We get behind the wheel of the fire-breathing A45 AMG - the smallest vehicle in the AMG arsenal.
The latest generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class has been quite a success story for the brand as it's chalk and cheese when compared to its near-MPV predecessor. The A180 Blue Efficiency I had in 2013 for a few days was a great combination of Mercedes-Benz class and technology in one compact and very stylish package.
With every Mercedes-Benz model comes a performance version. That's not to say the A250 is a slow coach, but for the full effect in-house tuners AMG were tasked with creating the ultimate incarnation of the A-Class.
Subtle looksAMG has given the Mercedes-Benz A45 a subtle visual upgrade. There's a small front lip, 18-inch AMG five-spoke alloys and a set of rectangular exhausts out the back. Coupled with a simple A 45 4Matic badge, this little monster really slips under the radar when it comes out outrageous visuals. If you want to turn every head on the street, then consider the A45 AMG Edition One option pack - complete with wing, aerodynamic bits and big 19-inch wheels for an extra R70 grand.
Outstanding engineThe team at AMG has gone all out in making the Mercedes-Benz A45 the ultimate hot hatch. Let's start with that engine. Whereas most AMG products have big V8 motors in various states of tune and aspiration, the A45 has a turbocharged 2.0-litre. Don't be disheartened as it has 265 kW and 450 Nm, putting it well above the competition in terms of outputs.
The turbocharger for instance, boosts around 1.8 bar - high for a road-going car. That engine is a hand-built example of masterpiece engineering as its the most powerful production 2.0-litre motor in the world.
Race-inspired technologyIt's not just the engine which has been given the AMG treatment. There's a modified version of the Mercedes-Benz seven-speed DCT gearbox which runs the same software as the SLS supercar. To put all that power to the road front-wheel drive just wasn't going to be good enough, so the 4Matic all-wheel drive system was fitted. It does have a front-wheel drive focus, with the rear wheels coming into action if there's a loss of traction. Finally, a firm AMG suspension was fitted. This then is the recipe for a ballistic-quick hatchback.
PerformanceHow does 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.6 seconds grab you? I was pretty shocked at that claim too, as it puts it in supercar territory and I do feel sorry for owners of non-turbo Porsches and Aston Martins who try their luck against this little demon. In reality it does feel that quick. There's very little hesitation and the Mercedes-Benz A45 just takes off. If you're not prepared, the performance can be quite alarming.
It has a party trick too. Put the car in either Sport mode, or Manual mode and put your foot flat on the accelerator. Watch the rev counter reach about 4 500rpm and pull the change up paddle located behind the steering wheel. There's an almighty bang out of the exhausts and its loud enough to scare pedestrians. In fact, if you do it too often, the police may pull you over for a gentle talking to - something I discovered one evening. No harm done and I think the men in blue just wanted to see this low-flying missile up close.
The Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG is claimed to consume just 6.9l/100km, but when you've got the world's most powerful hatchback in your garage, you're not going to see anywhere near that figure. If you get 10l/100km, you'll have done well.
Interior and featuresBeing a Mercedes-Benz, there's a good number of features. Let me start with the most intrusive of the lot, the safety. There's a very handy alert which tells you if you're getting too close to the car ahead of you and if you don't brake when cars in front are slowing down, the car will beep loudly. It's enough of an annoyance to make you really concentrate while driving - something which we should be doing anyway.
There's the decent COMAND system, which I find is one of the most intuitive infotainment and navigation units around. There's USB connectivity, with the port located in the centre compartment located between the two front seats. There's also Bluetooth connectivity for mobile devices too.
The interior looks quite similar to the normal A-class, but the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG cabin makes do with some seriously comfortable leather racing seats, a pretty alcantara/leather AMG steering wheel with paddles, an AMG-badged drive selector as well as some cheeky red seatbelts. Who said Mercs were for old people? The A45 AMG is very clearly aimed at a younger crowd!
Conclusion and summaryAs a fairly normal driver with very few race skills, I loved how confidence-inspiring the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG was. Most AMGs have a tendency to bite and punish the careless driver, but in the A45 you feel safer thanks to the all-wheel drive. It's loud, fast and makes most cars appear stationary. When you're not in the mood for speed you can put it in comfort mode, which takes the sting out of the engine and turns off the loud exhausts. It also reduces fuel consumption.
It's absolutely bonkers and quite easily one of the most exciting performance cars. Dislikes? Well, the ride could be too firm for some and when you're having fun, the fuel tank empties quite quickly. These are small compromises for an otherwise outstanding car.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG Price in South AfricaR 617,500 for the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG 4Matic. Be sure to look carefully through the options list, as there are some cool things you may want, such as racing seats, climate control and so on. If you're after bigger wheels, there are 19-inch wheels available as part of the Edition One package, but beware as the ride will be even firmer.
*The Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG was a hit with underprivileged and terminally ill children at the 2014 Live to Race event.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG Quick Specs
|Engine||2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|0-100km/h||4.6 seconds (claimed)|
|Fuel economy||6.9 l/100km (claimed)|
We like: . Supercar performance for under R1 000 000 . Pretty to look at . All-wheel drive stability . Sounds like a military weapon with each gear change
We dislike: . The fuel tank empties quickly when you're having fun. . They're rare as demand is exceeding supply. . Ride could be too firm for some drivers