Price when tested: INR 23,81,600 (ex-showroom, Delhi)
It was way back in May last year, when we first drove the new Mercedes A Class. We remember talking in great lengths about the new car’s high aesthetic appeal and how it manages to be a ‘driver’s car’, in spite of the FWD configuration! Several months down the line, we decided to re-visit this tasty li’l Merc and take her out for a spin in the mountains, with a diesel engine powering the car this time around. Here it is then, the Mercedes A Class A180 CDI review.
So is the diesel variant as much fun as its unleaded-sipping sibling? Is the A Class, which has been on sale in India for some time now, still as in-vogue as it was when it first appeared? Is the A Class as cosseting as the handful of Mercedes sedans we drove recently? With all such questions in our minds, we headed to our favorite mountain road leading up to Lavasa city in a Cirrus White Mercedes A180 CDI.
Read on for our answers to most of your questions, and to ours too!
Does the A-Class with its galaxy of stars on the grille still grab as many eyeballs as it did when it first arrived? Or has the initial sense of awe somewhat died down?
Oh, it still is as glamorous as ever! The current gen Mercedes A Class, in spite of internationally being nearly a couple of years old now, manages to look as alluring as it first did! We have always liked how the current gen A Class looks nothing like the last generation model. It truly reflects the revolutionary change with the German premium car maker’s design language.
The current gen A Class is far lower slung than the preceding model and the design of the new A Class communicates athleticism at the very first sight. The design stays quite true to that of the A-Class Concept and at standstill, the car looks like it is ready to pounce forward into action.
It is the front end that carries the most visual-drama. Other than the stylish headlights and a really sporty looking bumper, the front end also sports a distinctive radiator grille, which carries a galaxy of ‘diamonds’, arranged in an interesting concave pattern. Its notable that the diamond grille is not a standard fitment and requires you to pay extra for it.
In side profile , the car’s design reeks of athleticism and the small greenhouse makes it looks all the more sporty. Also, strong character lines, along with a well pronounced crease running across the length of the doors, make the car look longer than it actually is.
At the rear, the chunky looking taillights, which come with LED-incorporated C motifs, along with the wrap-around rear windscreen, make the car look wider and more sophisticated.
Overall, the Mercedes A Class is one of those designs which manage to hide their age quite convincingly and look suave and sophisticated even after years of existence.
Hmmm. . . and what’s your take on the interiors?
Well, we really can’t think of any other premium hatchback, whose interiors left us as awed as those of the new A Class! Neat dashboard layout, radically styled jet-propeller inspired air con vents, very supportive ‘sports’ front seats, silver accents at various places, liberal usage of high-quality soft touch plastics, and a clean layout for the instrumentation; it is tough to find a flaw with the interior styling of this car.
The A Class is certainly one of those cars that feel as sporty on the inside as on the outside. No surprise then that the interior panels, especially the dashboard, of the A Class take quite a few design cues from those of the mighty SLS AMG! The only little flaw we can point out here is the unconventionally mounted infotainment screen, which looks a tad afterthought. But then, ‘unconventional’ might be a really appealing to many. No?
Now that we are talking about the interiors, do they score as highly on the ergonomics front as on the design?
The A Class scores really highly for its exterior and interior design but it can certainly do better in the ergonomics department. While the front seats of the A Class are ultra supportive and offer a gazillion permutations and combinations for seat-adjustment, there are a lot of areas where the A Class falls short of the high expectations set by the praiseworthy design and the class-leading standards of Mercedes.
Firstly, ingress and egress isn’t exactly a breeze, especially if you are anywhere around 6 ft. tall or more. Not exactly a deal breaker but perhaps, this is the price you pay for having a stylish roofline.
Also, the dashboard seems to have been set a tad too high and it takes you your own sweet time to adjust your seat height for a comfortable driving position. Drivers like me, who prefer their steering wheel to be set low, would hate the fact that the steering-rim obstructs your view of the instrument console.
Finally, the rear seat isn’t half as supportive as the front and while its scores well in terms of bench-width and seat height, most of you would be found wishing for better lumbar support. And no flip down armrest in a car that costs almost INR 25 lakhs!? A big omission to say the least
PS- The front occupants do enjoy the ‘luxury’ of having an armrest!
A Class dislikes Coke bottles!
But does it like going around the corners?
To be honest, I never really had huge expectations from a FWD. However, the A Class is not your mundane Japanese hatchback and to say that this car was quick to point the ‘wrong finger’ at all my pre-conceived notions about the baby Merc’s handling prowess will be an understatement. Rather, it almost makes you sneer at yourself for having them at the first place! Yes, I was pleasantly surprised with the way the A Class made short work of most of those hairpins and sharp corners. Even at close to triple digit speeds, the car holds its line pretty well. However, things aren’t as rosy once the speedo needle approaches even higher speeds. While the chassis and steering still feel quite up to the task, the hitherto muted tires start making some noise.
The Mercedes A Class I drove sported 17 inch wheels, shod with 225-section Pirelli rubber. These tires, while looking a tad over sized and fat for the A Class, aren’t quite as grippy as they look. Squeals come by without too much effort. The A Class, however, even while sliding and slithering comes across as a delightfully balanced machine. Its great fun letting the A Class’s tail wag, as it’s as easy to bring back as it is to swing out. Tyre noise is a tad on the higher side though.
The car’s steering is pretty communicative and at city speeds, has just the right amount of weight to it. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t really weigh up well as the speed builds up.
However, in spite of the rather average set of tires, its really tough for me to recall the last time I had so much fun piloting a FWD, diesel powered car with little over 100 horses of max power! While the A Class is not the ultimate corner-carving tool, it should keep most of its owners pleased with the minimal body roll and its accurate and reasonably well-weighted steering.
Sounds good. . what about ride quality and braking?
As must be obvious to you by now, the car’s suspension has been tuned in favor of handling and while this car’s ride quality isn’t anything to complain, you wouldn’t exactly get a magic carpet ride either. On a well-paved, pothole-less road, the car feels as stable as most of the D segment sedans out there and even at speeds well above the triple digit mark, feels well planted, in a fashion typical of most Mercedes passenger cars. However, the A Class isn’t too fond of large undulations and craters. While most road-irregularities are evened out, the suspension does let you know about the hard work it’s doing.
The brakes on the Mercedes A Class could come across as a tad grabby (need a little getting used to) to some but are otherwise very efficient in hauling down this tasty looking car from speeds even on the wrong side of the 120 kmph mark.
Did you say just 107 bhp? Is not it too less?
Well, for us power-hungry souls, more power is never enough! However, while the A Class CDI disappoints us a little in this regard, it never really felt under-powered. True, no one but those with IQ of a cauliflower would take this car to a drag racing event but the A Class CDI still manages to impress us with the way it can comfortably cruise at speeds north of 130kmph, all this while returning fuel economy figures that would keep the accountant happy. Power delivery is linear and the car starts feeling pretty lively as soon as the tacho needle nears the 1500rpm mark. For the A Class, this 2143cc oil burner comes mated to a 7 speed DCT transmission that offers seamless shifts. However, this transmission could do with being a tad quicker when shifting gears, at least in the ‘Sports’ mode.
Another area of concern here is the NVH. Firstly, tyre noise is definitely on the higher side and this is prone to increase as the tires will get older and the rubber will become harder. Secondly, the engine noise from this oil burner is quite audible inside the cabin.
So what’s your take on the Mercedes A180 CDI?
To begin with, the A Class certainly isn’t the most luxurious Mercedes you can buy. It most definitely is one of the most economical, and the youngest looking though. It’s got load of attitude, and seems to be tailor made for the young and the restless. The Mercedes A180 CDI boasts of a design that will look fresh even 5 years down the line and would definitely make you get noticed everywhere you go. True, you won’t ever post any land speed records or win quarter mile drag runs but you’ll have loads of fun while driving up or down a serpentine road. Even after being a hatchback, the A-Class shows terrific composure and poise, both in a straight line and around bends. And while at it, the A180 CDI will also deliver stellar fuel economy!
Remember that old saying about good things and small packages? It never felt more relevant!
Mercedes A Class A180 CDI specifications
|Type||4cyl, 2143cc, common-rail, turbo diesel|
|Power||107.3bhp at 3200-4400rpm|
|Torque||25.5kgm at 1400-2800rpm|
|Power to weight||71.3bhp per tonne|
|Gearbox||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Construction||Five-door monocoque, hatchback|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Macpherson struts, coil springs|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, coil springs|
|Type||Rack and pinion|
|Type of power assist||Electric|