In Review

Mercedes-AMG A35 vs. Volkswagen Golf R: which is the best super hatch?

Critics deliver their opinions on the latest sports model from Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG is taking on the Volkswagen Golf R in the super hatchback market with the launch of its the new A35. 

Unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September, the AMG A35 is based on the latest generation Mercedes A-Class. The new model features a performance-focused turbo engine producing more than 300bhp, a sporty interior and a handful of styling tweaks that add up to a more aggressive look.  

That clearly sounds impressive, but the Golf R has been a popular choice for hatchback buyers in recent years. Although its looks may be understated, the Golf R matches the AMG A35 on performance and interior tech. 

So which is the best super hatch?

Price and release

Volkswagen Golf R

Volkswagen AG

With a price tag of £32,650, the entry-level five-door VW Golf R is marginally cheaper than the £35,580 AMG A35.

And while the AMG A35 is only available in five-door form, the Golf R can be specced as a three-door hatchback, which drops the price to £31,995. 

Both vehicles are available to order now.

Performance and specs

Volkswagen Golf R

Volkswagen AG

Under the AMG A35’s bonnet sits a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine producing 302bhp and 295lb ft of torque, says Auto Express

Power is sent to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, helping the car sprint from zero to 62mph in 4.7 seconds. There are also five driving modes, giving drivers the option to improve the level of comfort on the road or set up their vehicle for more performance.

That said, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine in the Golf R is slightly more powerful than its Mercedes riva, sending 306bhp and 280lb-ft of torque to all four wheels. 

With Golf’s optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox installed, a 0-62mph dash can be achieved in just 4.6 seconds. However, six-speed manual models take 0.5 seconds longer to reach that top speed than those with dual-clutch systems.

Interior and tech
Mercedes-AMG A 35 (W177), Leder zweifarbig titangrau pearl/schwarz, Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: xxx l/100 km, CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: xxx g/km // Mercedes-AMG A 35 (W177), Leather tita

Mercedes-AMG A 35 (W177)

press photo, do not use for advertising purposes

Unsurprisingly, given that the Golf R hasn’t had a significant update since 2017, the Mercedes boasts the best interior tech of the two super hatchbacks. 

Buyers get a pair of 7in displays as standard in the AMG A35. These are found behind the steering wheel and above the centre console, and can be merged together to form one “giant” display as an optional extra, says Evo

The car’s MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system is controlled using the display above the centre console, while drivers can use the panel behind the steering wheel to view the car’s speedometer and satnav. 

Although older than the Mercedes, the Golf R’s cabin is also well equipped. 

The VW gets an “excellent” 12.3in digital dashboard that swaps the conventional analogue dials for digital versions, WhatCar? says. The screen also “displays lots of useful information”, including the car’s satnav and fuel economy figures. 

An 8in touchscreen in the centre console also comes as standard, but there’s no option to merge it with the digital dashboard.

The verdict
Mercedes-AMG A 35 (W177), Sonnengelb, Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: xxx l/100 km, CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: xxx g/km // Mercedes-AMG A 35 (W177), Sun yellow, Combined fuel consumption: xxx

Mercedes-AMG A 35 (W177)

press photo, do not use for advertising purposes

There’s no denying the A35 is a quick car, says Top Gear. “The engine bolts it forward with a vehemence”, while the hatchback’s transmission and brakes “entirely live up to the engine’s demands”.

“But beyond the sheer forces, stimulation is in surprisingly short supply,” the motoring site says. That’s largely down to the steering, which doesn’t provide much feedback, making the car feel lacklustre around twisty corners at times. 

WhatCar? says the AMG A35 builds upon the “spectacular cabin” offered in the standard A-Class with “plenty of go-faster touches”, such as AMG embroidered sports seats. 

The VW Golf R offers better practicality, though, including a taller roof for passengers over 6ft and a larger boot, the magazine says. 

The AMG A35 isn’t as fun to drive as performance-focused cars, either, and its steering simply isn’t as precise as rivals such as the Renault Megan RS 280, says Autocar

But for buyers looking for a four-wheel drive super hatchback with plenty of performance and comfort, the AMG A35 may be on par with - if not, better than - the VW Golf R, the magazine concludes.

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