Mercedes A-Class Diesel Review
Car Tested: 2013 Mercedes A-Class Diesel (A180 CDI)
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 28,20,650/-
The diesel engine in the A-Class offers a good mix of performance and economy.
A hot hatch is a car which not only looks fast but goes fast too. When Mercedes-Benz launched the A-Class in India in May, everyone were bowled over by the design of the vehicle. The company has made a smart move of launching both petrol and diesel models at the outset, something which it missed with the B-Class. The German automaker is well aware about India’s love with diesel, even if it means plonking it into their sporty A-Class. The company has managed to get 400 bookings (petrol and diesel combined but diesel more in demand) in quick time, which shows how well the thought of an entry level diesel luxury car is accepted in our country. We have already reviewed the Mercedes A-Class in detail (HERE) and this review is limited to the diesel model. Does this oil burner give the Mercedes A-Class stonking performance is what we find out.
The Mercedes A-Class is a stunning design and has massive appeal. If one has to decide on buying an entry level luxury car on looks alone, the A-Class would be the obvious choice. The diesel model is identical to the petrol model as far as the exteriors go, except of course the CDI badging at the right side of the rear. The high attention to detail is very noteworthy especially on the lights, where the front ones have “Mercedes-Benz Bi-Xenon” inscribed in them and the rear ones have “Mercedes-Benz” inscribed in them. The A-Class is quite long and has a certain presence around it. The 302-pin diamond grille is very eye catchy but is an optional extra costing Rs. 72,000/-, the standard car comes with the regular twin slat grille. Our test car came equipped with an optional body kit which comprises of larger wheels, body graphics and all round skirts. This certainly makes the car look even sportier but comes at an additional cost and we don’t recommend you opt for it (more on that later).
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The A-Class has really premium interiors with excellent quality and the all black theme works very well to give the sporty feel to the cabin. However as soon as I sat inside the car, I immediately felt a bit claustrophobic. You see when I drove the A-Class petrol, I found the vehicle quite airy, in spite of the innards of the car not very suited to tall passengers. Mercedes offers the diesel-powered A-Class only in Style (base) trim which lacks a panoramic sunroof and its absence was immediately felt. Other missing bits include navigation (you get a smaller infotainment screen) and Parktronic. While it’s easy to do without maps, Mercedes-Benz should have offered parking sensors. The company does offer loads of features though which fits well with the premium positioning of the baby Benz.
Our test car came with optional extras which also comprises of graphics on the seats which match the treatment on the exteriors. The front seats of the A-Class are extremely supportive and the bucket like design works well to keep you comfortable on long journeys. The rear seat offers good amount of legroom but then under thigh support is lacking and the big front headrests, lack of sunroof, small windows and non adjustable headrests (only adjustable for the centre passenger who can’t sit anyways due to the hump) make the A-Class not very inviting for rear passengers. The 341-litre boot is only hampered by the placement of the spare wheel.
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Squeezed under the hood beats a 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine cranking out 107 HP of power between 3200-4400 RPM and 250 Nm of torque between 1400-2800 RPM. This is the same motor which powers the C-Class but has been de-tuned for the B-Class and A-Class. There are two reasons for detuning, one is improved mileage while the other is preventing torque steer. A person paying close to Rs. 30 lakhs for a luxury hatchback isn’t as elastic to mileage as a person paying Rs. 7 lakhs, so we really feel Mercedes shouldn’t focus much on mileage as people paying such an hefty amount want performance over km/l. With just 107 HP and 250 Nm, there is not going to be any torque steer for sure. Mercedes should have offered more power and slapped on some electronic nannies to prevent wheel spins. After all the A-Class’ chassis is capable of holding the A45 AMG’s 2.0-litre engine which outputs 355 BHP and 450 Nm (with 4MATIC of course).
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The same engine powers the B-Class and we didn’t complain much about the lack of ponies but in the sporty looking A-Class, you always expect performance, more so because it’s a car to drive and not be driven in. The B-Class can be chauffeur driven but almost every A-Class buyer is going to take to the wheel. The 2143cc oil burner has good amount of mid-range grunt and offers linear performance but progress isn’t immediate and you really need to whack the throttle hard to gather good momentum on the highways. This motor offers good drivability in the city but gets quite audible post 3000 RPM. The A-Class diesel takes 10.6 seconds (claimed) to do the 0-100 km/hr sprint, which isn’t fast for a car that looks fast even while standing still. Top speed is 190 km/hr. If you want a fast hatchback, the A-Class diesel just doesn’t cut in and even the Volkswagen Polo TSI is quicker to 100 km/hr, taking just 9.7 seconds. With lesser power and torque, the Polo manages to be quicker due to its weight. The A-Class is a heavy car at 1.5 tonnes, thanks to the big 2.2-litre motor.
The diesel A-Class gets a different instrument cluster which doesn’t have silver background on the speeodmeter and tachometer. Mated to the diesel engine of the A-Class is a 7-speed automatic gearbox which shifts cogs very smoothly and doesn’t give you any hint of its operations. There are paddle shifts on the steering wheel and you can take control of gear changing at any point of time. The powertrain offers three options E, S and M, where E stands for Economy, S stands for Sports and M stands for Manual. Performance in E is adequate with the car shifting gears keeping economy as its main criteria. Upshifts take place at low RPMs, depending on throttle inputs. In S and M mode, the car redlines at 4500 RPM, against 4000 RPM in E mode. There is apparent eagerness in S and M modes. There is an auto Start/Stop system which works silently and the A-Class has an impressive ARAI mileage of 20.06 km/l.
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Part of the optional body kit are larger 225/40 BF Goodrich tyres on 18-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels (regular car gets 225/45/17). With the lower profile rubber, ride quality is properly stiff to the point of being unbearable on Mumbai potholed roads (thus the body kit is a strict no-no although the A-Class’ good ground clearance means it almost never touches on speedbreakers). On regular wheels, the ride quality is pretty good even though it’s a bit on the stiffer side with bad roads really unsettling the vehicle. Handling on the other end is simply fantastic and the A-Class darts into corners with ample amount of grip and composure. The front heavy diesel has a tendency to understeer but the handling is sharp and the A-Class is a fun car to push through bends. The steering offers good feedback too but isn’t as direct at high speeds. Braking is splendid and the vehicle stops very quickly, without leaving its line.
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The diesel engine under the hood of the Mercedes A-Class surely makes it more appealing to the economy seeking Indian luxury car buyer. The A-Class is sure an appealing vehicle but the price is on the higher side with the company charging Rs. 50,000/- more for metallic colour and Rs. 72,000/- more for the diamond grille. Being a CBU, there is vast difference between ex-showroom and on-road prices and the A-Class diesel costs a whooping Rs. 28.21 lakhs (on-road, Mumbai). Weirdly though the B-Class is now cheaper than the A-Class but both are still CBUs. If you are the person who wants a smashing looking car with technology, safety and quality, the A-Class is for you. If you like to drive but are ready to live with less horses in lieu of better mileage, the diesel A-Class is one option difficult to ignore.
The diesel engine in the sporty looking A-Class falls a bit short in terms of performance, but for everything else, the A-Class diesel appeals to the heart.
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What’s Not So Cool
* Rear seat comfort