Hot hatches are nothing new. They’ve been around since before I was born. But as more consumers want the latest tech and features, the hot hatch is making its way to luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 is the entry-level hot hatch in the luxury category and it has stiff competition from Volkswagen and Audi (in other markets).
If you’re reading this in the United States, you unfortunately don’t get this version of the A35. All you have is the sedan version. But don’t tune out because they are the same apart from the extra cargo capacity.
Engine – The 2021 Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged engine, as is the norm these days. In A35 guise, it produces 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque (225 kW & 400 Nm). For European markets, there’s an A45S with over 400 hp from the same 2.0L engine. Sadly we don’t get that engine here in North America. The closest we get to it is the CLA 45 AMG with 382 hp. But back to this A35, while the power isn’t as bonkers as other versions, it’s ideal in a vast majority of situations. The 45 variant of this engine has a relatively high turbo threshold – as in – the rpms need to be higher in order for power to be produced. This A35 has a lower boost threshold and very little turbo lag making it ideal for quick acceleration. Speaking of which, Mercedes-Benz claims a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 4.7 seconds but from behind the steering wheel, it feels a bit faster than that.
Fuel economy is not too bad for the power that the engine produces. It is rated for 10.6 L/100km (22.2 MPG) in a city and 8.2 L/100km 28.7 MPG) on a highway. During my time with the A35 AMG, I averaged 9.5 L/100km (24.8 MPG) .
Transmission – Mated to this engine is a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. On the move, this transmission is quick to swap cogs but also smooth while doing it. Most of the time in Comfort mode, you don’t notice the shifts. Put it into Sport mode and the shifts are a bit more noticeable in terms of feeling them but the car also feels more responsive, especially when using the paddle shifters.
It’s only when setting off from a stop that this transmission is not so smooth. Most of the time, it gets off the line just fine but on occasion, the clutch engages too harshly and giving you too much acceleration. Mercedes’ new 8-speed dual-clutch in the 2021 GLA 250 & GLB 250 is just as smooth & fast as this 7-speed but also better at setting off from a stop.
Braking – Four piston fixed front calipers clamp down hard on 350 mm ventilated front discs to provide a tremendous amount of stopping force. In emergency or hard braking situations, the pedal is firm and the car brakes exactly where you point the steering wheel. On daily commutes, the brake pedal barely needs to be prodded in order to bring the car to a stop. It may be a bit too sensitive for some but you get used to it after a while. Automatic emergency braking is a standard feature on the A35 AMG.
Handling – Hot hatches are known for the way they can go around a twisty road and this 2021 Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG does not disappoint. The steering feel is light in Comfort mode but switch it up to Sport and it becomes much more responsive and better weighted to enthusiastic driving. As a front-wheel-drive biased AWD system, you’d think that the A35 would understeer into every corner? But no. The 4MATIC AWD system can send up to 50% of the engine’s power to the back wheels where it is then split between the rear wheels to try & force the back end to rotate in a corner. The end effect is a neutral feeling around tight, twisty roads. Of course, on the A45S AMG, there is a “Drift Mode” that can get the A45 sideways – a bit – but that mode is not available on the A35. Adaptive dampers are also available for better body control around corners but this demo vehicle did not have that feature equipped.
Ride Comfort – Despite this demo vehicle not having the adaptive suspension, the AMG sport tuned suspension does a relatively good job of absorbing city bumps & potholes. Of course it’s quite a bit firmer than the A250 Hatch but it’s not unbearable on a day to day use. You will need to play “Minesweeper” though over rougher roads and deep potholes.
Interior Space – The front seats are where you want to be in a hot hatch and this A35 AMG provides plenty of space for short or tall occupants like myself. Legroom and headroom are plentiful. The standard seats provide ample support through twisty corners but the bolsters are not so big that they inhibit you from getting in or out of the car.
The back seats, however, are nowhere near as spacious as the fronts. Behind my driving position, I can’t fit. A shorter adult or child may fit behind my driving position but they probably won’t be comfortable for long trips. If a shorter adult is driving then obviously there will be a bit more legroom in the back seats but again, it’s not a place you want to be for longer journeys.
Further back, the Mercedes-AMG A35 Hatch 2021 offers 370 L (13 cu-ft) of cargo space with the seats up and 1,210 L (42.7 cu-ft) with the rear seats folded. The sedan version of the A35 AMG offers 420 L (14.8 cu-ft) of cargo volume in the trunk.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Starting with the good, the engine makes some exciting sounds at higher rpms. With each full-throttle upshift, you hear a satisfying “Brrrap” from the exhaust. Lift off the throttle and a few loud pops & bangs flatter your ears.
Unfortunately when you’re just driving around town, there are other noises that you don’t want to hear. Firstly, there is a bit of road noise from the tires on highways. It’s bearable but it’s always here. Secondly, and worse still, is some creaking from the trim pieces around the B and C pillars when driving over a bump. Maybe it’s just this particular demo vehicle that had this issue because the A250 Hatch that I drove a while back didn’t produce this creaking noise. However, it feels like it’s the least expensive Mercedes-Benz vehicle that the brand produces.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – While this particular demo vehicle is not fully loaded, it still comes well equipped with heated seats, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, Bluetooth, panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, HD backup camera, ambient interior lighting, keyless entry & start, blind spot sensors, and wireless phone charging to name quite a few.
This being a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, there are of course a few packages that can be added on. This Mercedes-AMG A35 demo had the Premium package but a Technology, Navigation, AMG Driver’s, AMG Aerodynamics, and Advanced Driver Assistance packages can be added. These are in addition to a few stand alone options such as AMG Performance seats, Head-up display, Ventilated front seats, 360 camera, & garage door opener.
Interior Design – In recent years, I’ve always stated that Mercedes-Benz has one of the best looking interiors among the luxury brands and the A35 AMG is no different. It has the same dual 10.25” screes as many other current generation Mercedes vehicles, the same round vents as other compact Mercedes vehicles, and the same entertaining ambient lighting system. Compared to its competition from Audi & Volkswagen, their interiors look a bit bland and dull. However, as I said in the NVH section of the review, there were a few squeaks from the rear trim pieces. As well, it’s not the only compact Mercedes vehicle that I experienced this in. The CLA 45 AMG also had a few rattles when driving over bumps. It’s not a deal breaker to me but just be aware that it doesn’t have the build quality as an E-class…. or a C-class.
Exterior Design – On the outside, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG Hatch doesn’t scream for attention. At least without the AMG Aerodynamics package which adds a bigger rear roof spoiler, a larger front splitter along with canards at each end. As well, the A35 is also available in a very eye-catching Sun Yellow paint. But this demo vehicle is subtle. Apart from the grille, the front of the A35 looks pretty much identical to the standard A250 Hatch. Around back, the only major difference between the A35 & the A250 is the diffuser and round vs horizontal tail pipe tips.
Warranty – The 2021 Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG Hatch has a basic 4 year / 80,000 km warranty in Canada. It also comes with 4 years / unlimited km roadside assistance, 4 year / 80,000 km surface corrosion, and 8 year / 130,000 km warranty for certain emission parts. Click here for more Mercedes-Benz warranty information.
In the end, I like the Mercedes-AMG A35 Hatch. It drives very well, the interior looks stunning (I can live with a few squeaks), it’s available as a sedan and a 4 door coupe, and it’s actually not too badly priced. It starts at $49,800 CAD ($45,850 USD) and the only package it really needs is the Premium package, which this vehicle already had for $3,200 CAD.
Compared to the 2020 Audi S3, it is about $3,000 CAD more expensive but the Audi has less power. There will be a new model coming for the 2022 model year, however, but the Audi is only available as a sedan in North America. The Volkswagen Golf R is this car’s closest competitor but a new 2022 model is coming with 315 hp so it’ll be a tough battle for the A35 AMG. For now, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG Hatch is the best luxury compact car that you can buy.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca