As far as a reckoning goes at PCOTY for the Mercedes-AMG A35, seventh might seem rather unfair.
There’s nothing wrong with this new contender from Affalterbach. In fact, after driving the A35 it’s obvious that it acquits itself remarkably well for what it’s meant to be – a bridge between the regular A-Class range and incoming A45. And yet that might be its exact problem.
While a 2.0-litre turbocharged four driving all four wheels through a twin-clutch auto is the right recipe for hot-hatch thrills, it is clearly set up to invite a good thrashing without ever spooking or surprising you.
From the excellent driving position in the AMG Performance seats, friendly suspension balance and adequate turbo push, it has the right tools to get on with enjoying your favourite road or local track. Add to the recipe strong, feelsome brakes and an obedient quick-shifting transmission and you would often get out of the car knowing full well it would be happy to go another five or six rounds of whatever road you had just driven.
But while some details about a car stick in your mind long after you drive them, like an engine ravenous for revs or a chassis that rewards palm-drenching commitment, it’s a struggle to recollect any similar character-defining memories when we look back on the Mercedes-AMG A35. It does everything reasonably well so that nothing really stands out. And that shows on the scoreboard.
Judges marked the A35 well for accessibility but didn’t think it had much X-Factor. That was clear in some areas than others, like its toned-down exhaust note and lower straightline velocities. Race driver Michael Almond noted it would start to push through high-speed corners at the limit.
Sure, it could boogie if provoked, as DC demonstrated for some excellent brake-oversteer photography, but that requires a fair degree of commitment you would struggle to find space for anywhere other than The Bend.
For transport it’s a fine place to sit. However, some judges struggled to justify its value at $67,200 in such a competitive hot-hatch market. If you want something austere, fun and safe, a VW Golf R is just as good.
Still, we’re happy the A35 exists. Mercedes-AMG already cracked the hot-hatch segment wide open with its original A45 and, since its successor is planned to be just as mad, as well as capable, it’s nice to know we now have more choice in the AMG sales yard.
The best of the rest on Performance Car of the Year 2020
2020 MERCEDES-AMG A35 SPECS:
Engine: 1991cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger
Power: 225kW @ 5800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 3000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
0-400m: 13.16sec @ 170.50km/h
The Bend lap time: 1min 39.7sec
Dylan Campbell - =6th
"Skilful blend of performance and comfort. A Mercedes-Benz Golf R."
Louis Cordony - 7th
"Nails its brief, but is an almost forgettable drive."
David Morley - 10th
"Flew slightly under the radar for me. And too expensive given the competition."
Scott Newman - 8th
"Expertly engineered to fill a gap, but it was one that needed filling. Excellent daily."
Tim Robson - 7th
"A trendy accountant. No visual aggression, but a handy little thing."
PCOTY 2020 Scoring