Top Gear's guide to buying a used Mercedes-Benz A-Class

January 26, 2023

In the main, not particularly. The first and second-generation cars weren’t supposed to be performance cars in any way, shape or form, and adding power to that platform would be little more than a method of rolling over even sooner than normal. Perhaps needless to say, the A38 AMG version – a 250bhp, twin-engined beast, that apparently had the ability to turn off the rear-mounted four-cylinder to run on the front one – never made it past a handful of hand-built cars. And neither did the A32K AMG, which used the supercharged 3.2-litre V6 from the SLK32 and C32 AMG. Reports vary on how many of each exist, but it's safe to assume you’re unlikely to see one out the front of Tesco.

The quickest production versions of the ‘tall’ A-Classes was the second-gen A200 turbo, which could do nought to 62 in the... still fairly leisurely mid-sevens, actually. The fastest first-gen A was the A210, with a heady 138bhp and a top speed of 126mph. Which is likely for the best, given what happens when you should show an early A any kind of corner...

For the bulk of the third- and fourth-generation A-Class, performance falls somewhere between sedate and adequate. Not that it dawdles or anything – the third-gen A200’s 150-odd horsepower is enough for any small hatchback, and the third- and fourth-gen A250s rival Golf GTIs for power and 0–62 times, with 220-odd horsepower and low sixes respectively. In any case, your average A-Class will have enough onboard to flay a metaphorical rice pudding, without being flagrantly quick.

The AMG A45, on the other hand, is. Without putting too sensational a spin on it, when the A45 first arrived, it immediately and irrevocably altered our perceptions of how rapid a small hot hatch could be. With well in excess of 300bhp (generally closer to 400bhp, and often more), all-wheel drive and 0–62 times that’d keep pace with most supercars, the A45 – and its sparring partner, the Audi RS3 – changed the hot hatch game entirely.

No, really – think about the yardstick for a hot hatch now. Something in the order of 300bhp and the ability to compress time and space like a black hole, right? Now, where did they get that idea?

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