The cheapest car from Mercedes India, the A class has been launched today with an a pricing of Rs. 21.93 Lakh for the CDI option and Sport Petrol at Rs. 22.73 Lakh (Ex-showroom Mumbai for both).
Unlike most other Mercs on sale in India, this car is not well suited to being chauffeured around in. With its rakish profile and sporty roofline, the A-class is targeted more at owner-drivers. Mercedes is hoping that the extremely youthful design of the car, the very modern interiors and its sporty driving dynamics will appeal to the young and the young at heart, just like it has done in Europe; where the car is currently a runaway success.
There’s certainly plenty to look at in the heavily sculpted design. The stance is very athletic and there is a lot to admire in the profile of the car; the long bonnet and low roof gives it a very sporty look. The big star at the centre of the grille gets your attention and your eyes then wander over to the scowling headlights. Even the rear has been thoroughly worked on – a ducted rear bumper and rear splitter together make the back of the car look really well ‘planted’ on the road. This car also feels robustly screwed together and tough, as any real Mercedes should. It’s a shame that this car will be categorised as a hatchback; it’s more of a sporting four-door coupé that just happens to have a hatch at the rear.
The refreshingly sporty and modern design is carried over to the interiors as well. The design of the cabin is just as radical as the exterior, the emphasis clearly on sportiness again. The theme of the cabin is dictated by the electroplated and chromed circular air vents. The entire dash is covered with a carbonfibre weave and it’s pretty clear, there’s plenty of sex appeal here as well.
Quality and fit and finish are well up to Merc standards. The insides are as well put together as a C-class, there are plenty of metallic highlights to liven up the cabin and there’s enough kit available to make this feel like a pukka luxury car. The central console gets a suspended touchscreen above the vents, you can connect your iPhone and run apps off it, and the large seats with integrated ‘Porsche-type’ headrests look particularly upmarket. Other bits that catch your attention are the heavily padded doorpads, which are typically Merc, and the attractive AMG steering wheel. The rear seats, despite the car's low-slung stance and tight-fitting roof, are surprisingly comfortable. The seat is supportive in the right places, headroom is acceptable and there’s quite a bit of legroom. The small rear windows, however, do make you feel ‘hemmed in’.
The 341-litre boot is quite tiny though, and that’s despite the fact that Mercedes has ditched the spare wheel altogether. Merc engineers did, however, mention that there could be a space-saver spare for some markets like ours.
The A180 CDI diesel drives surprisingly well despite having only 108bhp. The engine is refined and smooth once it gets spinning and the responsive nature of the motor means you don’t miss having more power on hand all the time. There is no discernible turbo lag or delay between using the throttle and power delivery and the engine spins freely till 4500rpm, which makes it quite pleasing to drive. It doesn’t feel too slow out on regular highways either. Wide open roads, however, get you wishing for more power.
What helps is that this car feels wonderfully sporty to drive, more like a sporting coupé than a luxury hatchback. And straightline stability is really impressive as well, the car tracking arrow straight with almost no input needed on the wheel. Indian cars will get a raised suspension setup, called a rough road package, by Mercedes, and that may blunt some of the car’s sporty driving manners. The flipside, however, will be that ride quality will improve: the European setup on this car was quite stiff.
When Merc launches the new A-class at the end of this month, the first pair of models to hit our shores will be the 180 CDI diesel (108bhp), driven here, and the 180 petrol (121bhp). The A-class will not be a volume seller for sure, at least not immediately, but if you are a self-driven customer who has evolved past the ‘all cars with hatchbacks have to be cheap’ mindset, the new A-class delivers all the luxurious trappings of a Mercedes in a very attractive and modern package. Prices are expected to start at Rs 22 lakh, quite attractive if you can avoid thinking of it as just an ordinary ‘hatch’.