South Africa

REVIEW | New 2020 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC is anything but mellow

REVIEW | New 2020 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC is anything but mellow

When the national lockdown lifts, our nation will be reeling on all fronts. Acquiring a new vehicle, let alone a hot hatchback, is likely to fall towards the bottom of the priority list for most motorists, as tasks of rebuilding lives and the economy takes precedence.

The automotive industry, across manufacturing and retail spheres, will need time to reboot. Every manufacturer has been affected by this. Mercedes-AMG was among many brands that intended to launch new products in SA, before the pandemic turned the world on its head. The A35, pictured here, had been but one such model on the cards.

Late in February we had pestered the brand to avail us a unit before official release proceedings, to accommodate certain working-in-advance protocols for Ignition TV and the monthly Sunday Times Lifestyle Motoring supplement, both owned by Arena Holdings, in addition to this title you are reading.

They relented. And a shockingly bright, sunshine-hued specimen found itself illuminating a corner of our Parktown office basement like the glow of a firefly. Its scowling face sets the tone for what drivers can expect. This is a car that goads your right foot: around town it feels as if it is straining at the leash, and prefers to devour insects at three-digit speeds, on the back roads of the province instead.

And remember, this junior wearing the three-pointed star slots a tier beneath the A45 on the product hierarchy. Power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a two-litre displacement, good for 225kW and 400Nm. The manufacturer claims a sprint time of 4.7 seconds and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is the default transmission choice. It tips the scales at 1555kg and has all-wheel drive.

Those black multi-spoke alloys are shod with Pirelli P-Zero rubber (235/35ZR19). Obviously, we did not expect the cushiness of an S-Class on pneumatic suspension here. But the ride is especially hard, bordering on unforgiving in some instances, where the A35 has its nerves shattered by ripples and uneven urban tarmac surfaces. Tyre roar is especially intrusive at freeway speeds too.

But at least in this application the power source (shared with lesser A-Class versions as well) sounds less like a sewing machine and more like a vehicle of this nature should. So yes, it has a character as rambunctious as the lurid colour suggests.

Some may argue that this roughness around the edges befits the character of a hot hatchback in the traditional sense. On the other side of the coin, one could counter that such a lack of refinement does not complement the ethos of the emblem it wears. It costs R753,000, before options.