Mercedes-AMG A 35 hatchback
Mercedes-AMG’s answer to the Volkswagen Golf R is fast, fun to drive and boasts a high-quality, tech-packed interior
- Great all-weather performance
- Class-leading interior
- Decent economy
- Pricey options
- Harsh low-speed ride
- More expensive than some rivals
The Mercedes-AMG A 35 is a performance-orientated version of the Mercedes A-Class that is aimed squarely at premium hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3 Sportback. Its performance is also on a par with some very capable rivals from brands traditionally considered less prestigious, including the Honda Civic Type R and Renault Megane RS.
The A 35 is not a direct replacement for the previous generation Mercedes-AMG A 45; instead it’s intended to occupy the lower end of the high-performance compact luxury car market, with a new A 45 expected to arrive later. There’s not much in the way of compromise though – the A 35 boasts 302bhp from its new turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and comes as standard with four-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. Impressive performance is the result: 0-62mph takes just 4.7 seconds.
The A 35’s speed is matched by upgraded suspension and brakes that inspire confidence when driving the car quickly, while the high-quality interior of the standard car is treated to some sporty touches, including excellent sports seats.
With limpet-like four-wheel drive and flexible driving modes, the A 35 offers a brand of effortless point-to-point performance motoring that’s similar to the hugely popular VW Golf R. It’s not the most comfortable at slow speeds on bad roads, but otherwise the A 35 rides well for a sporty car.
The Mercedes-AMG A 35 is a particularly luxurious alternative to its closest rivals and – though more expensive than most – it’s a great choice if you value all-weather performance, hatchback practicality and reasonable fuel economy.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Thanks to its newly developed turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with variable valve control and efficiency conscious design, the A 35 is a 302bhp hot hatch that still manages an average of 38.7mpg on the WLTP/NEDC test cycle, while CO2 emissions are quoted at 167g/km for small-wheeled versions. These figures aren’t too far off the Mercedes’ closest rival, the Volkswagen Golf R in five-door, seven-speed DSG form – a car that produces 306bhp, emits 163g/km of CO2 and returns a claimed 39.8mpg.
The Mercedes-AMG A 35’s 169g/km of CO2 puts it in the government’s 151-170g/km range for road tax. This equates to a £515 first year payment, usually included in the OTR price, followed by annual payments of £140. If you push the A 35’s price above £40,000 (easily done with some of the more expensive option packs), you’ll pay an additional £310 per year for five years, bringing the total payable each year in that period to £450.
As with all Mercedes models, the A 35 is offered with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty.
Engines, drive & performance
The Mercedes AMG A 35 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with 302bhp. It puts that power to the road via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. The car is set up to offer effortless point-to-point performance combined with a little more driver involvement than its rivals.
The A 35 isn't just a standard A-Class with a bodykit and a more powerful engine either; the suspension is almost entirely new and there have been changes to the steering and the chassis to make the car better to drive.
The result is that there's more than enough performance on tap for most. The steering is well-weighted and grip and turn-in is remarkable, with no understeer during hard cornering. The A 35 responds well to being driven enthusiastically but never feels dangerous. It’s easy to draw comparisons between the A 35 and the Volkswagen Golf R in this respect, but the Mercedes just edges ahead when it comes to driver thrills.
Larger, more powerful brakes compared to the standard A-Class help rein things in while also improving handling as part of a AMG Dynamics programme, which can brake individual rear wheels to improve agility.
Four selectable driving modes called Slippery, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ mean the A 35’s suspension, engine and gearbox can be set up to match the conditions at hand. There’s also an Individual setting that allows each of these parameters to be adjusted independently. The car has a sports exhaust which, in its sportiest setting, emits all the pops, bangs and crackles that performance driving enthusiasts love.
Interior & comfort
The standard Mercedes A-Class is a class-leader when it comes to interior style, quality and comfort, so it comes as no surprise that the A 35 also leads the luxury hot-hatch market in this regard. The same standard of fit and finish is here, with a number of welcome sporty additions to help set the A 35 from its standard siblings, as well as putting it head and shoulders above the rather basic interiors of the Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R.
All Mercedes-AMG A 35 models come as standard with sat nav, a reversing camera, climate control, keyless go, a sports steering wheel with touch-control buttons and fantastic, supportive sports seats. Choose the AMG Premium Plus pack and you’ll get a Burmester stereo, electric seat adjustment, adaptive LED lights and a panoramic sunroof, along with a larger 10.25 central infotainment screen.
Our test car was fitted with optional adaptive dampers that offer three levels of adjustment. In sportier modes, the A 35’s ride can feel unsettled when driving at low speed or around town, but things improve the quicker you go. The only other intrustion is tyre roar from the 19-inch wheels.
Practicality & boot space
Despite its four-wheel drive – a system which can take up precious interior space in some models – the A 35 keeps the same boot size as the standard Mercedes A-Class.
The well-shaped, low-lipped 370-litre load area can be expanded by folding the 40/20/40-split rear bench, though this doesn’t sit completely flat in its folded position. There’s still room for a set of golf clubs – a notable improvement over the smaller, previous-generation A-Class.
Head and legroom are good, both front and rear, though the larger sports seats do impinge slightly on rear passengers’ knee space when adjusted for taller occupants. There’s room for four adults, but if you regularly travel with more than one passenger, the VW Golf R may be the better choice. However, thanks to the A 35’s five-door only layout, access is easier than in some hot hatchbacks.
Interior storage is good, with cubbies located ahead of the infotainment controller (along with the cupholders) and under the centre armrest. Door bins are generously sized.
Reliability & safety
At the time of writing, the Mercedes-AMG A 35 is too new for us to conclude anything about its reliability, while the latest A-Class itself is yet to feature in our Driver Power ownership survey.
The A 35 is powered by a new engine and features lots of complex on-board systems, so we’ll reserve judgement until the car has been on the road for a few months. Given Mercedes’ reputation, you shouldn’t worry too much about anything serious going wrong. The German brand finished 20th out of 26 manufacturers in the 2018 survey, with just 2.9% of owners reporting a fault with their cars.
The standard A-Class was tested by Euro NCAP an achieved a five-star rating. As with all modern Mercedes, the A 35 comes complete with a range of active safety systems, while an optional ‘Driving Assistance’ package (around £1,700) adds adaptive cruise control, lane-change assist, active speed limit assist and active blind-spot assist.
Price, value for money & options
The Mercedes-AMG A 35 is marginally more expensive than its closest rivals, the Audi S3, BMW M40i and the all-conquering Volkswagen Golf R. However, in true Mercedes fashion, it offers a little more luxury and quality than those cars, with class-leading infotainment and an interior that’s miles ahead of the competition. If you like your premium hot hatch to have an expensive feel, the A 35 is the car for you.
However, one issue is that its options are very expensive – if you’re not careful, you could easily tip the asking price over the £40,000 threshold for higher road tax payments. There’s a three-tier option pack system that starts with AMG Executive Line at just under £1,400, climbing to around £2,400 for the next step to AMG Premium line. Go for the top AMG Premium Plus pack and it’ll cost closer to £3,900, and this is the only way to get the excellent twin-screen setup for the infotainment system. Each step brings with it a glut of extra equipment, but we’d stick to the first step and enjoy the addition of active parking assist, a larger central screen and leather seats, among other touches. The aforementioned Driving Assistance package is also worth a look, especially if you cover lots of motorway miles.
Those wanting to add an aggressive look to the A 35 will want the AMG Style pack for around £2,600. This adds 19-inch alloys, tinted rear windows and an aerodynamics package with a rear wing, large front splitter and a rear diffuser blade.