The A45 was always going to be a curious confection. Given our experience of the A-Class, a savant-style imbalance seemed possible, with a preternatural talent for speed, perhaps, but one padlocked to narrow appeal and dynamic limitation.
It transpires that the A 45 is far more beguiling and well rounded than that. It is the best A-class by some distance. It is also ballistically quick. It isn’t easy to obtain 376bhp from a relatively small 2.0-litre engine and retain driveability — as anyone who has tried a Mitsubishi Evo FQ-360 will know.
AMG has, therefore, performed a terrific job on the A 45's engine, which is both flexible and willing. Better still, the A 45's savagery is not some ghastly appendage bolted on like a body kit. Thanks to a deft and tolerant chassis, it is deployable, enjoyable and fitting for the car’s ability.
Whether it fits the huge price that Mercedes charges is another, much thornier issue. There is class-leading power and pace here, and quite possibly the looks and quality to go with it.
This, however, is not the best hot hatch ever made, or even the best on sale as we write. And it would have to be to convince us that spending the extra over a Ford Focus RS or Volkswagen Golf R was advisable. Or that spending a little more to get a Porsche Cayman was not the way to go.