Mercedes A-Class Review
Car Tested: 2013 Mercedes A-Class (A180 Sport)
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 29,24,620/-
The Mercedes A-Class looks terrific and is easily one of the most gorgeous hatchbacks in the world.
India is a hatchback country, with more than 70 percent of sales coming from this body style. However the concept of a premium hatchback is still not accepted as most people want to quickly move to a three-box sedan. In these times, Mercedes-Benz has its job cut to change the mindset of Indians, with its premium hatchback, the A-Class. The third generation model (W176) is distinctly different from its predecessor in almost every way. The all new Mercedes A-Class is not only important for the German automaker but also important for India, because it can set the trend for big hatchbacks, which are more practical and fun to drive. So does the A-Class have what it takes to create an all new segment? We drive the A180 Sport through the thick and thins of Mumbai roads to find out just that.
Exteriors – The Mercedes A-Class looks very youthful and the design immediately strikes you in a positive way. The vehicle has been influenced from the F800 Concept which was showcased in 2009. The A-Class sits low and is very slippery with a cd of 0.27. It is no longer a tall boy which gives it a very sporty stance. The front features a long bonnet with the highlight being the diamond grille, made of 302 pins. The three pointed star sits on the large grille and is quite big with double slats on either side. The design at the front creates a V-shaped appearance. The headlights are striking with L-shaped day time running lights in them.
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The side profile reveals the generous dimensions and one will easily notice how big this hatchback really is (compare it to the Hyundai i20 which is currently the biggest hatchback on sale in India and it looks tiny infront of the A-Class). A line erupts from the headlights and follows through to the rear door, swooping downwards below the door handles. Another line comes out of the wheel arch and moves backwards towards the tail light, rising upwards near the end of the front doors. These lines highlight the body very well. Big 17-inch low profile tyres sit on delicious 10-spoke alloy wheels, they look smashing indeed.
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The rear is well detailed with the tail lights having LEDs. There is a huge rear spoiler which is neatly integrated, while twin exhaust pipes sit right below the bumper. The stance of the A-Class is very sporty and it looks every inch like a premium hatchback. Full marks to Mercedes-Benz for getting the design so right, with exteriors having so much attraction, that the company should be able to sell the car on design alone.
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Interiors – The focus on design continues on the inside as well and you get a cabin which is rich in quality and sportiness. The all black dashboard gets chrome surrounds on the AC vents, door handles, steering wheel and audio system, which gives the cabin a very rich feel. The steering has good contours making it fantastic to hold. There are three AC vents in the centre and two at the rear, which cool the cabin very quickly. The centre console is very clean with no handbrake or gear lever (right stalk is used to select gears). The 14.7 cm infotainment TFT screen hangs on top of the centre AC vents and can also run apps from your phone. It also offers Bluetooth, AUX and USB connectivity, producing good quality sound via six speakers.
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The instrument cluster is like other Mercedes cars, easy to read and understand on the go. You get the usual data from the multi-information display, which is operated using the various buttons placed on the steering wheel. The doors have good feel and are heavy. The front seats get integrated head rests and the bucket like design makes it very comfortable even on long journeys. The car also gets a large sunroof which adds to airy feeling inside the cabin. Mercedes has loaded the A-Class with a ton of features including front and rear parking sensors, reverse parking camera, memory driver’s seat, paddle shifters, attention assist, brake assist, bi-xenon headlights, seven airbags, ESP, ASC, adaptive brake lights, electronic parking brake, tyre pressure loss warning system, start-stop system, hill start assist, etc. There is however no electric adjust for the steering wheel and the co-driver’s seat gets manual adjustment.
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The rear seat is a big disappointment. Although there is good amount of legroom and decent headroom for rear passengers, there is simply no under thigh support for tall passengers with the rear seat being too small in length. The rear seat is a tad too upright and to make matters worst, the windows are small and visibility all around is poor, further amplified by the large front seats with integrated head rests. While the use of front-wheel drive helps Mercedes increase rear seat space, we fail to see any advantage as there is a huge hump at the rear. This makes the A-Class a strict 4-seater. Funnily though, the A-Class doesn’t get adjustable headrests, except for the centre seat, which anyway is not usable due to the hump. There is no rear seat arm rest either.
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The boot is decently sized but the placement of the spare wheel robs away the usability of the boot and even though the spare tyre is a space saver, you simply can’t keep much luggage in the boot since the tyre placement reduces the flat area in the boot.
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Performance – Mercedes-Benz is offering the A-Class in India with two engines, a petrol and diesel. The diesel engine comes from the C-Class and is the 2.2-litre unit, detuned to belt out 110 HP of power and 250 Nm of torque. This engine should give the A-Class sufficient performance while returning terrific mileage. The other engine is the 1.6-litre petrol unit, which produces 122 HP of power and 200 Nm of torque. The output figures are not really fire breathing and hence premium hatchback (not hot hatch) is a more apt word for the A-Class. The Stuttgart based automaker has no plans to offer the A45 AMG in India just yet.
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Our test car was the petrol model and delivered decent performance for the city driving cycle. The motor is very refined and is barely audible till you whizz past the 4500 RPM mark, when there is some sporty roar. There is very little lag at low speeds and peak torque is produced as low as 1200 RPM. It’s only past 2500 RPM that the A-Class starts moving and once past 3500 RPM, there is definite urgency too. The short geared nature of this engine means you hit 100 km/hr in third gear, with redline at an early 6200 RPM. In top gear, the A-Class will do 100 km/hr at 1800 RPM, thereby comfortably cruising.
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The A-Class is paired to a 7-speed DCT gearbox which offers smooth and quick shifts. There are three modes – E, S and M (Economy, Sport and Manual) and one can take control of things using the steering mounted paddle shifts at any time. In Economy mode, gears shift early thereby boosting mileage (there is a start/stop system which works well and barely makes itself noticed). In Sports mode, the motor keeps itself on the boil, shifting at redline. However for a hatchback of this price, Mercedes should have offered more powerful engines.
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Driving Dynamics – The Mercedes A-Class uses the company’s MFA front-wheel drive platform which helps in weight reduction. There is plenty of traction and handling is good, with the A-Class remaining extremely composed at even high speeds. The light yet stiff chassis offers tremendous fun when you push the vehicle to the limits and understeer doesn’t kick in very easily (it is however present when you push too hard). The A-Class is as sporty to drive as it looks and there is little to tell it’s a hatchback, the dynamics are so very mature.
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While the handling is excellent, the steering wheel is not very precise. It’s light at low speeds and weighs up well at high speeds but feels a bit dead when you want to take high speed corners, the feedback is simply not confidence inspiring. Then there is the ride quality, which in spite of the vehicle riding on really low profile rubber, is good. The A-Class glides over Indian roads and it’s only really bad roads which shake up the car. The brakes deserve a lot of praise and the A-Class has a very well calibrated pedal with good stopping power.
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Verdict – The Mercedes-Benz A-Class might actually start the trend of premium hatchbacks in India. The vehicle drives well and handles beautifully, only being let down by the electric steering which feels a bit dead at high speeds. Then there is the styling, which is thoroughly attractive and will easily lower the age group of Mercedes car buyers. The A-Class is equipped with a load of features, which are sure to attract many new people to the German brand. The A-Class appeals in many ways and if buyers are able to accept the high pricing, this baby Benz is sure to create a furore in the Indian market.
The A-Class is a very different Mercedes, it’s sporty and youthful with looks that can make you skip a beat or two.
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* Ride quality and brakes
What’s Not So Cool
* Rear seat comfort
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2013 Mercedes A-Class Specifications
* Engine: 1595cc, 4-cylinder
* Power: 122 HP @ 5000 RPM
* Torque: 200 Nm @ 1250-4000 RPM
* Transmission: 7-speed DCT automatic
* Top Speed: 202 km/hr
* 0-100 km/h: 9.2 seconds
* Fuel Consumption: 9 km/l (City), 12 km/l (highway)
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Tyres: 225/45/17 Tubeless Radials
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Disc (Rear)
* Safety: ABS, EBD, ESP, Seven Airbags, Reversing Camera
2013 Mercedes A-Class Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 4292 mm X 1780 mm X 1433 mm
* Wheelbase: 2699 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.5-metres
* Boot Volume: 341-litres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 50-litres
* Kerb Weight: 1375 kgs
Read The Mercedes A-Class Diesel Review