Driven: Mercedes-AMG A35 Hatch
The hot hatch redefined an entire segment. What was, for many years a cheap and cheerful segment gave rise to what is today one of the most competitive segments in the automotive spectrum. The hot hatch gave buyers a level of performance that was not otherwise easily accessible. The original Golf GTI gave buyers a level of performance that was on par with many a sports car. Today, the same applies.
Today, the hot hatch has achieved a level of performance that not many thought possible. The most popular remains the Golf GTI but with more and more manufacturers joining the fight the competition is tough. It was Mercedes-AMG that decided to move the goalposts into a different time zone. While others were breaking the 200kW mark the German luxury carmaker introduced the then A45 AMG, a 2.0-litre turbocharged hatchback that developed 265kW and featured all-wheel drive.
Now though with demand growing for fast hatchbacks manufacturers have decided to offer more in terms of variety. Mercedes-AMG has for a number of years now been offering entry-level type AMG models. The likes of the 43 AMG range, the 53 AMG range, and now the 35 AMG range offer slightly less performance than the full-on 63 AMG offerings however what they offer is still incredibly good.
We recently sampled the A35 hatchback which is fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged motor that develops around 225kW and 400Nm of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via the 4Matic system and the swapping of cogs is done via a 7G-tronic gearbox.
The thing that really stands out about the A35 AMG is that despite being the baby AMG, the car still looks sporty thanks to AMG designed bumpers and wheels. Our hatch model also featured a sporty rear wing which makes it look rather menacing. You need to look twice though which we like as we caught a few unsuspecting rivals off guard. The giveaway signs however are the two large tailpipes at the rear and the large AMG brake callipers behind the large black rims.
Inside, the A35 benefits from a sporty and modern interior. Two large screens occupy the facia, deals with the infotainment system which is powered by the brand's visually appealing MBUX system and the other is a digital instrument cluster. Mercedes has hit the nail on the head when it comes to offering a superior visual experience in terms of their digital interfaces. The interior is also full of quality materials and we found it to be spacious with convenient storage compartments throughout.
There is also smartphone connectivity in the form of Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto which is great however the adoption of USB type C ports is a bit premature in our opinion. Thankfully the good people over at Mercedes-Benz ensured that our test unit was fitted with a normal USB adapter cable.
Onto the driving aspect, which is quite important as this is an AMG after all. The first thing that we noticed is that the A35 AMG feels crisp when in Sport+ mode. One can use the rotary dial mounted on the steering wheel to adjust various driving mode settings. In Sport+ mode the car becomes very eager to get going and going it gets with a sub 5 second 0-100km time. The car also offers a planted feel due to the 4Matic all-wheel drive system. As for the sound, well in Sport+ it does provide aggressive pops and bangs when one changes up and comes off the throttle at high rpm. All in all, it makes any trip fun and we found any excuse to get behind the wheel.
In Comfort mode, however, the car calms everything down and becomes a subdued everyday run around. It can go from Golf R levels of performance to Golf GTI levels at the turn of a dial. The A35 AMG might not be that different from the said Golf R or BMW M135i in terms of performance, however, it looks better than said BMW and offers more exclusivity than the Volkswagen. That said though one must be warned as all of this performance, the smiles it puts on your face, and the way it makes you feel comes at a rather hefty price. R883 000 for the hatch in standard guise, add a few options and that number can go up very quickly.