• Mercedes-Benz launched its new A35 AMG in South Africa in 2022.
• The A35 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine.
• Price: From R883 000.
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When it comes to hot hatchbacks, the is really only one car that's regarded as the perennial standard-bearer. We won't even bother with a drumroll in this instance, because we know it's the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It is quite a polarizing car, the Golf GTI, but it remains a popular choice among those in the market for a hot hatch.
Personally, I fall into the category of people who frown at those who lose their minds when a GTI rolls by. It's a bloody good car - that we won't argue over - but unless you've driven any of its rivals, you're like a horse with blinders on. But, if you can talk about the GTI with merit in your argument, then there is no reason why it should not be at the top of your wish list.
What's the point of it all, you may ask? Recently, we drove the Mercedes-AMG A35 and following the initial pull-away, it reminded strongly of the GTI. There was a huge sense of familiarity, comfort, proper performance, and predictability.
It's got speed
The new Mercedes-AMG A35 was launched in South Africa little over a month ago and slots in below the A45 S AMG and A250 in Merc's A-Class family. It offers far greater performance than the A250, but without treading on the A45's toes. Under the bonnet, Merc fitted a detuned version of the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol mill used in the A45. Here, it produces 225kW and 400Nm of torque, with power channeled to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
And yes, performance is stellar: 4.7 seconds for 0-100km/h and a 250km/h top speed. This car moves, and you will clear several meters in the blink of an eye. It stirs the senses, but you get the feeling that Mercedes-Benz held back on this one. Of course, they would have, because if you want a hardcore hatchback, then fork out a couple more Randelas and opt for the A45.
The thing is, the A35 is very adaptable to everyday life. The school run, grocery shopping, robot-to-robot racing… This car takes the usability and comfort of the A250 and blends it with elements of the A45. It's a best-of-both-worlds type of car but treads very close to perfection.
Price: R883 000 (November 2020)
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo petrol
Power: 225kW @ 5800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 3000 - 4000rpm
Gears/Drive: Seven-speed automatic, All-wheel-drive
Top speed: 250km/h
Warranty: Two-years/unlimited km
Maintenance Plan: Five-years/100 000km
Why is perfection even a problem?
Everyone has a different driving style and preference when it comes to sporty hatchbacks. But like Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and its sports arm, AMG, created a car that sees to many needs and requirements - all in one. Like the GTI, this car excels in its tasks and gives you exactly what you ask of it: turn-in is sharp, throttle response is almost instantaneous, and you never tire of driving it.
These are elements that many a rival could never match the GTI on, and now the A35 has come and done the same, albeit in a different guise. It's just too perfect, though, and feels almost sole-less and bland. There is very little to keep you on your toes when behind the wheel and the predictability will urge you to push the car's limits - often under false impressions of own driving skills.
All things considered, the A35 AMG is a very good car - like the Golf GTI - and can be regarded as a hot hatch that succeeds in the job description set out by its creator. It's an ideal car for the daily drive, with enough firepower when you need it to move.