NOTHING in this realm comes close to the new Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG. While special performance is nothing new for the hallowed AMG range, this prestige hot hatch is something out of the box.
The three-pointed star's performance division has traditionally shoehorned V8s in small sedans, but now they have turned their attention to all-wheel drive and squeezed a monumental 265 kilowatts and 450 Newton metres from a four-cylinder engine.
Not only does it have power and prestige, it's also affordable. This is the cheapest AMG available at just under $75,000 offering arguably the best bang for your luxury buck across the entire Mercedes range.
Another four-door coupe (CLA), which has the same underpinnings, is coming in October, but this hatch is the one which has fans salivating.
It's already sold out until March next year and once word spreads expect that queue to lengthen.
Mercedes-Benz admits demand is going to outweigh supply. A nice problem to have in challenging economic times.
Brilliant Recaro bucket front seats wrap you up and hug you into place for the wild ride ahead.
Fittingly, there are touches of the fastest colour in the palette to break up the primarily black finishes which includes a cool woven material across the dash.
You can even see red inside the perforations in the heated black AMG pews, but the cherry hues of the stitching on the seats, doors and steering wheel, circumnavigating the turbine looking air vents and on other trinkets around the cabin can't be missed. Oh, and the red seat belts look pretty slick too.
Then there's the awesome sports steering wheel with microfibre material which feels great in your hands.
Jutting out from the dash is the 17cm colour screen, which looks a bit like an add-on and can't be folded away.
Two adults under 180cm can fit in the back, yet things feel somewhat confined with the thick front head rests and raked rear windows. Leg room can be tight, as is head room, although it's enough real estate for kids in car seats.
On the road
Wow. This thing is an absolute weapon.
Stamp the accelerator and it answers with blunt force but then manages to attack bends at insane speed, dancing and tiptoeing around tight corners with grace and poise.
Cruise around under normal throttle and things are pretty standard, almost subdued - but put the hammer down and the exhaust plays a rally-car-like tune. Lift off and it'll cackle, or shift up under full acceleration and you get a barrage of firecrackers.
The A45 is even equipped with a launch function, all you have to do is pull the paddles back in unison and then just flatten your right foot and step off the brake.
That is like firing yourself out of a cannon with traction perfection.
Up to 50% of torque can be sent to the rear paws, running primarily in front wheel drive. When slip is detected, power is channelled to the rear, and it all works to deliver a car that is easy to drive fast.
What do you get?
Surprisingly, there aren't too many options on the list. With standard kit like 19-inch alloys, radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring system, lane keep assist, heated AMG performance seats, sat nav, Harman Kardon stereo, dual zone air con, panoramic sunroof and Bi-Xenon headlights, there isn't much you go without.
Black alloys will cost an extra $490, while an aero pack featuring a rear wing, front splitter with carbon flicks will cost you $1990 for an extra 40kg of downforce at 250kmh.
Those track-focused can get performance suspension with 20% firmer springs for $1990.
There really isn't anything that comes near this for the coin or size, but there is also the BMW 135i M Sport ($74,745) which generates 225kW, Audi will soon be releasing its 206kW S3 ($59,900), while Subaru offers the 221kW WRX STI Spec R ($65,990).
The boot is smallish, but okay for a weekly grocery shop. There's no spare, just the inflation kit in case of a flat. Two cup holders are in the centre, and each door caters for a bottle.
There is an economy mode, but why would you?
Behave and you can get fuel economy of about seven litres for every 100km. We couldn't help ourselves with that exhaust soundtrack and would regularly exercise our right ankle.
Servicing and insurance will be at the higher end of the scale and it would worth getting some quotes to avoid upsetting the bank manager.
The hot hatch realm has a new hero. The A45 has performance attributes to match some Ferraris and Porsches, along with some of the best from Audi and BMW, at a fraction of the price.
Not only does it look good and sound brilliant, it makes drivers look better than their ability.
It's forgiving, has outstanding grip and an ability to find traction under the most testing of circumstances.
Would I have one in my driveway? Absolutely. Do I need one in my driveway? Absolutely
WHAT MATTERS MOST
The good stuff: Astounding acceleration, brilliant exhaust soundtrack, outstanding grip, best value performance car going, track capable straight from the showroom.
What we'd like to see: Less badges on the back (AMG would do), perhaps a spacesaver spare - but now we're nitpicking.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 20,000km or 12 months.
Model: Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive performance hatch.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 265kW @ 6000rm and peak torque of 450Nm @ 2250-5000rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.9 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 4.6 seconds, top speed 270kmh (electronically limited).
Bottom line: $74,900 (plus on-roads).
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.