February 13, 2013 3:50 PM |
Posted By: Stephen Dobie
Rated 4.0 out of 5.0 by 4 members
How much is too much? I’m talking about hot hatchbacks. Today Mercedes pulled the wraps off its A45 AMG, which sounds like it will be extremely exciting to drive as well as spacious, practical and a doddle to live with. All the hot hatch boxes ticked with a nice indelible Sharpie, it would seem.
Yet it has 355bhp. More than a Lotus Evora S. Its 2-litre turbo engine is the most powerful four-cylinder on sale, and delivers a 178bhp/litre specific output. More than any production car (apparently). With the help of four-wheel drive and a swift twin-clutch gearbox, it’ll embarrass many very expensive sports cars in a straight line.
If AMG’s recent purple patch continues, this will be a very, very good car to drive. But to extract most from it will likely require some antisocial speeds, and most probably an open circuit. Does this lift it into another genre entirely? Hot hatches of old were about extracting enormous amounts of fun at sane, sensible and (quite importantly) non-scary speeds.
It’s not just the Mercedes, either. Last week I had my first go in BMW’s new M135i, a rear-drive hot hatch with a sensible price tag and a 316bhp straight-six. It sounds fantastic, goes like the proverbial off a stick and is cracking to drive. Yet in our current cold and wintry weather, I had nearly as much fun driving a Toyota Auris 1.6 close to its limits as I did more gingerly exploring the brawnier BMW’s.
Do we need to rewrite what a hot hatchback should actually provide? Or is the ability to call anything from a 99bhp Fiat Panda to a 355bhp Mercedes A-class a hot hatch what makes this particular marketplace so exciting? I’d love to hear your thoughts (and which hot hatch you drive…)