Entry-level versus high-end hot hatch. Fun versus hardcore performance pocket rocket. Cute versus cool little bomb. Knife versus nuke. 30k versus a 100k. I’ll stop now.

The hot hatch segment has been expanding ever since it originated, the flavors of hatches it offers has never been so big. As a result of this, the definition of a hot hatch has somewhat eroded higher up in the segment. Can you still call a car like the Mercedes-AMG A45 S one of them? As it offers performance worthy of a supercar. At the very start of the segment, it is obvious what the definition stands for: it stands for pimped up versions of the base hatches that follow the recipe of cooler looks and more performance. It all began with a certain innocence. Something the Abarth 595C Competizone seems to embody.

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This contrast was a point of discussion in the team for some weeks. We reminisced about the Renault Twingo RS and spoke in awe of cars like the Audi RS3. All hatches, but with majorly different purposes and appeal too. Then a certain urge to see this contrast in real life emerged, and that lead to the idea to get two cars together. Luck had it that we managed to get an Abarth 595C Competizone and a Mercedes-AMG A45 S in the same week. And so it commenced. We met up in a forest, a nature reserve with sound limits to be precise (oops, we had no idea).

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Seeing these cars together is hilarious first of all, people can’t stop staring. But damn is the contrast massive. For 3 times the price, the Mercedes-AMG offers a finish the Abarth can’t simply come close too. There’s an undeniable quality difference, but the nonchalance of the Abarth makes it feel special somehow. Both of them pull off a premium feel, with the A45 pulling the lead.

“The Abarth really represents my love for hot hatches. You can use 100% of its performance at all times without losing your driving license. And whilst the A 45 S has a certain fun factor to it as well. You can’t pull of the same tricks as you’re doing in that lime pocket rocket.” Beau Ackx, 2020.

Performance isn’t something you can’t compare between these two. Where the Abarth is something playful, the AMG is an outright weapon. Both in terms of handling and in terms of speed, you know where three times the money went to. Call it overkill, the A45 demands respect. But it seems to urge you to go past boundaries of the public road, it is, so so fast. On the opposite side, the Abarth is offering you the sensation of speed in a much safer zone. Read: you’re not doing 200KPH in 14.5 seconds (F-Pace SVR territory).

“3,9 seconds! 3,9! Zero to 100 km/h in 3,9 seconds. This Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4Matic+ is mind-blowing in acceleration and name. After activating the launch control -easy peasy- the first gear feels acceptable. But when it hits second, it pulls and pulls. One crazy fast banana.” Lelièvre Kenny, 2020

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What I pointed out at the start, them being on two ends of the spectrum, is true in every objective way. But look at the cars subjectively and that starts to fade. It’s not that the AMG is 3 times the fun the Abarth is. It’s not 3 times more impressive. It all comes down to what you want to drive. It all comes down to what hot hatch you want (and can afford). Leading me to conclude that we are very, very spoiled at this point as petrol heads: having this amount of hot hatches to choose from is a luxury. And nothing short of it.