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Remember straightforward hatchbacks of Tarmac-sniffing stance and turbocharged brawn? It is, I’m sad to say, a sign of the times that these cars now feel a bit of a novelty.

Hot hatches are dying out, with most of them now in their final evolutionary stage and quite expensive. Fifty-grand Honda Civic Type R, anyone?   

Among the stalwarts is the Mercedes-AMG A35, which ticks both boxes. Along with the rest of the A-Class range, it has been refreshed for 2023 before an electric successor arrives a couple of years down the line.

The updated version inherits the bulging bonnet of the hardcore A45 as well as that car’s grille, while the Mercedes roundel is swapped for one of the Affalterbach firm’s. That last element is curious, and I suppose the message is that this is a proper AMG.

Is it really? Doubts linger. The most ‘accessible’ AMG product in history, the A35 has always used a modified version of a mainline A-Class motor rather than something AMG-bespoke, so questions of authenticity are fair game. Equally, the new C63 has only four cylinders where previously you got an earth-shaking V8, so what even is authenticity anyway?     

With tweaked headlights, a new wheel design and other small changes, the A35 looks sharp enough, although the rear wing is an element the 416bhp A45 only just manages to pull off, so it looks just a bit try-hard on the A35. Fortunately, this dubious aerodynamic addenda comes only with top-ranking (and, at £51,000, conspicuously expensive) Premium Plus trim. Lesser flavours of A35 get a neat spoiler-cum-gurney that reminds me of the original Ford Focus RS.

Inside, Mercedes has done away with the touchpad, so the infotainment is now controlled solely via the crisp touchscreen. In general, the interior continues to trade more on superficial swankiness than unimpeachable quality, but it’s hospitable enough. And it has a new steering wheel that’s far more attractive, the old and absurdly thick multifunction spokes being binned.

Mercedes amg a35 review 2023 10 dash

In dynamic terms, five years on from its introduction, the A35 remains an interesting and inconsistent character. You can sense that in some ways it wants to be a B-road attack dog. It’s certainly sprung firmly enough for this kind of driving and maintains its composure well when you really fling it along.

At the same time, steering response can be disconcertingly lethargic off-centre, and the seats are neither supportive enough nor nestled low enough to match the tone of intent set by the suspension. So you back things off and try to flow the A35.

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But then the ride quality sticks out for the wrong reasons. It borders on brittle unless the surface is a delight. The problem is pronounced at the back axle and seems to be related to spring rates, meaning that opting for the softest of the three damper settings isn’t much help. An upmarket, all-paw hot hatch needs more versatility than this. And fewer rattles. 

The A35 also has a bit of road roar problem, but as it already comes on Continental SportContact 6 tyres, I’m not sure there’s an obvious fix. Michelins would probably be a touch louder.  

There was never much wrong with this car’s gutsy performance, though, and the adoption of a 48V mild-hybrid system (kerb weight goes up 15kg as a result) is said to offer a 13bhp bump at lower revs, although the headline figure of 302bhp at 5800rpm is unchanged.

The facelifted car also gets Mercedes’ eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which, despite its extra ratio, is lighter and more compact than the old seven-speeder. It’s wickedly snappy, even if the software can be a little slow to instruct for downshifts. 

Yet ultimately the A35 isn’t really at ease with itself, unfailingly rapid and in some aspects very slick as it is. I suspect ownership may frustrate, and that probably isn’t true of the updated BMW M135i.

Mercedes amg a35 review 2023 23 static front      

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Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

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drazingazor 23 November 2023

A guide to improving the academic experience in the study boarding school in Isfahan, 2023.11.22/* Use of various educational resources for boarding school guidance: Use various resources such as books, articles, and online educational resources. Diverse educational programs such as videos and podcasts can also make the educational experience more interesting. Active participation in classes: Participate in class activities and interact with professors and other students. Submit your questions and share your comments. Developing academic and applied skills: Look for opportunities to develop practical skills related to your field of study. Get involved in hands-on projects and activities. Maintaining a life balance: Take time to rest and pay attention to your physical fitness. Recreational and artistic activities act as an equalizing action for academic pressures. Stress management: Learn and practice different ways to manage stress, such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation. Participation in associations and cultural activities of the study boarding house in Isfahan, Dr. Azin Gazer drazingazor: Participation in student associations and activities can improve the academic experience from a social and cultural point of view.

Cadders 18 October 2023

Not surprised to hear about poor interior build quality. My A250e saloon is the creakiest most rattly car I think I've ever driven. The interior quality is truly crap for a car approaching £40k. If you like your interiors squeak free, avoid Mercs at all cost !! 

Ezee 20 August 2023
This new Mercedes are something else. I'm definitely owning one soon.