Undoubtedly the most high-strung hot hatch available in South Africa, the latest iteration of the Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4MATIC+ clings to the formula of models before it with some alterations made to its appearance. Ryan de Villiers returned to Johannesburg’s famed Kyalami Grand Prix circuit to get a taste of its visceral nature.
Touted as a car that offers a harmonious fusion between thoroughbred driving dynamics and a stylish design, the latest iteration of the A45 S nomenclature has been subject to significant refinement of its design while its propelling hardware remains untouched.
What’s new on the Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4MATIC+?
This model year of the A45 S 4MATIC+ is characterized by redesigned headlights and a sizable grille with vertical slots interrupted by a new round AMG emblem. The bonnet is accompanied by power bulges which lead the eye into the new front apron. The rear’s appearance benefits from the addition of a large rear wing and a redesigned rear apron. The offshoot of the German hot hatch we were able to sample had been kitted with the AMG Aerodynamics package, which introduces a large rear wing, canards, and a swooping front splitter.
The fluorescent orange accents against the mountain grey body colour add to the hyper hatch’s sporty appearance, especially with its 19-inch wheels finished in matte black, housing large brakes for superior performance.
Much like the exterior, the A45 S is designed to echo the desire to meld performance and luxury. The interior is adorned in suede and cloth from the door panels to the racing-styled AMG Performance bucket seats. The helm of the sporty hatch is a familiar AMG Performance steering wheel which retains touch-sensitive controls. The checkered dashboard is complimented by a 10,25-inch display utilizing the latest version of the firm’s MBUX system, which retains the brand’s familiar layout and design while introducing features such as augmented reality for navigation.
It seems fitting that the maiden voyage of a car that does its best to align itself with the ideals of performance and speed would take place on one of the most demanding circuits in South Africa.
The driving experience of the Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4MATIC+
Putting the A45 S to the test on one of South Africa’s most demanding circuits, it proves to be an obedient track weapon, easily kicking its tail out with the traction off but quickly regaining control when necessary. The powerful four-pot engine delivers a satisfying bark on each upshift, and the hardworking, heavily-boosted turbocharger ensures instant power delivery. The eight-speed transmission works seamlessly, making shifting between gears a breeze.
Founded on the optional AMG Ride Control, its character around the winding and demanding track can only be some up as sure-footed and agile. Unsurprisingly, it retains the “grip whenever you need it” characteristics of models before, and the connection between driver and car is made that much more enjoyable when white-knuckling the AMG Performance steering wheel. It’s on track and at the very limits of the car’s capabilities that whispers of its shortcoming become bellowing proclamations of inadequacy, but the same can’t be said for Mercedes’ hyper hatch.
It would take a much more skilled or rather a more confident driver to extract all that the A45 S 4MATIC+ has to offer, whether on track or public roads, but the question remains, does it do enough to outshine Audi’s RS3?
What are the Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4MATIC+’s rivals?
With nearly identical technical specifications, the Audi RS3 is slightly underpowered but is offered with an arguably more competent all-wheel-drive system which aids in its split-second advantage over the German hyper hatch in a straight-line sprint. However, it’s in the twists and turns of a race track where the AMG begins to outclass its five-cylinder rival.
It’s fair to say that below neck-breaking speeds and flat-footed driving, the A45 S 4MATIC+ is underwhelming. In a previous shootout, the A45 S left many wanting more from the plucky four-cylinder powered hyper-hatch. It must be said that the A45 S 4MATIC+ shines most when driven near its limits. It may be underwhelming at lower speeds and casual driving, but on the track, it proves to be a reliable and clinical track weapon. Its balance between performance and practicality is sublime.
Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4MATIC+ Fast Facts
Engine: 2,0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder
Power: 310 kW/ 500 N.m
Transmission: AMG Speedshift DCT 8G
0-100km/h: 3,9 seconds (claimed)
Driven wheels: All
Top speed: 270 km/h (governed)
Rivals: Audi RS3, Volkswagen Golf 8R, Renault Megane RS