Race the ‘SLS AMG’ and then compare it with hatchbacks – sounds insane, and this is what the Mercedes Benz had proportioned to cater new segment of audience in India. Those stunning long boots, and end number ponies running out from the engine just at a dab is what the AMG is proportioned for, but despite those allegations the newly launched ‘A Class’ is still compared with the elder racing sibling. Need to be anxious, the hatchback A Class has only drag to interiors and cues of the SLS badge and not anything else, that’s what the Mercedes Benz had said at the launch of their new entry level car in India. Let us tell you first, Mercedes Benz India is keen to go subtlety with the top-to-bottom strategy and they had no issues for stepping in down the line segment being a niche player for years, as more the mass sales lies there itself.
The new product A Class had been worked a lot on everything regarding that same. Technicalities at the final stage were depended on the marketing department to decide its fate in Indian context. To be true the premium hatchback is a complete new segment in India, and except the Mercedes Benz no one had tasted this sort of blood galloping plethora themselves which goes against the tax benefit structure of Indian government. Made the debut with 4292mm as overall length of the car, A Class doesn’t falls suitably in the line of sub four meter arena and nor the engine benefits of under 1.5L, being powered by a 1595cc four cylinder direct-injection turbo-petrol. And when being priced for Rs 22.73 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) the petrol (Sport trim) is definitely a bet see whether the MB had planted it right in the slot or not.
The media vehicle that was given to us comes with the diamond encrypted front grille, whilst the one that most probably stands in the warehouse/sales floor of carmaker are all wearing the different one. As said by one of the sources in industry, the 302 diamonds embedded radiator grille needs to be fitted on the vehicle for an additional cost of approximately Rs. 72,000 – 75,000. Hopefully, it isn’t that big deal when you are looking to buy the new Mercedes Benz directly from the showroom. Coming to the main, good on 4292mm of length, the 1433mm height of vehicle makes the car a bit snubbed on the aesthetics part, but though it is excellent when perceived form the “performance” point of view. Crispy line flowing all over the body and the sweptback stance in overall fixture makes it to be swoop past the every robusty posture with maximum possible speed. And very importantly, the 302 diamonds on the front grille are also making the looks worth watching again and again. Another dimension of boot-less rear is also not so called that odd. Daytime running headlamps, 17” smoked alloys, and the beefy C-pillars gives one the appearance of a fully fledged sedan, as what it is if looked by its overall length in Indian context.
No doubt that designing department had did their best to yield this sporty sort of tavern on the hatchback. Now it was the toughest part for interior designers to work out those Merc impressions on inside too.
Open the doors and settle yourself in the driving seat, yet for moments it will give a feel of the SLS AMG, as what the top brass of Mercedes Benz had though to drive while designing it – being as a core value-marketing quotient for the mass customer segment of A Class. Ranging from the chromed AC vent rings to the Mercedes branded door sill, from the sporty driving wheel to crystal speedometer, and finally dragging the nag from leather covered dashboard to Mercedes quality components, it is a true German made MB from inside too. The quality is superb and like as always, seems build to last forever. The erected 14.7 cm infotainment TFT and the pedal shift make one to be in the real sports bug, complemented by the leather dash too. Music quality that’s made heard via six speakers is impressive, and the local radio channels also tend to enjoy the best output ever.
Front seat are snug enough to be felt in the lap of AMG temperament. Both separated front seats are provided enough to bear the stretched legs of tall driver and passenger. Hopefully, this Merc is meant for the self-driven personnel, so the terms ‘driving position’ and the ‘co-passenger position’ are quite comfortable. But given with the low slung roof the headroom becomes cramped for the rear passengers. Small rear windows also add woes on the backseat. An ample of commanding buttons on the steering wheel, and if not enough then more of them on music player too, which are upped for matching the impressive Merc quality. Number of storage compartments for the driver’s aide adds bits of convenience when self driving the A Class. Boot space is quite decent with 341 liters, but the spare wheel snatches off its convenient haziness in all the allure. One cannot lug much of the cargo in it despite the spare wheel has settled itself in its best possible compact form yet. The panoramic sunroof as a standard adds more value to the money.
On contrary, the only things that we had not felt had been planted as per the Mercedes Benz quality are manual adjustment of seat, and inferior quality insulation. The sounds enter the cabin so easily that at times we had not felt it is a Mercedes that is tentatively famous for the ‘cut-off from the world when sat inside’ quotient.
For the conclusion, we say interiors speak a lot about the driver’s position itself, and not much of the other passengers. And being a self-driven car, A Class is the least concentrated on the rear seating arrangement too.
Performance for the A180 CGI comes from 1595cc, 4-cylinder petrol motor that sends out 122 HP @ 5000 RPM and 200 Nm @ 1250-4000 RPM. It is clearly visible when you the dab the paddle with your foot. And the icing on the cake for ‘performance section’ is the 7-speed DCT automatic transmission which is operated via pedal shifter, so no need to keep your left hand busy at all the time. This makes the city driving more comfortable than before. The short throw of gear also leaves you on the 100kmph very shortly, and easily too. It is all effortless to drive in slow city traffic, ample of acceleration and the car moves forward desirably. But to move past the other vehicles on highways, one needs to keep his car above the 3500RPM, that’s exactly where the turbo works in favour. Even if the pointer is directed down the 3.5K rpm, then down pedal shift is the answer to jazz up the car quickly. However, pedal shift is the one which has taken us luring around its bay very spontaneously and more to it the gearbox is also user friendly with smooth and slick transmission.
Another surprise to the A Class is the gearbox again. Mercedes Benz had planted it with three modes namely Economy (E), Sport (S) and Manual (M). All these modes can be flickered at any given point of time using the pedal shift. Sports mode is made for the aspiring generation who wants to stay on redline “always”, while the economy mode is given to derive the fuel efficiency at its best.
Ride and Handling:
As we said a lot about the ride in above stanza, to specifically pin-point again, city driving was pleasurable, and the highway too wasn’t disappointing. Based on the MFA platform, A Class is one of the best vehicles to drive out on those wide arrays of roads. The steering is sharp and accurate. It takes one exactly wherever one directs it. The lightweight body and responsive steering wheel is enough cruise at highway on high speeds for all day long. And push hard, A Class doesn’t tend to bent you with the ‘understeer’ very easily. And as we had said the designers had made a lot of efforts to make A Class what it standing now, driving the same gives a feels for it too. At times when the engine shortcomings start entering the driving bay then the robust design of car takes in the shape and drives out the dwindling confidence with powerful brakes. They are on the best disc and caliper assembly that we had seen on this type of car anytime back.
Handling is also excellent too. Power to weight ratio also contributes a bit to yell out the lump on cornering but at times in high speed it hadn’t responded the way it was desired. One can swiftly finishes up the turning patches with better maneuverability and can end up eating miles due to beefy straight line acceleration. There is one more disturbance to the car, and that is the thick A pillar which obstructs the view for all of us. It is the only negative in ergonomics of driver which hadn’t fared well on our list, lest was up to the mark to derive further course of action, i.e. suspension check.
Suspension dominatingly had taken away all the brownie points that the A Class had garnered in the previous stanzas. Due to the short complexion, it can easily eat up the small bumps, but when it comes to the larger ones, the result is worst ever in case for being a Mercedes. It also filters a lot of thud in the cabin that one gets fed up while driving continuously on it for longer than usual. Even we suggest look for the larger speed breakers too. Sitting very shortly in the height, it can crash its belly against the tumbled bump if driven carelessly over it.
Meanwhile, the negative that we had faced in the ride and handling is the less powered engine; it is needed to be beefed up than what it is now. And suspension quality was also extremely poor when compared to other of the three pointed star models.
Mercedes Benz A Class 180 CGI is ‘not’ even an average on driving side, instead it is more of features. Being a buff of the cosmetic load, this first of its kind premium hatchback is not that true Mercedes Benz in driving sense. We were hoping the astonishing number of ponies garnering our drive under the hood, but disappointingly we had got to say those expectations had been shattered on the floor.
Except the driver’s seat nothing else was concluded to proportionate passengers appropriately on the board there. Rear seat was disastrously cramped to step inside. We recommend this vehicle to those who had a lot of money to splurge, and needs to drive alone, or sometime with just one more person, and very overtly love the German made ‘Mercedes Benz’. Lest other can choose from the other badges which are powerful enough and gives ample of spaces too. Whilst, the ongoing trend of Indian automotive industry is of the compact SUV, where one can make a choice from end number choices available there in market now. This Mercedes Benz hatchback looks like that of old school, unless the German carmaker doesn’t intends it to roll out in AMG version, which for now it is not in the mood yet.