Right now, the automotive landscape is undergoing a drastic change. With technology advancing at a pace we’ve never really seen before, electric power is all the talk nowadays. That said if there’s a classification of cars that haven’t readily embraced electric tech, it’s the hot hatches. One may even argue that they’re treading backwards a little.
In fact, right now, two of the most expensive production hot hatches nowadays are from companies that both are exploring alternative powertrain in-depth. They also weren’t exactly known for their pedigree in building proper hot hatches. Despite that, they have both developed rather remarkable competitors in the segment. Cue the brand new Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG and BMW M140i. Nevertheless, while both originate from rivalling marques, they couldn’t be any more different. Here’s the A35 AMG pitted against the M140i in a short overview.
The Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG 4MATIC
A step down from the recently revealed A45 AMG. It’s a supposedly ‘budget’ variant of the full-blown, no holds barred and ultimately visceral A45. However, it still touts 302 bhp and 400 Nm of torque from a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-4. Perhaps more laudably is how the power is delivered - to all 4 wheels through the AMG SPEEDSHIFT dual-clutch 7-speed transmission via Mercedes’s 4MATIC system, as standard.
Even at over 1.5-tonnes kerb weight, this lofty hatchback will sprint from 0-62 mph in just shy of 5-seconds, onto a top speed of 155 mph. At the front, you’ll find big brake rotors and 4-pot brake calipers to halt the spritely A35 AMG appropriately.
The BMW M140i
Arguably the last of its kind, the BMW M140i is now in its final years. That doesn’t take away from the awe that I have for BMW for daring to marry a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-6 to a rear-wheel-drive platform in a hatchback. Said powertrain produces 340 bhp and a whopping 500 Nm of torque. No replacement for displacement? BMW certainly thinks so here.
It tips the scale at a similar weight to the A35 AMG, if a smidge lighter. You have a choice between the classic 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. Both transmissions allow for a century run figure of around 4.8 seconds, comparable to the A35 in ideal conditions.
This comparison will be performance-centric since that’s the ethos for both models.
Pull the spreadsheets and track times all you want, regardless of what you ponder, both hatchbacks are properly rapid. A sub-5-second 62 mph run only seems underwhelming due to the ridiculous performance figures manufacturers pull out nowadays. However, with the A35 AMG, it’s easier to match a consistent 4.7 seconds due to its 4MATIC system and easy to use launch control. With the M140i, particularly in damp conditions, you need to feed the power in with decorum otherwise it’ll spin the wheels endlessly.
That said, the M140i delivers its power with fervour thanks to its markedly powerful engine, allowing for an unparalleled 30-70 mph overtake time. Similarly, nothing will quite beat the sonorous howl of an inline-6 that also crackles in Sport mode. That’s not to say that the purposeful bellow of the A35 AMG isn’t engaging, but its lacking character compared to the M140i, perhaps due to its lower rev range as well.
Expectedly, the dual-clutch of the A35 AMG is impressive when it works, shifts are aggressive and happen in a blink. That said, it’s sometimes flabbergasted at redline or during unexpected downshift, leaving you in an awkward situation where you’re waiting for the shift. The M140i’s manual is average, while the 8-speed auto is snappy enough, if a tad soft.
If a calm and, almost monotonous, cornering mien is what you seek for, the A35 AMG makes the mark. It’s endless grip and nigh-neutral character means that you go through corners faster than you think. That said, it’s mentioned that there is off-throttle oversteer though as the 4MATIC works its magic out of a corner. The M140i is quite the opposite, as you need to guide its eager nose for a preened turn. Both provides the theatre though once you kick them into Sport+ and Sport
The M140i is said to be a more refined car overall, more akin to a grand tourer. Again, quite contradictory to the sharper, keener A35 AMG. Nothing like the on-edge now-defunct A45 AMG though.
You can’t go wrong with either. Both provide praiseworthy hatchback practicality packed with heat. Both are quite balanced in what they do and provide the premium quality their badge dictates. However, for me, the BMW M140i edges out, simply due to its unusual drivetrain and colourful demeanour.