[REVIEW] 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 hatch

Canada shares the world’s longest undefended border with the United States. But yet our cultures are distinctly different in many ways. Canada is a country that is often known for its culture of multiculturalism, and there are many values and beliefs that Canadians hold that are very different from Americans. Sometimes this can be confusing when the two cultures are combined and seem ‘obviously’ similar.

However, it is important to remember how unique Canada is not only in comparison to Europe, but also in comparison to America.

Case in point is with the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 hatchback, the test subject of today’s review. As previously written in my review of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz A250 4matic hatch, Canadians enjoy our small hatchbacks and wagons far more than our American cousins and we get to enjoy the Mercedes-AMG A35 hatch, which is not available South of the border.

Apparently part of this also has to do with global supply, as Canada has the highest AMG take-rate in the world (one in four Benzes sold in Canada are AMG models).

What is it?

The Mercedes-AMG A35 is the latest addition to the AMG “lite” family. As the most affordable AMG yet, one could be forgiven for wondering whether this is a cynical exercise in AMG logo placement. However, the depth of engineering and changes to the chassis that turns a regular A-Class hatch into an AMG means that the A35 is hardly the runt of the litter.

It might not have all the technical changes which go into the full tilt Mercedes-AMG A45, but the yet the upgrades are notable.

What are some of the changes compared to the A250?

These upgrades include a bespoke aluminum shear panel beneath the engine, additional bracing connecting the front suspension towers to the firewall, as well as bespoke suspension bits and bobs. Specifically, the AMG engineers have reduced unsprung weight and added stiffness to the front axle by introducing bespoke steering knuckles and new aluminum MacPherson struts. There are also four piston AMG front calipers on large cross-drilled rotors.

This inherent increase in stiffness across the chassis gave engineers a better starting point to best tune each of the respective hardware inputs with more precision than in the mainstream A250 hatch.

Powering the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 is an upgraded version of the M260 2.0 litre turbocharged four cylinder engine under the hood of the A250, rather than a detuned version of the AMG-built M139 engine from the A45 AMG.

It was no simple exercise in turning the boost up though. The standard turbo was replaced with a more sophisticated twin-scroll unit as well as an updated air-to-water intercooler amongst strengthened internals and upgraded breathing.

Power is rated at the aforementioned 302 horsepower, besting the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3, while torque peaks at 295lb-ft at 3,000rpm. The latter is a bit higher than I’d ordinarily like, as there is a bit of turbo lag at times.

The A35’s engine is paired with Mercedes-AMG’s seven-speed dual clutch gearbox (versus the eight-speed in the GLB35 or the A45), and power is sent to all four wheels via the latest iteration of Benz’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. This system powers the front axle only in normal driving before sending up to 50 per cent of the available torque aft when slippage is detected or during initial acceleration.

While there isn’t anything in the way of a torque vectoring rear differential to augment a rear-wheel-drive ‘feel’ into the handling balance – that’s the preserve of AMG’s more boisterous 382 horsepower A45 – the system is predictive and can determine exactly when drive should be shunted rearwards.

The 4matic system also has a Sport mode, activated in ESP Sport or off, which favours the rear axle more readily. There is also a range of five driving modes (Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual), to suit your fancy to the environmental conditions.

Overall performance figures are strong with 0-100 km/hr runs taking about 4.8 seconds.

How does it drive?

Pull away and it’s not immediately obvious that the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 hatch is anything other than a standard A-class.

However, start delving into the plethora of AMG driver modes and the A35’s character changes quite dramatically, gradually sharpening the steering, throttle, transmission and the adaptive dampers. The ride is still rather stiff at times, but never punishing. If you’re looking for a boulevard cruiser though, this ain’t it.

Right from the off, the gruff four-cylinder is perhaps a little less refined than you would expect given the three-pointed star on the grille. Once inside it’s quiet enough, your attention instead drawn to the glitzy interior. While I won’t delve too much into the interior accoutrements as it is similar (in a good way) to the A250 hatch. Suffice it to say that the more aggressive AMG Alcantara sports seats (complete with mood lighting), red seatbelts, do add to the overall sportier character of the car.

The A35’s driving feel is unmistakably front-led/neutral. This isn’t a bad thing but it’s less rewarding to drive hard compared to its more expensive A45 sibling. Power is transferred aft seamlessly and without any chirping at the front wheels, and if you enter a fast corner on the brakes, the tail does lighten. That’s largely as exciting as it gets as the well-calibrated stability control system holds the line well and the A35 hatch is never intimidating to pilot.

On challenging roads, the A35’s inherent increase in stiffness is apparent especially if you’re on a challenging road. However, this also brought up a fit and finish issue in my test vehicle, which had all sorts of squeaks from the seats and trim pieces. I could never pinpoint the exact panels which were the issues, but other AMG vehicles that I’ve driven haven’t had this issue.

Final thoughts

Overall, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 hatch is a stylish and sporty compact hatch. If you’re looking for something that won’t break the bank but is a bit more unique, with more power, agility compared to the standard A250 hatch, this may be a good starting point to get a little dash of AMG in your life.

Just keep in mind that there is a new 2022 Volkswagen Golf R just coming around the corner.


Leave a Reply