Mercedes may have given birth to the super hatchback without realizing it

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The automotive industry has come a long way and we have gotten plenty of great cars, over the years. The competitive nature of the industry usually means that the first one to come up with something has a competitive edge. Tesla is a good example, as the brand pioneered high-performance EVs. When it comes to performance, whoever has the quickest car gets the bragging rights. This competition, based on performance is what caused “the Horsepower wars” and, with their AMG A45S, Mercedes may have created an entirely new segment, without even realizing it.

But this phenomenon isn’t reserved just for the higher spectrum of cars. Hatchbacks have also gained a significant amount of horsepower over the years. The Mercedes AMG A45S is the latest example and it has taken things to an entirely new level. The A-class evolved from a disastrous mini-MPV-looking thing to a fully-fledged hatchback in 2012, with the W176 generation.

This generation also gave us the first A45 AMG, which had a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, producing 360 horsepower (268 kilowatts) and 332 pound-feet (450 Nm).

The car also had a Mercedes’ 4-Matic all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG High Resolution Exterior
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Even back then, the A45 AMG was stretching the definition of what a hot hatchback is and what it’s supposed to be capable of. In 2015, came the facelift with even more power – now 381 horsepower (284 kilowatts) and 350 pound-feet (475 Nm). The 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) time dropped from 4.6 to 4.2 seconds, which was now on par with some 1990s and 2000s supercars, like the Jaguar XJ220 and Pagani Zonda C12.

What makes a Hot Hatchback?

Mercedes Created An Entirely New Segment With the AMG A45 Exterior
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Hot hatchbacks are performance versions of the economy two-box design vehicles, popular since the 1970s. The original idea of the hot hatch is to be an affordable compromise between performance and usability. It still retains all characteristics of the hatchback, but usually has enhanced chassis, suspension, brakes, and most importantly, a more powerful engine.

There is a reason why high-end performance cars are either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. Front-wheel-drive is the most efficient, in that, you have the least amount of powertrain loss due to its drivetrain having fewer moving components. However, this layout has a low horsepower limit, with regards to how much power it can put down to the ground reliably. That limit is around 300 horsepower. Nowadays, most, if not all hot hatchbacks with over 300 horsepower have smart differentials and sophisticated traction control systems. Despite that, they still struggle to put the power down. Hot hatchbacks are about performance, but also about simplicity, and we are way past that.

All-wheel-drive for the win

Mercedes Created An Entirely New Segment With the AMG A45 Exterior
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Car manufacturers found a very simple way to fix that. By now, most car companies have their own all-wheel-drive system, so they started using it in their hot hatchbacks. The Golf R, Focus RS, Toyota GR Yaris, and almost any other hot hatchback, currently on sale, sends the power to all four wheels. Switching to all-wheel-drive also allowed manufacturers to squeeze more power, as it was now much easier to put it to the ground.

Mercedes Created An Entirely New Segment With the AMG A45
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The W177 generation of the Mercedes AMG A45S is the latest example. It produces 421 horsepower (314 kilowatts) and 369 pound-feet (500 Nm).

Combined with all-wheel drive and a quick-shifting double-clutch gearbox, the baby AMG accelerates from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in just 3.9 seconds. When you give a 400 plus horsepower hatchback all-wheel-drive and a quick-shifting transmission, it becomes much quicker. Who would have guessed? The Mercedes AMG A45S is, in every measurable way, a better performance car than anything else in the segment, but is it still a hot hatch, or is it something else?

Mercedes-AMG A45S specifications
Engine turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Power 421 HP
Torque 369 LB-FT
Transmission quick-shifting double-clutch
0 to 60 mph 3.9 seconds

The price

Mercedes Created An Entirely New Segment With the AMG A45 Exterior
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As we mentioned, a hot hatchback needs to be quick, sporty, practical, and affordable. The Mercedes AMG A45S does not tick all the boxes. Quick, it may be, but with a starting price of €61,821, it’s anything but affordable and also way more than any other hatchback, currently on sale. Yes, you still get enough room for four people, even if a bit cramped, and decent cargo space, but you can get even more practicality from a Golf R, which costs a lot less.

And if you want the A45S performance figures, plenty of professional tuners will be happy to unleash the hidden potential of your car, while keeping things reliable. There are plenty of 400 and even 500 plus horsepower Golfs roaming around to prove that. Regardless, the asking price of the AMG A45S is way above what it should be for a hatchback, even if it matches some supercars, in terms of 0 to 62 mph times.

How did we get here?

Mercedes Created An Entirely New Segment With the AMG A45 Exterior
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It’s all about the numbers and everyone loves talking in numbers. It’s the easiest way to get a rough idea about a car, without even driving it. It’s also a way to brag that your A45S is quicker than both the current RS3 and M135i to 60 mph. In any case, manufacturers are making their cars more powerful, complex, and stiffer, which in turn inflates the price. The mentality is that whichever car is the fastest in its segment, on the Nurburgring, or at the quarter-mile will have the bragging rights and has the potential to be more sought-after than the competition.

The Mercedes AMG A45S is a Super-hatchback

Mercedes Created An Entirely New Segment With the AMG A45 Exterior
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The A45S is no longer a hot hatch. Although it has retained some practicality, it’s too expensive and way too quick. If older generations stretched the definition of a hot hatch, the W177 A45S goes way beyond it. AMG has created a Super hatchback. Seeing as how everyone copies from its competitors, especially the German trio, it will be curious to how much more performance can carmakers squeeze from their hatchbacks.

The Super hatchback may have been foreshadowed

7 Unlikely Cars With Porsche DNA That You Didn't Know About
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Although we are only now talking about a super hatch, the seeds of madness may have been planted long ago. Going back to the 1980s, 1990s, and even early 2000s, there were many homologation cars, on which the rally versions were loosely based. Later, some of these cars had spiritual successors, case in point being the 2001-2005 Renault Clio V-6, which was a throwback to the 1982 Renault 5 Turbo.

In its final form, the Clio V-6 developed 255 horsepower from its 2.9-liter mid-mounted V-6, tweaked by Porsche. This allowed for, a very impressive for the time, 0 to 62 mph time of 5.8 seconds.

Renault Clio V-6 specifications
Engine 2.9-liter 60-degree V-6 2.9-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower 230 HP @ 6,000 RPM 255 HP
Torque 221 LB-FT @ 3,750 RPM 221 LB-FT @ 3,750 RPM
0 to 62 mph 6.4 seconds 5.9 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph (250 km/h) 155 mph (250 km/h)
1985 Lancia Delta S4 Stradale High Resolution Exterior
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Another example is the Lancia Delta S4 “Stradale” (Street). Another rear-wheel-drive, mid-engine monstrosity. Like the Renault 5 Turbo, this one was born thanks to Group B homologation rules. A total of 200 units were made. Its 1.8-liter twin-charged inline-four produced 250 horsepower and 215 pound-feet (292 Nm). The needle went past 62 mph (100 km/h) after just 6.0 seconds.

Lancia Delta S4 “Stradale” specifications
Engine 1.8-liter twin-charged inline-four
Horsepower 250 HP
Torque 215 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph 6.0 seconds
Top Speed 140 mph
2007 Volkswagen Golf GTI W12
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Volkswagen Golf GTI W12

Let’s not forget the one-off Golf GTI W12, which has a mid-mounted 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 producing 650 horsepower. Those are sent to all four wheels, through a beefed-up six-speed DSG, allowing for a 3.7 second time to 62 mph and a top speed of 202 mph (325 km/h).

Volkswagen Golf GTI W12 specifications
Engine 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12
Power 650 HP
Transmission six-speed DSG
0 to 60 mph 3.7 seconds
Top Speed 202 mph (325 km/h)
Mercedes Created An Entirely New Segment With the AMG A45 Exterior
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Although these cars are nowhere near the performance of the A45S, they were quite radical for their time. Nevertheless, these cars are proof that the hot hatchback formula has always headed in this direction, and soon, a hatchback with over 500 horsepower out the box may become a common sight.

Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read full bio
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