The word “hot hatch” is not so common in North America, but those of us that know cars, know what a hot hatch is thanks to watching European car shows. A hot hatch used to be a more powerful and sporty version of a relatively affordable hatchback. In Europe there are a lot of these types of vehicles, and thankfully we’re lucky enough in Canada to have a few of these available. I said “used to be” because most of these hot hatches are quite pricey nowadays, but at least they are still available.
One such car available at Canadian auto dealerships is the Mercedes-AMG A35 hatchback, a car that’s not available in the United States, at least as a hatchback. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend a week behind the wheel of one of this sporty little hatchbacks and I can tell you all the fuss about these “hot hatch-es” is warranted.
Hatchbacks haven’t been hot sellers in the United States for some reason, but Canadians (along with Europeans and other foreign markets) love them. I’m personally a big fan of hatchbacks and wagons; but unfortunately, options are limited and are a fraction of what our European friends have available to them. But thankfully Mercedes-Benz brings us cars like the A35 hatchback and the C43 Wagon, which is also not available in the United States.
Powering the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine, producing 302 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque between 3,000- 4,000 rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels via an AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The combination gives the A35 AMG a 0 – 100 km (0 – 62 mph) time of 4.7 seconds, which is quite impressive.
The A35 is quite a lot of fun to drive; the 302 HP might not seem like a lot in today’s 700+ horsepower supercars and muscle cars, but this is a small car and the amount of power provided by the engine is more than enough to make you think you’re a race car driver. My first impressions were “weeee”, when I first started driving the A35. It felt really quick and a lot of fun, almost like a go-kart (pardon the cliché). The power delivery is smooth and thanks to the twin-scroll turbocharger, there’s a decent amount of torque available down low, with the sweet spot just above 3k rpm. The dual-clutch transmission does a great job with keeping up with all the horses pumped out of the engine in the auto mode, or you can change gears manually with the metal paddle shifters.
The A35 is based on the A-Class sedan/hatchback, I reviewed the A220 sedan last year and I liked that car as it was, so the added horsepower and more boxy form was welcomed. The suspension on the A35 is definitely stiffer than the A220 but it’s not uncomfortable and adds to the sporty characteristics of this vehicle. The steering feel is quite heavy on the A35, just the way I like it, it feels great on the straights and even greater on twisty roads. Weaving in and out of traffic is just a matter of putting a slight hint of pressure on the steering wheel in either direction and the A35 goes where it’s pointed before you even realize it.
The A35 AMG Hatchback shares its looks with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz family, especially the front grill. Overall, the A35 is a pretty good-looking hatchback and looks quite beefy from certain angles. I especially like the look of the A35 from the back, it just looks so hunkered down and ready to take off. Our review car came with a pretty conservative roof-mounted spoiler, but you can get a more aggressive spoiler that tells the world you’re ready to race.
The Mercedes-AMG A35 has a very familiar looking interior, it shares it’s looks with the rest of the MB family of vehicles. The interior layout is quite beautiful and I can see why Mercedes would want to use it on all of their vehicles, with minor changes on different models and trims.
The star of the show is huge horizontal screen that starts behind the steering wheel and stretches all the way to the middle of the dashboard. Under it are three air vents for hot/cold air with a small section for the climate control system with buttons for temperature, fan speed, and airflow direction. Below all of this is the wireless phone charging pad, a pair of cup holders, the trackpad for controlling the infotainment system, and a few buttons and knobs for driving modes, volume knob, car settings etc.
The interior is comfortable and has a good amount of room for the front occupants. Unlike the A-Class sedan, the rear passengers have a good amount of leg room and more importantly, more head room because of the boxy shape of the hatchback.
Just like the A220 I reviewed last year, the A35 can be loaded up with quite a lot of tech, convenience, and safety features. The A35 comes with MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), which is an advanced multimedia infotainment system. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of different cars with “voice-command” type of infotainment systems, but MBUX takes things to the next level. For certain commands, you can talk to the system like a normal human being, for example “Mercedes, it’s really cold in here”, and the system will automatically set the temperature to what it thinks is appropriate.
In addition to being able to command the system to add an address in the navigation system, it can turn on/off the climate system, change temperature, change fan speed, turn on/off heated seats or cooled seats (if equipped), change radio stations, and even open the screen on the moon roof. This system works really well and is another step closer to the days where we’ll get in the car and tell it where to go and let it do all the driving.
The infotainment system can also be controlled by touching the touchscreen, using the trackpad on the center console, or the small touch-sensitive button on the steering wheel. This system doesn’t take much time to get used and is even easier if you’re already familiar with new Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Personally, I mostly used the small button on the steering wheel to go between the menus and occasionally used voice command.
Overall, I think the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 Hatchback is a great little car. It’s small, sporty, practical, and a lot of fun to drive. I’m glad Mercedes-Benz is still offering cars like this in Canada and other parts of the world (sorry USA). Not everyone wants or needs an SUV, so it’s great to have options of practical cars that can be a lot of fun.