Aimed at young up-and-comers looking for a luxury ride with sporting aspirations, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 offers plenty of style, features, and performance for the money. It also earned a spot on our Editors’ Choice list. The subtle slope of the roof and the gently curved beltline make this compact three-box look elegant and agile, particularly when parked beside the high-rumped BMW M235i Gran Coupe, one of its main competitors along with the Audi S3. The elegance continues inside, where everything looks thoroughly modern, with cabin-lining ambient lighting and a generously sized two-in-one touchscreen display for the instruments and infotainment system. Though it’s the littlest car in the Mercedes lineup, in the U.S., the A35 sits atop the A-class range with an AMG-enhanced turbocharged inline-four good for 302 horsepower. If that doesn’t do it for you, perhaps its slightly larger platform-mate, the CLA, will; it can be had with a rowdy 382-hp four-cylinder.

What’s New for 2021?

Not much. Mercedes added blind-spot monitoring and a 64-color ambient-light system to the standard equipment list, and it now allows buyers to spec the MBUX Interior Assistant as a standalone option. Otherwise, nothing has changed.

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

Under the A35’s hood sits an AMG-enhanced turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive comes standard, and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic boasts a launch-control feature that allows for maximum acceleration from a standstill. In our testing, this 3513-pound sedan raced to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 109 mph—both admirable times for something in this segment. We appreciate the optional adaptive dampers for their ability to provide excellent handling and a taut, sporty ride, but rougher roads and freeway expansion joints can send sharp jolts to make their way into the cabin. If you want a reasonably priced (for AMG) hot rod with even more power, don’t fret: Mercedes offers the coupe-like CLA45 four-door. It goes for about $10,000 more than the A35, however.

Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG

According to the EPA, the A35 4Matic should achieve 24 mpg in the city, 31 on the highway, and 27 combined. Those ratings are about even with what the German competition from BMW and Audi can muster. But on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy loop, the A35 outdid itself, averaging 34 mpg.

Interior, Comfort, and Cargo

True to its AMG branding, the A35’s cabin has some sporty touches. The steering wheel comes wrapped in perforated leather and features paddles for manual control of the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. A 64-color ambient-light system complete with backlit center vents comes standard this year, giving every A35 a night-club vibe. If you want a little more luxury, Mercedes offers real wood in place of the standard aluminum trim as well as leather upholstery. As the smallest of AMG’s models, the A-class will undoubtedly be a tight fit for some, but we find its rear seat accommodates most people reasonably well. As for cargo room, this Merc—with nine cubic feet of trunk space—falls short of the S3 and 2-series Gran Coupe, which boast 10 and 15 cubes, respectively. Though we’ve yet to measure the A35’s practical storage, in the identically sized A220, we managed to fit five carry-on suitcases in the trunk and 15 with the seats folded.