Driving the first-generation Mercedes-AMG A 45 in 2013 was an intense, noisy, brutal experience and I loved every bone-shaking, ear-bleeding moment of it.
But I’m older now, married and have children, and while this is also an intense, noisy, brutal experience I now prefer cars to be less like a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week continuous cage fight. So, I was surprised to find the new-generation A45 S has grown up a bit, too.
So, like me, is the new Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+ not as quick as it used to be, and does it have a dad bod, now, too? Far from it. If anything, it’s matured into the serious weapon of a hot hatch it was always supposed to be.
Mercedes-Benz A45 2020: S 4MATIC EDITION 1
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Is there anything interesting about its design? 9/10
When I went to pick up the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+ I walked right past it and then like that lost and confused John Travolta in Pulp Fiction internet memes, wandered around before asking where the car was.
That’s because I was looking for something with a gigantic spoiler on the roof and probably hi-vis green with stripes. But the car assigned to me was the A 45 S in its standard form, and the styling is subtle enough for it disappear into a crowded car park like James Bond into a lavish dinner party.
But like Bond, chances are the A 45 S is the most hardcore person in the room, it just doesn’t walk in announcing it to everybody.
You can option the 'AMG Aero Package', which will add a giant rear wing to the roof.
Look closely and you'll see that the A 45 S is not just another small prestige car. There’s the 90mm quad exhaust poking out of the chunky diffuser, the giant 'Panamericana' grille, and the angry looking front apron.
Then, there are the 19-inch matt black alloy wheels wrapped in low-profile Michelin rubber and enormous brake discs with their red calipers, all barely contained by the pumped up front wheel guards which are much bigger than those on a regular A-Class.
The cost option my test car wore was the 'Mountain Grey Metallic' paint, but if anything it made the A 45 look even more covert.
The cabin is small but luxurious and sporty with two-tone leather upholstery (the red and black 'Lugano' leather in my test car is a no-cost option), there’s the microfibre-clad AMG steering wheel, brushed aluminium trim, metal-trimmed pedals and the large display panel (it’s actually two screens joined) is also standard.
Inside you'll find a microfibre-clad AMG steering wheel, brushed aluminium trim, and metal-trimmed pedals.
The A 45 S is a hatchback measuring 4445mm in length, 1850mm wide and 1412mm tall. Not keen on a hatch but want something with similar dimensions? The CLA 45 S is the A 45 S’s four-door twin-under-the-skin and is just as much of a weapon.
And if you want your A 45 S to look more aggressive, you can option the 'AMG Aero Package' which will see a giant rear wing fitted to the roof.
Or you can buy the Edition 1 version of the A 45 S which includes the big spoiler and shouty design bits to makes sure everybody knows you’re the assassin in the room.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 10/10
There may be hot hatches out there which look wilder than the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+ but do they have the most powerful four-cylinder engine ever to go into a mass-produced car? Nope, but the A45 does: it’s a 310kW/500Nm turbo-petrol four.
It doesn’t sound as angry and gravelly as the previous A 45’s engine but it has more grunt (an extra 30kW/25Nm) and is claimed to catapult the hatch from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds.
The '4Matic' part of the name indicates the hatch is all-wheel drive and the '+' means it’s a more sophisticated version of the system which allows all of the drive to be sent to one axle, if need be.
The turbo four cylinder produces a whopping 310kW/500Nm.
What need would that be? The need to drift, of course, which should be up there with other human rights such as clean air, fresh water and free speech.
Yep, the A 45 S comes with 'Drift Mode' (for the racetrack, of course), along with a 'Launch Mode' for perfect-every-time transitions to warp speed.
I wasn’t lying in the introduction to this review. The previous A45 was a pretty intense driving experience. The ride felt brutal, the exhaust note screamed and crackled like somebody had set a wheelie bin full of fireworks alight.
And then there was the sweating. I seemed to sweat a lot driving it and there was nothing wrong with the climate control, that just happens to me when I’m under pressure and excited.
So, has the new-generation A 45 S 4Matic+ gone all soft and quiet on us? No, but things have been toned down a tad.
The exhaust note is not as gruff or loud, and even in 'Sport +' and 'Race' mode it’s still quiet enough to pull into a driveway at night without making enemies of your neighbours.
And the ride is also not as harsh, although even in 'Comfort' mode my wife still found it verging on too firm.
The performance and dynamics, however, felt as sharp as ever.
Look closely and you'll see that the A 45 S is not just another small prestige car.
Acceleration is supercar quick at 3.9 seconds. My gawd, you needed a Ferrari F40 to do that in the mid-’80s, and even now the new Mercedes-AMG GT S supercar gets there only a tenth of a second earlier, and it has a twin-turbo V8.
Top speed for the A 45 S is electronically limited to 270km/h. But hot hatches aren’t really about straight-line speed, they’re more about bent-line speed. You know, corners.
So, I took the A 45 S on the twisty roads I take anything that calls itself sporty. The agility of the A 45 S is outstanding thanks to a rigid chassis that handles a change in direction as quickly and easily as you can turn your head.
The brakes bite hard when they have to, and the all-wheel drive hatch scrambles tenaciously out of corners.
As a daily driver, though, for somebody who occasionally likes to get into it on a curvy road the A 45 S is comfortable enough to live with, but hard enough to remain engaging and dynamic when you get the chance to have a squirt.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
The new Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+ lists for $93,600. Coming standard are the 19-inch matt black alloy wheels, the quad exhaust and chunky diffuser, Panamericana grille and AMG front apron, the red brake calipers, small roof-top spoiler and privacy rear glass.
Inside, the A45 S comes standard with sport seats and tone-tone leather upholstery – there’s ‘Yellow cut’ leather with contrasting yellow top stitching (or in the case of our car the no-cost option of red and black Lugano leather), and an AMG Performance steering wheel clad in 'Dinamica' microfibre.
Also standard is the large landscape display which is actually two 10.25-inch screens; one for the digital instrument cluster and another for the media system.
The cabin is highlighted by two 10.25-inch screens.
The only feature I felt was missing was a head-up display, which needs to be optioned.
In the first year of sale (until the end of 2020) an Edition 1 version of the A 45 S will be sold. Listing for $101,690 the limited edition comes with a tougher look thanks to the addition of the AMG aero package which fits the giant rear wing, along with 19-inch twin-spoke matte black alloy wheels, door decals and AMG performance seats. Oh, and it only comes in 'Sun Yellow.'
The A4 5 S Edition 1 comes with 19-inch twin-spoke matte black alloy wheels.
Rivals to the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+ come in the form of Audi’s RS3 Avant, the BMW M2 or, and this may seem like an odd suggestion, the Tesla Model 3 hatch. The latter is a pure electric vehicle but has a 0-100km/h time of 3.4 seconds and an output of 335kW… just saying.
Sitting under the A 45 S 4Matic+ in the A-Class range is the A 35 4Matic for a list price of $69,300. The A35 doesn’t come with the big Panamericana grille and the 2.0-litre engine has a lower output but still packs an impressive 225kW/400Nm.
My fuel test saw me drive 131km of urban and country roads, plus some motorway sections, and needed 16.9L of premium unleaded petrol to fill the 51-litre tank back to full.
That comes to 12.9L/100km, which is thirsty, but my driving style may have contributed significantly to that high figure.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
Along with good performance and handling, part of the appeal of hot hatches is that they’re practical… to a degree. The A 45 S is a small car, but it has four doors, five seats and a boot.
The cabin is small, no doubt about it, but even at 191cm tall I had plenty of room while driving, the seating position is perfect actually, although sitting behind my driving position saw my knees just touching the seat back.
The seating position is perfect.
Headroom is getting limited back there, but I still had space. Could you get away with the A 45 S as a family car? I had my family in it for a while, but there’s just the three of us and my son is pre-school-aged. So, a young, small family, yes… until it starts to grow.
Cabin storage is good with two cupholders in the rear centre fold-down armrest along with small door pockets and seat-back nets. Up front there are another two cupholders, giant door pockets, a big split-opening centre console bin and a tray for the wireless charger big enough to fit an iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Headroom is limited in the back seat.
Boot space is good at 370 litres. The big shiny CarsGuide suitcase fitted in easily (see images) and apart from the wide-opening of the boot, another hatch power of practicality is that you can fold the rear seats down to open up more cargo carrying space, and in the A 45 S’s case that’s 1210 litres.
With the rear seats in place, cargo capacity is rated at 370 litres.
I’ve mentioned the wireless charger but there are also four USB-C ports (two up front and two in the rear), back seat passengers also have directional air vents, which is another bonus, along with dark tinted windows (welcome when my son was sitting back there in his car seat).
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 9/10
The Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+ received the maximum five-star score when it was tested by ANCAP in 2018.
For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row. Small hatches are the easiest cars to put top tether seats in thanks to the good access to the hook point. I fitted my son’s car seat into the back of the A45 S without any problems.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
Servicing is recommended at 12 month/20,000km intervals. Servicing is capped at $850 for the first year’s visit, $1200 for the next and $1600 for the third.
The Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic+ may have grown up a bit in that it’s not as noisy or uncomfortable as the first-generation version which arrived in 2013, But if anything, its more portent than ever. Superb Mercedes-AMG craftmanship, outstanding performance and good value as far as bang for your buck goes.