The marque took a hatchback, armed it with all-wheel drive, squeezed in a heavily boosted four-banger, and harnessed it with big brakes. It’s hard to dream a more ferocious apex-assassin. It missed our annual mega event for two years until finally arriving in 2016 with a new front-LSD and more power.
Unsurprisingly, each of its rivals fell to its sword, being cheaper and grippier than a BMW M2, more focused than an Audi RS3, and lighter than a Holden Commodore SS-V Redline. Returning to defend its $50K-$100K title, judges have grown to respect the A45’s fearsome package.
How it annihilates the racetrack or dragstrip tends to have the same effect, in blowing us all away. Flick to the data page and in every discipline, bar cornering speeds, it’s either first or bloody close. Such single-mindedness first greets you inside. Two large metal pedals, purposeful in size and layout, meet your feet.
The Recaro-designed seats install you deep into bolster, lashed by a bright-red seatbelt, while your fingers find shift-paddles behind the steering wheel – it’s a dual-clutch automatic only.
You tumble out of the A45 after a drive, head swirling as you try to grasp the rapid acceleration, violent sounding upshifts, tenacious corner grip and eye-popping brake power of such a little car. And it never feels like breaking a sweat. So much so we wonder why a greater number of them don’t harass more expensive machinery at Targa Tasmania.
This speed comes at a cost, though, as it’s not the most grin-inducing. It shrugs off a playful handling setup for grip and composure, while aggressive throttle inputs upset the inside front-wheel rather than the rear axle. After all, its Haldex all-wheel drive system can send only half of the available torque aft.
This year, it just couldn’t tear apart the formula’s price component like it does the tarmac. With a lower class price average this year, our $1990 Dynamic-Plus-package equipped test car just couldn’t deliver the same bang on each dollar like its rivals.
Progress waits for no-one. Speaking of, in a bare-knuckle track brawl, it still takes a lot to knock off an A45. But you’re about to behold two cars that did exactly that.
Engine: 1991cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 280kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 475Nm @ 2250-5000rpm
0-100km/h: 4.32sec (1st)
0-400m: 12.54sec @ 179.32km/h (1st)
Lap Time: 1:38.3sec (3rd)
Warren Luff says
“One of the most interesting battles was between this and the Focus RS. They’re two very different cars to drive. The Mercedes is more glued down to the road.
You don’t seem to be able to throw it around as much, but it’s one of those cars that’s actually better to clear the brakes a bit earlier and just carry the rolling speed in the corners. On the limit it’s probably not as much fun, it doesn’t slide around and do all those fun things for you.
But in terms of lap times it’s really fast. The engine sound and the gearbox in this car is amazing. It really does make it a joy to drive.”
David Morley - 2nd: “Still crazy after all these years”
Dylan Campbell - 4th: “Fast but it thinks in ones and zeroes and is more serious than fun”
Louis Cordony - 2nd: “An unflappable circuit star”
Tim Robson - 2nd: “Sooo much engine... maybe a bit too refined, though”
Want more? Check out the rest of 2017 Bang For Your Bucks