Mercedes A-Class Long Term Review
Car Tested: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (A180 CDI)
Kms Done: 3211 kms
Test Started at: 15,102 kms
Test Concluded at: 18,313 kms
Mileage: 15.11 km/l, 20.40 km/l (Best), 12.05 km/l (Worst)
Fuel Consumed: 212.51 litres
Fuel Cost: Rs. 13,601/-
Rs. per km: Rs. 4.24/-
The A-Class ticks all your emotional senses which no other car does at this price point.
The world is big but connectivity keeps all of us close across the globe. We know very well about each and every country and their tastes thanks to extensive knowledge exchange in nano seconds. The United States of America, which is often considered the best continent in the world, is slowly and surely shifting to smaller and more efficient cars. That’s a surprising development considering America’s love for anything big was almost a given a few years back. India is very similar to the States, in terms of thinking, we too laid firm belief in the “bigger is better” mantra. That’s the reason why premium hatchbacks (including well established names like the Volkswagen Beetle, MINI and Fiat 500) have found little success in our market. Still, Mercedes-Benz has managed to make a massive success of their compact baby, the A-Class. The entry level Merc is doing so well in the Indian market, we simply had to live with it on a day to day basis to identify what makes this compact car tick when others floundered. The A-Class has been with us for more than three months and we still couldn’t get enough of it.
It’s without doubt the styling, which is largely responsible for the A-Class to win over customers at a drop of a hat. Sporty yet stately, there is a lot of Merc-ness in the design of this car. This is something we witnessed first hand. Park the car anywhere and people would give it a second glance, almost always. Although classified as a hatchback, the A-Class is still quite big with a length of 4.3-metres. The styling elements like the 17-inch wheels (designed by AMG) give it an immense sporty flavour. Crisp lines, a long hood and massive attention to detail do make this Benz a car which makes you arrive in style where ever you go. Our one favourite design feature on the car is undoubtedly the 302 pin diamond grille. We are big fans of the headlights too, the way the long indicator blinks and the LED daytime running light shines, it truly is a sight at night.
If the exteriors make you feel special every day of having the car with you, it’s really the interiors which continue to wow you over. The fact that Mercedes has got the perfect design for both the exteriors and interiors is reason enough for the A-Class to be India’s best selling luxury hatchback, no MINI Cooper is a match in terms of demand by Indian buyers. The all black theme of the cabin rubs well to give that sporty feel and the inspiration from the SLS in so apparent that you might just feel like the safety car driver in Formula 1. Quality is fantastic and in-line with what we have seen Mercedes offer, our test car which has done more than 18,000 kms (with a lot of rough usage thrown in), showed absolutely no signs of loose bits or rattling.
There is a popular saying in Mercedes circles, the A-Class has shifted people from the back seat to the front, which is quite true, both in a good and bad way. The bad is that the rear seat isn’t good enough for adults, the windows are small, the front seats are too big (hindering visibility from the rear) and space itself is lacking, resulting in a feeling of claustrophobia on long drives. Mercedes is probably aware about it and the A-Class is positioned as a car you would drive, rather than being driven in. On that front, one can notice that there is a cabin light at the rear but the control for the same is at the front, clearly the rear is aimed at children. The large circular AC vents not only serve in visually delighting occupants but also function well to channel air flow throughout the cabin.
This brings us to what is the real highlight of the car, the driving experience. Getting inside the cabin can be a small occasion itself, unlock the car and both the puddle lamps below the rear view mirrors and the parking lights illuminate (you usually come from the rear and see those beautiful C-shaped LEDs in the brake lights shine). Open the door and the gloss black finished rear view mirrors open too. You slide into the snug fit front seats which are large units and extremely supportive, they get electric lumbar support adjustment as well. The driver gets full electric adjustment along with memory function. Release the electric parking brake and engage a gear on the column mounted gear selector and you are off to experience this baby Benz.
The A-Class feels amazing to drive, the feel from behind the steering is nice and commanding. Although a hatchback, you don’t feel so when you are piloting this car. The view all around is good, and the controls are easy and well in reach too. Parking this car in tight spots is the biggest USP due to the compact dimensions, you simply can get into parking spots which a C-segment sedan would otherwise occupy. The parking sensors work well and the rearview mirrors are large, having anti-reflective coating to prevent glares in the night. Other noteworthy things like triple nozzles for the windshield spray (which make sure the complete windscreen gets the cleaning liquid on it) and the projector headlights with excellent throw ensure driving is easy in all situations. Even the horn is excellent, it’s loud and bassy but even before you use it, people tend to get out of your way, proving well that Mercedes cars command a lot of respect on our roads.
The only hinderance in rearview visibility is the rear centre head rest, hidden from sight when not in use, it can block a lot of rear visibility through the inside rearview mirror. However, you only open it when a third person is sitting at the rear and given the hump at the rear, that seems unlikely. When tucked back down, you can barely even notice that there is a headrest for the fifth passenger. This just points to the attention to detail and look closely and you will appreciate quite a lot of things on the car. Like for instance, the centre console has two large boxes for storing stuff along with a coin holder and two cup holders. There are two charging ports (one at the rear) and the chrome touch below the power window control adds to the premium appeal of the interior.
The A-Class diesel is propelled by a 2.2-litre diesel engine which is the forerunner of diesel Mercs in India. This unit produces 107 HP and 250 Nm, which isn’t much. Still there is adequate pep from the car although outright acceleration isn’t where it shines. Instead, ride the torque curve and you will notice how the A diesel comes into its own at high speeds, pulling quite strongly in the mid-range. The cabin is well insulated and NVH is good but give the motor the beans and you can hear a hint of the oil burner. 0-60 km/hr in 4.31 seconds and 0-100 km/hr in 10.12 seconds might not sound fast, because it isn’t, still you can have a lot of fun in the A-Class. Engage Sport mode and you get an extra 500 RPM to play with, get hold of the transmission using the nicely crafted steering mounted paddles and you are in for an involving drive experience.
What is even more exciting about the A-Class is its dynamic abilities. This car handles beautifully, the steering weighs up brilliantly at speed. Body roll is completely absent, the control is tight and the way this car jinks into corners can leave you grinning. The steering is fluid and feedback rich, it has such a point and shoot nature which makes this entry level Merc a hoot to drive. High speed stability is befitting that of a Mercedes and the 1.5 tonne weight does help it remain glued to the road. In spite of the weight, the A-Class is frugal plenty, it returned an overall mileage of 15.11 km/l while the best we achieved was a staggering 20.40 km/l (in Eco mode with Start/Stop activated). Full pedal to the metal and 100% AC usage resulted in the worst mileage of 12.05 km/l, still impressive by any means. Even the brakes are sharp and the whole package comes together well to make driving behind the feel pure joy.
Where the A-Class doesn’t shine though is the ride quality although it rides very well at high speeds. The car is stiff and compliant on good roads but bad roads can shake it to quite an extent. Some speed-breakers also touch the car’s underbelly. Mercedes being a customer focussed company always listens to what owners have to say. The Edition 1 model launched recently has a softer India specific suspension along with a higher ground clearance. Other gripes about the car include the lack of a rear parking camera and sunroof at this price point, the latter is something which transforms the cabin by making it feel drastically more airy. Mercedes has included those two features on the Edition 1 which is a move in the right direction.
The Mercedes A-Class has proven the traditional Indian theory wrong, bigger is not necessarily better. People buying the A-Class are letting go of vehicles twice the size at the same price, to opt for this baby Benz. That’s because the A-Class is not just a hatchback, it’s a vehicle which is big on style, fun, safety and economy. Throw in the desirability of owning something from the three-pointed stars’ stable and instantly you have a formula for success. However, what really swelled the proposition of the A-Class in the Indian market is the desirability. At this price point, nothing, and we really mean nothing, comes close to inducing the feeling of want like this baby Benz does, which answers our question as to what makes the A-Class tick while other luxury hatchbacks failed. It did take us three months to get our answer but those three months was time well spent with this sporty Merc.
The Mercedes A-Class is a terrific car to live with, not only does it make you feel special on a daily basis, it also bowls you over every time you sit inside or get behind the wheel. It is without doubt the best way to make a style statement in India, on a budget.
Further Reading –
Mercedes A-Class Long Term – Initial Report
Mercedes A-Class Petrol Review
Mercedes A-Class Diesel Review
Mercedes A-Class Edition 1 Review
Mercedes A-Class vs BMW 1-Series
Mercedes A-Class vs BMW 1-Series vs Audi Q3 S