Mercedes-AMG A45 S Review: The King Of The Hyper Hatches Continues To Reign

We drive the updated Mercedes A45 to see if a few subtle tweaks are enough to keep ahead of the chasing pack
Mercedes-AMG A45 S Review: The King Of The Hyper Hatches Continues To Reign


Still ballistically quick
Genuinely involving


New touch-sensitive buttons are awful
A bit of a needless facelift

The hot hatch is dead. Long live the hyper hatch. Forgive my cynicism for a second, but look at the market. We’re in a world where the Honda Civic Type R now costs just shy of £50k, the Ford Focus ST is on its last legs and, while Hyundai will sell you an i30 N, its attention is now pretty much entirely focused on the Ioniq 5 N (itself adding a new definition to hyper hatch).

Of course, you could always buy a Toyota GR Yaris. Still, good luck snapping an allocation when they occasionally appear, and the Volkswagen Golf GTI feels like a glorified trim level rather than a bonafide performance hatch these days.

For better or worse, I think you can trace the shift in the hot hatch landscape to the premium German brands unleashing their full arsenals on their more sedate compact offerings. Arguably, none have laid down such a marker as the arrival of the second-generation Mercedes-AMG A45.

Mercedes-AMG A45 S Review: The King Of The Hyper Hatches Continues To Reign

415bhp and 369lb ft from a 2.0-litre turbo four-banger still seems as mind-boggling now as it did in 2019, but rivals have caught up. The latest Audi RS3 has turned the hatch from a simple straight-line powerhouse to a dynamically-capable machine and when BMW is in the business of stuffing M3 engines into a non-Comp M2, you know things are getting serious.

To keep pace with the newer competition, Mercedes-AMG has decided now is the time for an updated version of the A45. Hold your horses, though, this isn’t a dramatic change.

The four-banger retains the same output as before, despite AMG cranking it up to 469bhp in the hybrid C63. There are no mechanical changes either, or even any software alterations to the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Mercedes-AMG A45 S Review: The King Of The Hyper Hatches Continues To Reign

We’ll forgive you for questioning if anything at all is different, to be honest. There are some incredibly slight changes. The Panamericana grille has been altered slightly, apparently, and the ‘power bulges’ on the bonnet are marginally more pronounced than before. You’ll get a new Alfterbach badge at the front, too.

Interior changes are slightly more obvious. There’s a new steering wheel which swaps mostly physical buttons out for touch-sensitive replacements, which in all honesty was a terrible move.

They’re infuriating to use, not especially responsive and leave basic functions like changing a song requiring you to repeatedly scroll through the instrument cluster if you so dare as to have a different display on. Usually, this comes with the caveat of ‘Oh, you’ll get used to it in time’ but I don’t think that makes them any better than what existed before. At least the part-Alcantara wheel itself is nice in the hands.

Mercedes-AMG A45 S Review: The King Of The Hyper Hatches Continues To Reign

Besides that, the infotainment itself has received an update. The screens are the same size but the software is a little slicker, with the new inclusion of Mercedes’ new Track Pace app. This allows you to time 0-60mph runs, and quarter mile times and even load up a plethora of track maps to time yourself at the circuit. Handy, but not exactly dramatic changes.

The good news with such few changes is that the updated A45 is going to remain an astonishing piece of kit. On this side of a Honda Civic Type R, no hyperhatch can rival it for engagement.

There’s a shed-load of ways to set the car up, but the best is to go into motoring journalist mode in the individual - everything at its absolute sportiest with the exception of comfort for the adaptive dampers.

Mercedes-AMG A45 S Review: The King Of The Hyper Hatches Continues To Reign

Its steering setup is well-weighted and quite pinpoint for something with an AMG badge on the back and, despite sitting on a front-biased platform, there’s a satisfying feeling of rotation under you once you’re hammering the A45 through corners. Comfort dampers are key here though, on UK roads anything harsher unsettles the car a little too easily and can take some confidence away from you.

Rivals may have caught up on power, but this four-pot is a marvel of engineering. There’s next-to-no turbo lag despite its reliance on boost allowing for consistent and predictable power delivery, and the dual-clutch gearbox works harmoniously with it.

When you decide to drive less like a twat, you do feel some compromises. A set of low profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4S’ fit to this test car provide exceptional grip, but don’t do well isolating vibrations and undulations in the road below at cruising speeds. At least the high-quality Burmester surround sound system comes in handy at this point.

Mercedes-AMG A45 S Review: The King Of The Hyper Hatches Continues To Reign

It does leave you wondering exactly why Mercedes decided to facelift the A45, really, as it hasn’t and didn’t need to dramatically alter the formula. I suspect it’s to give current A-Class buyers, AMG or otherwise, a reason to upgrade now long-term PCP deals are coming to a conclusion.

On the topic of finances, at £63,285 starting the A45 isn’t exactly cheap - granted it does have all but the good paint colours and a driver assistance package included for the price.

An Audi RS3 is about £6k cheaper, but by the time you’ve specced adaptive dampers, a decent sound system and the right exhaust, there’s very little in it. In the real world, and this may be a controversial take, I think the AMG is going to be more enjoyable than a BMW M2 as well. Granted, they’re different prospects on paper, but I bet there are more than a few buyers cross-shopping the two.

As it stands, the Mercedes-AMG retains its crown as the king of the hyper hatches, and I believe the best way to spend around £65,000 on some very fast German metal.


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