Mercedes-Benz AMG A45: a second-hand hot option?
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Hot-hatch fans in the market for a new or near-new car are being offered an almost bewildering range of options.
All the premium brands currently offer high-performance sports models, while Volkswagen continues to set a benchmark with its Golf GTI.
Ford offers the Focus RS, and newer brands such as SEAT are also selling high-performance hatchbacks. But that choice comes at a price — all of the above are available new in the $50,000-plus price range, and sports hatches from the likes of Mercedes-Benz (the AMG A45 for instance) can cost $100,000 plus when many of the option boxes are ticked.
Potential buyers can, however, look at the second-hand marketplace, in the hope of finding something excitingly quick and agile, for less money.
An example could be the A-Class–based Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG we test drove this month.
The surprisingly robust gold all-wheel-drive 2014 model was on the Mercedes-Benz Botany lot, with only 15,000km on the clock.
As one of the quickest of hot hatches, the car was listed for $59,950.
This compared with $105,000 on a brand-new equivalent model, which was admittedly equipped with extras that bumped up the price.
The engine puts out 280kW and 475Nm of torque, and the model has been clocked at zero to 100km/h in about 4.4 seconds. So no question, it is hot.
Even so, it is easy to see how the 2014 model could appeal. In a gold colour, it does not look as appealing as the brand-new black and yellow equivalent, but it is just over half the price.
Providing buyers with added assurance is Mercedes-Benz New Zealand’s two-year guarantee programme.
This offers customers the safest way to buy a used Mercedes-Benz. To qualify, cars have to be New Zealand new, have a full factory service history, and have passed a 118-point inspection process.
With it comes a two-year, unlimited kilometre factory warranty, as well as the assurance of inspection by factory-trained technicians.
The A45 features the highest output turbocharged four-cylinder engine in any mass production vehicle.
Although it is a relatively small hatchback, it feels and drives like a much larger and more substantial vehicle.
The 4Matic all-wheel-drive system ensures the car is well planted on the road, and there are plenty of incredibly satisfying pops and crackles coming from the exhaust system.
It is guaranteed to bring out the enthusiast, being capable of throwing the driver and passenger back in their seats.
Some of the connectivity and functions inside the A45 are not as sophisticated and effective as in the current model, which is a reminder about how fast these aspects of modern cars have progressed during the past four or five years.
All the features you would expect on a modern hatchback are there, including rear-vision camera and other driver assistance systems. But the real fun of the A45 comes from the thrilling drive it offers — it feels like a much more substantial vehicle than its appearance suggests.
It provides a great soundtrack to accompany the thrill of rapid take-off. There are also drive settings that can ramp up the noise and harden an already firm ride.
But the seats are comfortable and there is no question the A45 is a premium sports hatch that combines thrilling performance with more than enough edge for most enthusiasts.
From the front the 2014 model looks sporty but not spectacular, however at the rear, the roof spoiler not only generates plenty of downforce, it makes it obvious this is an aggressive hot hatch.
Our test car had a much lower mileage than most 2014 vehicles, making it an attractive choice at the price point.
Many other models from that era could be expected to have covered around 50,000km as opposed to this vehicle’s 15,000km.
With the guarantee thrown in, the A45 or similar models should not be ruled out when considering a hot-hatch purchase.