MINI-MERC LIFTS LID ON SUPER-HATCH STARRING ROLE

A compact hatchback at a six-figure price – anybody could be forgiven for thinking this was an oxymoron. However, the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+ hatch goes a long way – very quickly – to dispel any doubts about its stratospheric sticker.

For a start, this little beauty features the world’s most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine in a production model in Australia. Add to this a new AMG eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and A 45 S 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system. And the result is a zero-to-100 km/h sprint of 3.9 seconds.

The car also boasts a level of comfort, convenience and safety found in luxury models of equally elevated price – $93,600, plus on-road costs. Added investments can include a Driver’s Package with top speed upped to 270 km/h, Track Pace data logging, Night Pack with design bits in black and 19-inch by 8.5-inch wide AMG cross-spoke alloy wheels in matt black with shiny flange.

STYLING
Building on the latest AMG A-Class hatchback, performance credentials are presented up front with a specific wider, lower radiator grille and a dozen vertical louvres. Wider front wings and flared wheel arches make room for a wider axle.

In company with the car’s performance pedestal, wider side skirts give the impression of the vehicle’s hugging the road, while from the rear, this is emphasised once more by double twin 90 mm diameter tailpipes with internal fluting and AMG lettering.

Aerodynamics are boosted by a diffuser with two vertical fins. Red brake calipers boast the AMG stamp in black, which is repeated unashamedly throughout the vehicle, inside and out.

INTERIOR
Black is the main colour theme throughout, the leather sports seats cashing in with red inserts. Coloured strips of lighting announce a laidback ambience, especially at night, while the sports steering wheel is swathed in a soft chubby grip that comes, and stays, easily to hand.

The swoopy roof limits rear-seat head room – a panoramic sunroof squeezed test car space even further – and occupants can miss out on leg room if front seat occupants are above average height. The good news is a drop-down arm rest incorporates twin cup holders and there’s a reading light above each window for those bored with the company.

A useful 370-litre boot can be expanded to 1210 litres with the 40:20:40 seat backs folded.

INFOTAINMENT
Twin 10.25-inch high-resolution displays sweep across the dashboard putting important information for the driver, and general info for driver and front seat passenger within easy viewing.

All occupants are in a position to take full advantage of an advanced audio system with Burmester surround-sound, while the test car driver was able to take advantage of an optional ($790) colour head-up windscreen display.

This system can ‘learn’ the driver’s habits and routines, and offer helpful suggestions and shortcuts. For example, if he or she phones home at a certain time every day, MBUX will point it out as the time approaches.

Members of my family cheekily named the female ‘voice’ Flo (for Florence and the Machine, get it?) as she eagerly did their bidding.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
In an AMG tradition, a single person is given the job of hand-assembling each 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which pumps out an incredible 310 kW of power, which at 155 kW per litre, puts it ahead of many super-sports car motors. It’s 30 kW and 25 Nm better than the unit it replaces.

That extra power, and peak torque of 500 Nm are put to the road in combination with a new AMG Speedshift DCT-8G dual-clutch eight-speed transmission and AMG Performance 4Matic all-wheel drive. The car is capable of reaching 100 km/h from rest in an eye-watering 3.9 seconds.

SAFETY
Safety is packaged as only Mercedes-Benz premium models can be, with its driving assist package plus, active distance assist, including cross-traffic alert, active lane change assist and a parking package featuring 360-degree camera multibeam LED headlights with adaptive high beam assist plus and route-based speed adaptation.

DRIVING
Engineers were involved from early on in the initial design to plan for the super-power engine status. With a threat of torsional twisting, a strengthened chassis with a lower ‘shearing plate’ beneath the engine was worked into the car’s construction.

AMG Dynamic Select controller gets to work in choosing one of five drive modes – Comfort, Sport, Sport +, Individual and Race. Then there’s AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive, that shares power between the two rear wheels with torque control, resulting in an added ‘Drift’ mode for racetrack playtime.

Scrolling through the Dynamic Select system, with Comfort well suited to stop / start going. Sport and Sport + had things bubbling with a pleasing combination of peppy performance and firm and responsive ride and steering, while Race with its bone-jarring stiffness, was better left for a later day and track with an ultra-smooth surface.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is a paragon of versatility, with usable power and torque on tap throughout the rev range. Maximum torque is on tap between 5000 and 5250 revs, matching similar naturally aspirated motors, while maximum engine speed of 7200 rpm is in line with the car’s sporty character.

Fuel consumption presents a pleasantly frugal set of figures. On a 30-minute jaunt on the motorway in ‘Comfort’ mode, the AMG recorded fuel consumption of 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres. In the city, this ran out to more than 10 litres per 100 kilometres. When flogged along the motor made a meal of the figures, with 16 to 20 litres per 100 kilometres.

Controls are far from intuitive with an ultra-busy array of switches, buttons, knobs, touch screen and pad to access many levels of the car’s computer. This is where the MBUX comes to the rescue with voice activation at the command of ‘Hey, Mercedes’, enabling occupants to control dozens of common functions.

SUMMING UP
As well as enjoying an unparalleled hatchback experience, the enthusiastic driver can delve into a deep well of the latest automotive technology of the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+. However, best the car can come up with should be left strictly to the track and there is a high purchase price to pay for the privilege.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE
Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+ hatch $93,600
Note: This price does not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 2-litre 4cyl turbocharged petrol, 8sp automatic, AWD, 5dr hatchback)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.991 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders inline
Maximum Power: 310 kW
Maximum Torque: 500 Nm @ 5000-5250 rpm
Fuel Type: Premium unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): N/A

DRIVELINE: Eight-speed Speedshift DCT automatic, 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4439 mm
Wheelbase: 2729 mm
Width: 1790 mm
Height: 1400 mm
Turning Circle: N/A
Kerb Mass: 1570 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 51 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Five years / unlimited kilometres

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