Test drive: The new Mercedes A-Class
The new Mercedes A-class is a young-at-heart, sporty, stylish product from the M-B stable. With great expectations resting on its small, but strong shoulders, does it live up to the promise? We took the compact machine for a long spin to find out
The A-class is a shiny little star to the core - a debonair character. At the heart of its allure is its ornate grille which has 302 diamond-shaped chrome studs arranged in fascinating concave patterns to lend the A-class one of the glitziest faces around. Sitting proud within that galaxy of sparkling diamonds is the big, bold three-pointed star lending the A-star a glamorous face.
In profile, your eyes will go bling bling with the sight of those sexily designed 17-inch wheels. The greenhouse is small, with high window sills. The roofline itself doesn’t drop too dramatically, the top of the rear window sweeps down aggressively to lend the A-class a racy profile. The thick C-pillar, the big roof spoiler and the strong haunches further validate the sporty pedigree of this compact.
The emphasis with most of the elements at the rear is to make the car look wider. The rear bumper has a black grained diffuser insert underneath which also houses the dual exhausts with stainless steel tips, lending the rear a character as stylish and bold as the front.
The A-class is a classy looking machine, with some elements which clearly help it stand apart. With its pronounced haunches, short roofline and big wheels, the A-Class looks the business. It exudes boldness and character from every angle.
Engine and gearbox
Powered by the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine we saw earlier on the B-class, the A-class with its lighter weight feels sprightlier than the bigger B. With its peak power output rated at 122bhp at 5,000 rpm and peak torque of 200 Nm spread between a wide band of 1,250-4,000 rpm, the A-class has fairly potent mill under its bonnet.
Past 2,000 rpm, the A-class’s engine gets going with some tasty juice beginning to flow. It really comes into its own past 3000 rpm, with the turbo properly spooled and loads of power joining the generous torque for some shove. 0-100km/h takes a little more than 9 seconds. Top speed is rated at more than 200km/h.
The engine is mated with the latest mainstream transmission in the M-B stable - the 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission. The transmission is sufficiently quick and comes with shifter pedals behind the steering wheel - great feature for a car in this segment. Three gearshift modes are available to the driver:
ECONOMY: in this mode, the transmission performs gearshifts fully automatically with due regard to a particularly economical style of driving at low revs
SPORT: the transmission performs gearshifts fully automatically. The shift and response times are shorter, with gearshifts at higher engine speeds
MANUAL: in this mode, the revs hold on all the way to the redline, or slightly before that, waiting for the driver to shift manually via shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
The 1.6-litre engine on the B-class may not be an absolute hoot, but it still has enough pep to hot things up just right. Combined with the brilliant 7G-DCT tranny, it makes for one spicy, yet delectable recipe.
The moment you get into the driver’s seat of the A-class you are surprised by the unusual height of the dashboard and resultantly the tall position of the instrument cluster. The high dash and bonnet makes it slightly difficult to judge as to what’s underneath the car on the passenger’s side. Short
drivers beware! In motion, the A-class feels substantial and heavy, belying its size. The steering is not as light as some of the other Mercs at slow speeds, but not too heavy either. The suspension is on the stiffer side, in favour of handling and the sporty character of the car.
Around the smooth, inviting bends of Aamby Valley, the A-Class stood true to M-B’s claims of it being a driver’s car. It feels well balanced, nicely sprung and nimble. The steering which initially carried a fair chunk of unnatural heaviness, felt more natural and precise as you hurl the hatch around the smoothly paved winding tar surface. Body roll is well restricted and you come to appreciate the virtues of this shiny new Merc as you show it the bends - it doesn’t resent being chucked around corners one bit.
There is ample power on the tap from that engine, and the 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission is pretty quick too. For a car this small, it comes equipped with pedal shifters, an addition that only widens the grin on your face.
Cabin quality and features
The cabin of the A-class resembles that of the recently introduced B-class in more than one ways. The aircraft turbine inspired A/C vents which not just look smashing, but are extremely easy to use with smooth operation are shared between the A- and B-class. The centre console, the steering wheel, the dashboard layout - the place looks familiar. The interior theme is black, with hints of chrome and steel to accentuate the sporty character of the car.
However, the A-class gets its own, racier, white speedo-tacho dials. Another unique characteristic of the A-class’s cabin are its seats. The unique seats with an integrated head rest and a perforation between the space to rest the torso and head look sleek and classy. The steel lining around the central cavity adds loads of character to the cabin.
Legroom is sufficient at the rear for medium-built men, taller guys may have a bit of a problem if a six footer is driving. Head room too, though sufficient for medium-built men is not generous. The black interior theme, along with small windows makes the cabin a dark place to be, which doesn’t feel particularly airy. The high window sill both at the front and back compounds the problem. Boot space at the rear is pegged at 341 litres, which can be extended substantially if you drop down the 60:40 rear seats.
Mercedes has not compromised with safety tech on the A-class and the car comes loaded with active and passive safety gear. You get as many as seven airbags, ABS, ESP, all four wheels with disc brakes and most of the Mercedes Safety wizardry including Pre-safe and Adaptive Braking.
The A-class is meant to represent a brand new segment of sporty hatches in the Indian premium car market. We think M-B has got the car right as regards styling and character, and we love it for the way it drives. For a diesel-centric Indian market pricing the diesel variant lower than the petrol version is a smart move. For those who value individualistic character, fun-to-drive quotient and modern engineering above sheer size, the A-class should make for a compelling pick.
INR 22.73 lakh (Delhi)
Stylish & Compact
Fun to drive
Well-equipped with modern technology
Not very spacious inside
Ride quality on the stiffer side