The current sales trends in the automobile industry seem to indicate that the sedan is a dying breed. The overwhelming preference for sports utility vehicles is literally snubbing out sedans. The D segment sedan has all but vanished and sales of C segment and sub-compact sedans are also heading southward. In a scenario that’s loaded against the 3-box car and has led to brands like Honda and Toyota pulling out their once popular sedans, we need a new breed that can bring back some of the excitement into the segment.
Can the new Mercedes-Benz A Class sedan be the harbinger of good news?
The A-Class hatchback had preceded the sedan, but it’s average sales indicated that it was either too early for its times or that Indian luxury car buyers continue to be back benchers. The CLA helped a little bit, with its novel design, but didn’t deliver that much-needed oomph inside the cabin. So a sedan makes immense sense for that demographic — one that is looking for a no compromise entry luxury car as a first time buyer in the segment or for someone who wants another luxury car to use as a runabout. To assure this buyer that his expectation for space at the rear seat has been addressed, Merc India has aptly named it the A-Class Limousine.
The segment hasn’t been a high volume category till now. But the A-Class sedan will be positioned as a proper limo with its dimensions making it the widest and tallest. With its long bonnet, setback cabin and a stubby rear section, the new A-Class limo has a striking design. The exterior also exudes a sense of minimalist chic with simple, long straight lines highlighting its profile. The new generation headlamps with the new LED DRLs and light signature, combine with the sporty grille and airdam to give the A sedan an aggressive front design.
Onlookers will be taken in by the graceful curve of the roofline and the subtly chiselled front wheel arch and door panels. Not surprisingly it is said to be the most aerodynamic production car in the world with a CD value of 0.22. The new A’s size, and as a consequence, the space it offers, has been maximised by the wheelbase of 2,729mm. Wraparound tail-lamps, a compact boot lid that offers access to about 400-litres of luggage space, and twin tailpipes round out the rear design.
The new A-Class limo really outshines the competition in its cabin quality. If the exterior design gave it a compact CLA look, the cabin mimics the layout and quality finish of the A-Class’ bigger, more luxurious siblings. Merc officials say that the cabin has been designed and kitted out keeping the young buyer in mind and so has loaded it with a number of digital features and connected car tech.
The dashboard layout and the finer details like backlit aircon vents make it seem like a miniature version of the cabin you’d find in Merc’s bigger sedans. The chiselled, layered dashboard is topped by the long, unified digital infotainment and instrument cluster screens. The curved middle layer sports the classic air turbine inspired aircon vents we have already seen in the models. There are other highlights like the beige Artico upholstery for the seats, the open pore walnut wood inserts and the classic multi-function steering wheel with touch pads to make buyers in this segment also feel special.
The centre console also features a touch pad for controlling the infotainment system, and in addition to other physical control buttons, the MBUX system also responds to voice commands. But the most impressive of all for customers who will wear both hats - of being the rear seat passenger and self-driving the car themselves, the new A’s cabin delivers an impressive amount of cabin space. Both legroom and headroom are adequate even for relatively tall passengers; this is a big improvement over the CLA.
The new A sedan gets three powertrain options, including the A 35 AMG’s turbocharged, 2-litre petrol engine. The regular front-wheel drive A-Class gets two 4-cylinder units; one is a 1.3-litre petrol mill and the other is the 2-litre diesel burner. Mercedes-Benz’s badging nomenclature has been a bit confusing and this continues to be unrelated to any specific hierarchical connection to engine size or output levels. The A200d Diesel engine puts out 150hp of peak power and 320Nm of torque from a low 1,400rpm. The engine is paired to a new 8G-DCT (dual clutch) automatic gearbox and is rated to deliver a mileage of 21.35kmpl. This powertrain delivers an easy driving character on the road, with much of that torque being delivered early, there is no need for the engine to be prodded on past the 3,000rpm level under most driving conditions. The cabin is nicely insulated and quiet, with barely any audible evidence of the oil burner in the bonnet.
The A200’s petrol engine delivers a healthy 120hp of peak power and 250Nm of max torque from a remarkably low 1,620rpm. This in-line, 4-cylinder unit is one more small displacement engine that manages a peppy, refined performance delivering an engaging drive. The only downside that is also generic to other engines in the class, is that it gets audible when pushed past the mid-rpm range. This unit is paired to the 7G-DCT (7-speed auto) transmission. The gearbox is quick, shifts clean, and in sport mode, in addition to the transmission logic being different, the steering also stiffens up. The A200 petrol variant’s mileage rating is 17.5kmpl.
The new A-Class’ ride quality is another big highlight. Mercs in general, except the AMGs, offer a more comfortable ride compared to the competition and considering our road conditions. The new A’s 17-inch rims are shod with taller 113mm profile tyres that make it count while driving over the alternating clean and broken tarmac that is the standard in most Indian cities.
The suspension has also been raised to offer more ground clearance and more damping. The set up is tuned for keeping passengers comfortable while driving over really bad roads; and it does soak up the worst with ease. The only thing travelling into the cabin is a bit of road noise and some inevitable body roll.
Overall, the new A-Class is a big jump over the predecessors and even over much of the competition. It still has some Mercedes character that buyers in India have come to expect, in that it focuses on comfort and less on being truly sporty. But if you are looking to burn rubber, carve corners etc., get yourself the A35 AMG. The A200 and A200d are both still fantastic packages, making them no compromise entry luxury sedans. The cabin makes you feel special too, with features like powered seats with memory function, ambient lighting for the cabin, 43 connected car features, a big sunroof and wireless phone charging.
The two regular A-Class models will be offered only in one loaded trim variant each. I expect the new A-Class to priced in the ₹38 lakh to ₹42 lakh price range.