Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG performance is simply breath-taking. The engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit which generates 355bhp and 450Nm of torque. That means a sprint to 62mph in 4.6 seconds is possible, while top speed is limited to 155mph.

The engine is a great bit of kit. It revs freely and pulls incredibly strongly to the red line, sounding somewhat angry all the way.

All that power is fed through a seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox which has many clever features. There are paddles to control it manually behind the steering wheel and it has a launch control system called Race Start which allows for a perfect getaway by holding the revs at a particular level when the accelerator is pressed.

There are three ‘driving modes’ available: C is short for ‘Controlled Efficiency’ and provides a more laid-back driving experience with slower gear changes and toned-down engine response. It also activates the stop/start system. S stands for ‘Sport’ mode and this makes the car more lively, sharpening up responses and turning up the exhausts’ volume. M means the car is controllable manually, and as the name suggests allows the car to be driven using the paddle-shifters rather than letting the gearbox dictate when to change gear.

During town driving you’ll want to leave your CLA 45 in C mode as it’s far less harsh and intrusive. Once you want to dial things up a bit though it’ll be time to switch to S mode, which sees far crisper throttle response married to much quicker gear changes.

As a four-wheel drive car there’s a tremendous amount of grip available. The car feels great through corners and really inspires confidence. You don’t ever feel unsafe, and it feels like the car will run out of talent a long time after you do.

The steering is weighted very well indeed, sharpening up noticeably at speed. It also turns in surprisingly well thanks to a chassis advancement which brakes the inside wheel to allow sharper turning circles.

There’s a three-stage traction and stability control system, switchable between normal ‘ESP on’ mode where the car intervenes to keep you safe, ‘ESP Sport’ mode which allows a bit of slip before gathering things up and sends more power to the rear for more driving fun. The final setting is ‘ESP off’, which removes the system altogether.