning sports exhaust. AMG did wonders extracting the thick end of 370bhp from a four-banger, but the down side is an engine note that, even with the mother of all lift-off overrun chunters, isn’t quite as engaging as a Golf R or RS3’s sonorous soundtrack.

Owning

Merc’s claims of 40mpg economy are useful for sneaking the A45 under the nose of your better half, but no more than that – you don’t wring this much muscle from an ickle two-litre and expect to crack supermini-like day-to-day fuel mileage. It’s pricey to buy too – a fiver under forty grand, before the salesman attempts to seduce you with the unnecessary suspension, exhaust and differential garnish. As such, though, it’ll probably be rare, which is likely to help retained values and thus keep the finance payments in check.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
A45 4Matic 5dr Auto
4.6s 161g/km 40.9 360 £37,960
The cheapest
A180 SE 5dr
9.2s 127g/km 51.4 122 £20,660
The greenest
A180 CDI SE 5dr
11.3s 98g/km 76.4 109 £21,735

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

9/10

Porsche Cayman

£39,694£64,451
If small children aren't a key part of your life, have a Porsche Cayman. The base model is similarly priced and although not as fast, is way more satisfying to drive