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It may be Mercedes-AMG's smallest and cheapest model, but the dynamic prowess of the new A35 hot hatch make it every bit worthy of the AMG badge.

05 Dec 2018

When Mercedes first unleashed its A45 upon the hot hatch world in 2013, the 360bhp it made from a mere 2.0-litre was the most powerful four-cylinder engine in the world at that time.

A few years later, an update to the model gifted it with even more power, resulting in a hyper hatch with 381bhp and 475Nm of wrenching force. For any enthusiast, the A45 was like the Mona Lisa of the hot hatch world.

But like the Mona Lisa, it is expensive. In Singapore, the A45 sells for $281,888, which is a fair bit more than what rivals like the Audi S3 and BMW M140i command.

Targeted at younger buyers, the new A35 offers an even lower entry point into club AMG

So in a bid to pull more buyers away from the RS and M division and into AMG ownership, the company created this - the A35. As the numeric in its name suggest, it is the A 45's little brother and the AMG family's new baby.

And according to Bastian Bogenschutz, Overall Vehicle Development AMG, the A35 may be targeted at younger buyers but no expense has been spared to ensure that it lives up to the high-performance brand's heritage.

No baby in performance

Like the A45, the A35 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder that pushes its power to all four wheels. However, unlike the A45, whose engine like all AMG engines before is hand-built by one man, the A35's is a revised version of the new A250 engine (think bigger twin-scroll turbo, stronger internals and such).

No builder's signature but this boosted 2.0-litre makes an impressive 302bhp and 400Nm of torque

So while you may not find a hand-signed builder's plaque under the bonnet of the A35, its powerplant is still every bit worthy of an AMG nod.

The 302bhp and 400Nm it makes is plenty sufficient for punching out of corners and allows for a 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.7 seconds, just 0.5 seconds shy of the A45.

And thanks to the twin-scroll turbo, power delivery is quick and relatively linear, with the full brunt of its 400Nm of torque coming to play just under 3,000rpm. However, it's not as rev-happy as we hoped it to be, with the power band maxing out at just over 6,000rpm.

Drive modes can be switched easily using this knob, reminiscent of the Porsche's Sport Chrono rotary dial

Equally quick is the way its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission switches from gear to gear, producing a resounding pop when you upshift at high revs, and aggressive burbles and cackles when downshifting in Sport and Sport + drive modes.

Interestingly, the exhaust system is 100% variable and it gets louder and more riotous from Sport to Sport + and also according to how hard you're mashing the throttle.

And in the aforementioned sportier settings, all aspects of its power and drivetrain are sharpened for heightened response, flatter cornering and maximum agility.

When needed, 50% of the A35's power can be sent to the rear wheels, so it behaves inherently front-wheel drive most of the time.

Big 350mm four-pot calipers and sticky Pirelli P Zero tyres serve up tons of stopping power and grip

Because of that, it doesn't quite provide the raw hooliganism of, say, a Focus RS but its well-sorted chassis - stiffened up thanks to a bolted aluminium plate under the engine and two additional diagonal braces up front - and suspension setup help to provide tons of grip and confidence, even for less experienced drivers.

Its large brakes, four-piston calipers with 350mm disks up front and smaller 330mm ones at the rear, contribute to that end, too.

Driven in its default Comfort mode, the A35 is as comfortable as the A250 with the powertrain, adaptive suspension and steering set for quiet and fuel efficient driving, which is one of its biggest boons as an everyday hot hatch.

The A35 can be enjoyed whether you're driving like a violent maniac or slowly cruising around town

But like all cars, the A35 has its bane. While it is easy to drive fast, it's a little lacking where steering feel and feedback are concerned. In its sportier driving modes, it feels a little too artificially weighted and not as quick as the Megane RS or Audi S3.

Unlike other AMG models, it also doesn't have a conventional gear selector knob, which is weird for a sporty car. Shifting from Park to Reverse or Drive is done instead by flicking the stalk to the right of the steering wheel, like the regular A-Class.

Smaller price tag, big on class

However, if you can look past those slight niggles, then there's no reason you won't enjoy the A35.

The standard AMG seats provide massive style as well as holding and comfort

With its premium interior carried over from the A-Class, albeit dressed up with a new AMG steering wheel, racy AMG seats and an AMG-specific digital cluster, it looks the most futuristic and feels the most premium amongst the competition.

Best of all, if our guesstimates are right, it should be at least $30,000 cheaper than the A45 when it arrives in Singapore sometime between late 2019 and early 2020.

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