New Articles

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class Review

S.Muralidhar October 3 | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on October 02, 2012

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class   -  BUSINESS LINE

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class   -  BUSINESS LINE

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class   -  BUSINESS LINE

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class   -  BUSINESS LINE

Mercedes-Benz A-Class headlamp detail   -  Business Line

Mercedes-Benz A-Class tail-lamp detail   -  BUSINESS LINE

Mercedes-Benz A-Class detail   -  BUSINESS LINE

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class engine detail   -  BUSINESS LINE

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class detail   -  BUSINESS LINE

Mercedes-Benz A-Class detail   -  Business Line

Mercedes-Benz A-Class detail   -  BUSINESS LINE

Mercedes-Benz A-Class detail   -  BUSINESS LINE

Mercedes-Benz A-Class detail   -  Business Line

After gawking at the beautiful vineyard riddled countryside, the lofty green mountains in the background, the spectacular road infrastructure and the beautiful women, I was totally embarrassed to admit that I could barely locate Slovenia on the map even after landing there.

I knew nothing else about the country’s geography or its tourism potential and was reminded about it again when I drove past a road sign that said Venice 180 kms. And I’m telling myself that can’t be right – Venice, Italy and less than two hours away by road? But, I Googled and that was right, and I am sure it would be a scenic drive too, weaving alternately along the Adriatic coastline and away from it into the mountains.

But why am I talking about Slovenia – its geography and ‘touristiness’ – you ask. Well, for one I was there as a visitor and I was driving on its roads, in the brand new Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The drive from Ljubljana (pronounced Lyubliana) to the seaside resort town of Portoroz opened my eyes to Slovenia.

The new A-Class will surely do the same to buyers who have passed up Merc in the past. If ever there have been image changers that came in small packages, the new A will top the list. It has the potential to alter Merc’s perceived image of being appealing only to an older audience and instead it could well go on to capture the imagination of the luxury hatch buyer.

Classy design

If you’d seen the current generation A-Class on the road and turned away in recognition, you will chase the new one down the street to get a better look. There have been a few purists who have been muted in their praise for the new A-Class’ design and have actually felt that it is a bit of excess. But I will join the chorus that has gone ga-ga over it.

The new A-Class’ design is still characteristically Mercedes, overall. But, while it retains a few signature lines and features, it is refreshingly new and unique. Sportiness is etched into its new design and strong character lines now catch a lot of the light and your attention. The waistline, bonnet creases and the rising belt-line are all prominent, possibly for a purpose. Maybe subtlety is a lost cause amongst the young.

Achieving an extremely low coefficient of drag of 0.27 means that this third generation A-Class’ design is really super aerodynamic and that is immediately striking in the smooth flow of the roofline.

The new A is 18 cms lower than the predecessor and it also sheds the previous gen’s ultra-compact MPV image. The new A-Class’ front now sports a slightly more elongated bonnet and stubby nose. The bonnet grille in the test car that I drove, came with the characteristic double-slat chrome member with the 3D three-pointed star in the middle, but the A Sport version engineered by AMG features a truly eye-catching diamond effect grille.

The rear design of the new A is tauter, with a more compact tail-gate, a sporty rear apron and twin exhaust pipes. The full complement of LED is available for the headlamps and tail-lamps. Alloy rims available across the range start from 15-inchers and go up to attractively wheel arch filling 18-inchers.

The new A-Class is based on the new Mercedes MFA platform, which it shares with the new B-Class and three other vehicles that are due out in the next two years, including the new A-Class sedan and the compact crossover (rumoured to be named the CLA and the GLA respectively). This new platform developed to take on the competition in the fast growing compact vehicles category is front wheel driven and offers the flexibility of an all-wheel drive. It is quite a departure for Mercedes-Benz, but if it leads to the development of cars like the new A-Class, nobody is going to be complaining.

Young inside

The cabin of the new A-Class is as attractive as its exterior, if not better. High quality materials, galvanised real metal trim, premium leather, even carbon fibre in the top variant – all of these together with a very high finish quality makes the cabin feel really good. There is none of the oxymoronic ‘Spartan-luxury’ feel of the plastic in the previous-gen A-Class and it actually feels even better than the new B-Class cabin, with which the new ‘A’ shares a lot of parts.

The backlit instrument cluster, the simple yet attractive controls, the aviation-inspired air vents (also found in Merc’s roadster models) and the contoured leather seats are all youthful and very luxurious. There is also the panoramic sunroof in keeping with the car’s modern image and there are a number of seat upholstery options with matching colour themes to choose from. Within the three equipment lines Urban, Style and AMG Sport, plus the design packages and myriad individualisation options available, the new A-Class’ cabin can easily be made to fit into the buyer’s lifestyle.

To match its youthful image, you can also fully integrate the Apple iPhone into the infotainment system of the new ‘A’. Merc engineers call it the smartphone on wheels. Dock the iPhone to the optional ‘drive kit plus’ in the glove box and all the major functions can be accessed on the large display at the top of the centre stack. Apple’s voice-based companion Siri can also be used for a number of functions. The on-board system in the new A-Class already provides access to social networking.

Since the new A-Class has the same wheelbase and width as the B-Class, the amount of legroom and shoulder room available in the cabin is very similar. Headroom is a bit lesser at the rear seat with the roof sloping down, but it could get a bit cramped for 6-footers.

Performance

Mercedes-Benz has endowed the new A-Class’ line-up with three engines each of petrol and diesel. All of them are 4-cylinder mills. The petrol engines are the four-cylinder in-line 1.6-litre engine available in two states of tune and a two-litre offered in two trim levels including the A 250 Sport.

I test drove the A 200 which had the 1.6-litre turbocharged mill in a higher state of tune and producing a peak power of 156bhp. The best part about the new petrol engines is the amount of low-end torque available at rpm levels that are even lower than the diesels. For example, the A 200’s mill produced as much as 250Nm of torque from just 1,250 revs! Even better, the A 250 with the two-litre, turbo petrol engine is rated to generate 350Nm of torque from 1,200 to 4,000 rpm. Peak power delivered by this top of the line engine is 211 bhp.

The engines are paired with the 7G-DCT automatic transmission, with a six-speed manual transmission also being available in a few variants. The A 250 is capable of a top-speed of 240kmph and the 0-100 sprint comes up in 6.6 seconds! My test mule was a shade slower with a top speed of 224 kmph and the 0-100 kmph figure coming up in 8.4 seconds.

The 4-cylinder diesel engines on offer are two units – a 1.5-litre and a 1.8-litre. One is the 1,461cc mill that we are familiar with and know to be the Renault K9K CDi engine. Only in the new Merc A 180 CDI this engine produces a peak power of 109 bhp and a peak torque of 260 Nm. This is the base variant of the new A-Class and is paired with the manual gearbox. The other engine is a 1,796cc turbo diesel that is available in two states of tune – the A 180 CDI (strangely same nomenclature) and the A 200 CDI, producing peak power of 109 bhp and 136 bhp respectively and a peak torque of 250 Nm and 300 Nm respectively. All the variants except the A 250 Sport are endowed with Merc’s BlueEFFICIENCY features.

On the second day of our test drive programme, I drove the A 200 CDI and the diesel addiction came right back on. The new A-Class feels clearly like a Mercedes in its ability to seem quick without being brash. There is loads of power and torque available for a vehicle that is less than 1.5 tons in weight. Power delivery is crisp, quick and smooth and the 7G-DCT auto gearbox does a brilliant job, keeping up with my demands and is even better in sports mode. After all, the auto tranny’s software comes from the SLS AMG super car.

In Slovenia, I got to drive the new A-Class on wide highways, over the hills and even on an old airstrip where Merc engineers had organised a high-speed slalom test. The new ‘A’s’ handling is much better than the predecessor. The steering is precise and the suspension has been tuned to be sporty and agile, with a four-link rear axle and torque vectoring brakes for improved stability. I push the new ‘A’ hard around corners in the hilly sections and at the airstrip, and the car helpfully steps out of line almost like it is trying to please, while still allowing me to keep it fully under control.

For buyers who seek more dynamism and pleasure from the car, the new A-Class is also offered with the optional Dynamic Handling Package with Direct Steer system and sports suspension. A full complement of proprietary Merc safety and comfort systems are also part of standard equipment across the range.

Bottomline

It would be fair to expect that Mercedes-Benz India will bring in the A 200 CDI and the A 180 petrol. Prices will possibly be in the region of Rs 18 lakh to Rs 22 lakh, though it is going to be tough to position the new A-Class as the clear entry-level Mercedes model, because it is so attractive. But finally, Mercedes will have a young and aggressive new model to attack the competition with in the sub-Rs 22 lakh price range.

The three-pointed star has been missing a few legs in its portfolio. With the launch of the new B-Class and planned roll out of the new A-Class by mid-2013, Mercedes-Benz will walk right back into the hearts of Indian luxury car buyers.

Published on October 02, 2012
null
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor