DEFINING the Mercedes- AMG A35 can be hard.†Is it a cut-price A45 with greater comfort and 90 percent of the performance for $20K less? Or a warmed-over A250 that does the same job as a Volkswagen Golf R, for significantly more?

Four months and almost 3500km have provided useful insights. Firstly, this is a proper AMG product. Weíve covered the extensive chassis changes before, so wonít again, though the depth of engineering in this car ensures it feels closer to an A45 than†it does a regular A250. In fact, the A35 is so steadfastly capable that Iíd wager itís surely no slower up a challenging road than a first-gen A45.

Itís quick too. A twin-scroll turbo brings sharper engine response, and punchy gearing in the first three ratios gives me no reason to doubt AMGís 0-100km/h claim of 4.7sec.

But if youíre buying one, ensure your dealer fits the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, not the Pirelli P Zeros.†The Michelins are a superb all-round performance tyre.

The chassis balance is neutral and forgiving, the brakes are strong, and while the steering is hardly dripping with feel, itís quick and accurate.

The only thing lacking is an easily accessible playful side; an A35 is more about tenacious traction than big armfuls of oversteer. If thatís what you prefer, buy a Civic Type R or an i30 N.

The real appeal is the A35ís duality of character. While thereís no hiding the tautness of the chassis Ė it handles lumps and bumps surprisingly well, though when it runs out of suspension travel it does so suddenly and unforgivingly Ė I actually preferred it†as a daily driver over the richly specced A250 4Matic I ran before this. Despite some annoying equipment anomalies (the A250 had a head-up display, while the 35 doesnít), on balance, the 35 is more engaging, easier to slot into gaps in traffic and almost as comfortable.

The boot is big enough for two border collies (or, as one Bunnings trip revealed, 24 cement cinder blocks), and the back seat is roomier and better equipped than you get in a BMW M135i. Itís not commodious, though.†Again, the Civic Type R trumps it.

So does the A35 warrant its circa $15K premium over Golf R/Type R et al? The AMG is marginally faster, with a more feature-rich cabin, but is lineball on cabin space, fuel use and build quality (especially compared to the VW). But value is not just measured by what you get; itís also about how a car makes you feel. By that metric, I never felt short-changed.

The 35 sub-brand is a worthy addition to the AMG hierarchy and, given AMG sold twice as many of the first-gen 45-badged cars as it expected, it will surely be a popular one.




Price as tested: $76,792†

This month: 760km @ 9.9L/100km†

Overall: 3350km @ 9.7L/100km