Sometimes small is better. The smaller, the lighter, or at least this is usually the case. Among Mercedes-Benz offerings, the A-Class is the smallest and lightest model available, and within the A’s range there’s a piece of forbidden fruit in the form of a five-door hatch, that’s lightest of all.
Unfortunately, the A-Class Hatch isn’t available in the U.S., but it is in other markets around the world, including Canada, where a particularly quick AMG-tuned A35 4Matic came into my possession for a blissful week, followed shortly thereafter by a near equally sweet A35 4Matic Sedan. The latter non-truncated (trunkated?) four-door can be had in both markets, and while it only adds 5.1 inches (130 mm) and 99 lbs (45 kg) to the hatch overall, or 4.4 inches (112 mm) and 38 lbs (17 kg) in AMG form, every bit of mass makes a difference with such a diminutive B-segment compact.
How The AMG A35 Measures Up
The A35 is small as far as Mercedes-Benz models go. It measures 179.4 or 175.0 inches (4,557 or 4,445 mm) from nose to tail depending on body style, and shares a 107.4-inch (2,728-mm) wheelbase between the two. Not including the mirrors, the two models span 70.5 inches (1,791 mm) at their widest, and 56.4 inches (1,432 mm) at their tallest point. This makes the A35 Sedan the third longest in the compact B-segment (it’s 5.4 inches or 137 mm shorter than the CLA35/45), with the second-longest wheelbase. Only two competitors are narrower, and those include BMW’s i3 EV (now discontinued) and the tiny Mini Cooper 3-Door hatch, the latter barely qualifying for luxury brand status in its entry-level trim.
Still, the A35 is roomy enough. It’s fractionally taller than the category-average height, aiding headroom, and its aforementioned wheelbase enhances leg space, but the sedan’s miniscule 8.6 cubic-foot (243 liter) trunk gets walloped by everything else in the class, including the A35 hatchback’s 13.0 cu-ft (368-liter) cargo area—the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe’s trunk can handle a surprising 15.2 cu-ft (430 liters). Just the same, there’s probably enough room to fit a golf bag in the A sedan’s trunk, but A hatchback owners won’t be forced to stuff their trolley cart into the nicely finished back seat.
Eye-Popping Interior Sets The A-Class Apart From Every Rival
There isn’t an entry-level luxury model in this class that does a particularly bad job with its interior, especially when it comes to materials quality or general fit and finish, but some don’t seem to respect the sense of occasion that a premium brand should provide for the money being asked. Mercedes is clearly not of this ilk, layering in so much wow factor that most everything else in the segment seems outdated on arrival. From the dazzling dual-display of its digital interfaces, to the metallic brilliance of its many buttons, toggles and knobs, not to mention its beautiful jet engine-inspired circular vents, plus the plush micro-suede and leather found most everywhere else, this is a car you won’t tire of quickly.
Granted, not everyone will want something so fully digitized. The A35’s conjoined MBUX driver’s display and infotainment touchscreen seems to flow uninterrupted from left to right, while it comes filled with some of the brightest, clearest, most colorful graphics in the industry. Having experienced the MBUX system in everything from an even more basic A220 Sedan and A250 Hatch (the latter will make American M-B fans even more jealous of their northern neighbors), to an ultra-posh G550 that's arguably worth the price tag, with GLAs, Cs, GLCs, Es, GLEs, and GLSs in between, I can honestly attest to Mercedes’ making my favorite driver display and infotainment combination. I like it so much that I’m actually a bit concerned about the brand moving away from the current layout in the next-generation C-Class.
Even More Wow Factor Provided By A35 Performance
As good as its MBUX system is, the A35 isn’t only about eye-popping digitization. Apply right foot to throttle and up to 302 horsepower of quick-revving 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder performance responds with a sensory overload of its own, its 295 lb-ft of torque making the hatch capable of launching from idleness to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds (0-100 km/h takes 4.7), while the sedan manages the feat in 4.6 seconds (4.8 to 100 km/h).
The car’s boisterous exhaust sounds fabulous too, while standard 4Matic all-wheel drive keeps the A35’s 225/50R18 Continental ProContacts locked to tarmac without breaking traction, even in inclement weather, plus the standard paddle-shift actuated seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox delivers superbly quick yet smooth shifts no matter the chosen cog. Braking is breathtakingly abrupt too, both versions slowing from 62 mph (100 km/h) to zero in just 109 feet (33 meters).
AMG A35 Is A Weekend Autocross Course Zealot’s Dream
As you might expect, handling is equally eventful, or maybe uneventful is a better descriptor, being that it goes exactly where you point it. Altogether, the sum of its electronic variable-assist rack and pinion steering parts, plus its MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension components, combined with the adhesion from its aforementioned 4Matic AWD and 18-inch rubber, results in a level of agility that few in this segment can attain. Throw the A35 into a hairpin, and it responds with precision, remaining horizontal to the road surface and ideally poised, ready for the next apex, even staying stable when forced to pound on the brakes mid-corner.
The Hatch variant is probably a bit more flickable thanks to its lighter weight, but honestly, even if I’d driven these two back-to-back, back-and-forth over the same roads in identical conditions, I imagine their differences would be hard to sort out. Suffice to say they’re both very good at finding the quickest way through a circuitous two-laner, while also comfortable enough for the daily grind through the inner-city and connecting highways.
The Devilish Price Is In The Details
On that note, the lesser A220 sedan and A250 Hatch benefit from somewhat more forgiving suspension setups, and of course more compliant personalities overall. As part of the latter is much less capable forward thrust due to just 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque for the former, and 221/258 respectively for the latter (remember I mentioned American M-B fans would be jealous of Canadians?), while most of the luxurious soft-points and all of the electronic hard-points are included prior to stepping up to AMG status, including a front-wheel drivetrain for the A220 in the U.S. (AWD is standard in Canada).
Also notable, base A trims include smaller 7.0-inch driving and infotainment displays within the same 20-plus-inch horizontal tablet-like housing used for the 10.25-inch displays found in upgraded A220/250s and standard A35s. Thus, the $12,200 price gap between a $33,650 entry-level A-Class ($37,800 CAD) and the $45,850 A35 ($49,800CAD) (the difference equaling $11,600 CAD for the sedan and $9,600 CAD for the hatchback in Canada) isn’t only about performance, being that plenty of otherwise optional features come standard in the AMG, plus aforementioned finishings that can’t be had in the lesser car at all.
And Now For The Bad News
If you want another reason to hate on Canadians, try to find a 2022 AMG A35 at MBUSA.com. You can’t. It’s now, for reasons unexplained, unavailable. It seems to have been quietly pulled from Mercedes’ product lineup, without any announcement at all. After searching for any news and finding none, I had to reach out to Mercedes’ communication department for answers, and after a longer delay than anticipated, received the following message from a PR Specialist: “the A 35 will not be offered in the U.S. market for MY22.”
This should come as a surprise to the many credible publications that have reported extensively about the 2022 model in their online buyer’s guides (which have now mostly disappeared). The decision to drop the 2022 model may be due to the microchip shortage, an emissions issue, something otherwise unknown, or is possibly attributed to more 2021 inventory than planned, although the latter never stopped new model years from being introduced before. It may also be a combination of issues. A refreshed 2023 A-Class is on the way too, which may have something to do with the A35 cancellation, but I doubt that's the issue.
Gray Market Canadian AMG Models Anyone?
On the contrary, Canada is advertising both 2022 AMG A35 body styles on their retail website, so therefore gray-market purchases might be possible, a move that will be necessary for CLA35 buyers too, plus plenty of other AMG models that have vanished from MBUSA’s 2022 range. Adding insult to injury is the comparatively pedestrian performance provided by the 2022 A220 Sedan. I’ve driven an A220, and I like it for what is, but comparing it to an A35 is akin to mulling over the pros and cons of a base Honda Civic and a Type R. It’s simply not worth the exercise.
So, all said, if you’ve had your sights set on an AMG A35, hightail it to your local M-B dealer and snap up a 2021 while still possible. I did some searching and a few immediately popped up, but they won’t last long once news of their demise gets out. As for why MBUSA is now removing most AMG models from its new car range, that’s another issue for a future review. The move doesn’t appear temporary, so it may be part of its aggressive push toward electrification. Only time will tell.