Mercedes-AMG A45 hatchback (2013-2018)
"The A45 AMG adds huge performance and four-wheel-drive grip to the standard A-Class' excellent build quality and practical hatchback body"
- Incredibly fast
- Four-wheel-drive grip
- Practical hatchback body
- Firm suspension
- Expensive to buy and pricey to run
- Sloping roofline limits space in the back
Mercedes arrived fashionably late to the hot-hatch party, but made quite an entry when it turned up. The Mercedes-AMG A45 went straight into battle against the Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R but packs even more power and, frankly, excitement.
While it can't match the lightness of touch that make the Ford Focus RS or Honda Civic Type-R such precision, performance instruments, the Mercedes gives a driving experience that's far more raw and visceral, and the latest versions are faster than ever, too.
The A45 AMG was significantly upgraded in late 2015, with the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine getting a power increase of 21bhp to a total of 376bhp. Four-wheel-drive tracton makes a 0-62mph time of just 4.2 seconds possible, meaning this hot hatchback accelerates as quickly as a £95,000 BMW M6 Gran Coupe. The upgrade also saw the addition of adaptive suspension, but the A45’s ride is still stiff compared to a standard A-Class hatchback.
In A45 AMG specification, the Mercedes gets a distinctive bodykit that transforms the demure A-Class into something far more musclenound. Inside, there's a pair of sports seats and equipment includes fuel-saving stop-start technology, a 5.8-inch colour screen, air-conditioning and classy ambient lighting.
The standard Mercedes A-Class finished 69th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK, and Mercedes' overall performance in the survey was nothing special. But from behind the wheel of an A45, when you're in the move for hard driving, nothing else will matter.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The 376bhp A45 AMG is by far the most expensive model to run in the Mercedes A-Class family. Fuel economy is still good, though, at up to 40.9mpg. CO2 emissions stand at 162 grams per kilometre, and a price above £40,000 means road tax will set you back £140 per year. Insurance isn’t cheap, as the A45 AMG sits in group 43 – much higher than group 18 for a basic A-Class.
All Mercedes come with a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty and Mercedes also offers its Service Care package. Starting from £365 a year, this allows you to spread the cost of maintenance with monthly payments. The basic Mercedes A-Class has strong second-hand values and you can expect the A45 AMG’s to be even better, thanks to its relative rarity and appeal to enthusiasts.
Engines, drive & performance
In order to keep up with the Audi RS3 Sportback, the A45 AMG was subject to an all-round upgrade in autumn 2015. The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine now produces an eye-watering 376bhp – a huge amount of horsepower for such a small engine. The available power, coupled with the A45 AMG’s 4Matic four-wheel-drive system, means the hot hatch can reach 62mph from rest in just 4.2 seconds if you use the car’s in-built launch control.
Unlike its predecessor, this AMG version is fitted with suspension which you can stiffen for more fun in the corners or make softer for a more comfortable drive. The suspension is still edging on uncomfortably firm, but it’s not as hard as the old model’s. It still has brilliant body control, so there’s hardly any lean when you corner hard.
The steering has seen the biggest improvement compared to the A45’s predecessor. It’s much sharper and delivers plenty of feel on the road – so much so that you can tweak your steering inputs in the middle of a fast bend. The seven-speed automatic gearbox changes gear quickly and downshifting leads to a pleasing crackle from the car’s exhaust.
Interior & comfort
The interior of the A45 is very well finished. It has the same centrally mounted circular vents as the normal A-Class, which look nicely sporty. There’s plenty of expensive-looking trim and polished metal to make the Mercedes feel special, although the Audi A3’s interior is even plusher. The AMG model has a pair of distinctive sports seats in the front that hug your body and distinguish it from lesser models.
Lots of adjustment in the driver’s seat and steering wheel mean you’ll get comfortable in no time, but thick windscreen pillars and a small rear window obstruct visibility.
Choosing the sporty A45 means you have to accept stiffer suspension compared to the standard A-Class. The optional adjustable adaptive suspension can be softened when just cruising, so the A45 isn’t as tiring to drive as its predecessor when this is equipped. It’s still firmer than your ‘average’ A-Class, but the gap isn’t quite as vast as it once was.
Noise is well suppressed inside – there’s only a whisper of road rumble to contend with at 70mph.
Practicality & boot space
The beauty of the A45 is that despite its performance, it shares its practical hatchback body with the regular A-Class. Space in the front seats is excellent and getting comfy is easy. Access to the back seat isn’t as good as it could be, due to the rear wheelarch intruding on the door opening. There's plenty of space in the back seats, but the sloping windows can make the Mercedes feel a little claustrophobic. A third passenger in the back will also feel squeezed.
The boot has quite a tight opening for a hatchback, which makes it tricky to load large items like golf clubs. Its 340-litre capacity can’t match the 380 litres you’ll get in the Audi S3, but it’s not too far behind. Folding down the back seats frees up 1,157 litres in total, but getting long items in is tricky due to the annoying boot lip. The A45 does offer plenty of useful storage areas around the interior, though.
Reliability & safety
The standard Mercedes A-Class was rated poorly for reliability in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. Of the owners who responded, 11% reported experiencing a problem with their car at least once.
A five-star rating from Euro NCAP should eliminate any worries about safety. All A-Class models come with an array of airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and ISOFIX child-seat mounts. The Mercedes also comes with Attention Assist (which warns if it thinks you’re asleep at the wheel) and Collision Prevention Assist. The latter system warns you when it senses an imminent collision and prepares the brakes for an emergency stop.
The Driving Assistance Pack adds kit like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and blind-spot detection.
Price, value for money & options
There’s no denying the A45 AMG is pretty expensive. A list price of at least £40,000 makes the Mercedes just as expensive as the Audi RS3 Sportback. Also like the Audi, you’ll have to be careful with options, because the price can soar up to £50,000 if you’re not careful.
One of the better options is the Dynamic Plus pack, which adds a limited-slip differential for added grip in corners. The Aerodynamics Pack might be a step too far, though, as the carbon-black spoiler looks like a bit of an afterthought.
The basic car is well equipped, though, with air-conditioning, a leather interior, cruise control and powerful xenon headlights all standard.