Looks matter and we like everything we own whether it is a mundane practical object, to look good. It is the same way with cars- no one likes an ugly car no matter how practical, spacious or even fuel efficient it is. The Mercedes A-class on the other hand is one of those cars that you would buy because of its looks alone- the fact that it moves is just a bonus.
The A-class in its previous generations wasn't like that and the transformation is frankly shocking. And this was a deliberate attempt by Mercedes to bring a more youthful, sporty design so that the A-class appeals to a new set of customers. That has worked as this car has been a huge success worldwide and in India within 10 days of its launch Mercedes got 400 bookings. This in a market where we equate a car's price along with its size.
Then again one look at the A-Class and you know why. There is not even one 'bad angle' on this car and whether be it from the front or at the back, the A-class is just a stunner. First of all it may be a hatch but it isn't small, being about the same size has an upper midsize sedan. In the flesh it is even better looking than in the pictures. The shape is low, wide and from side the coupe like lines are just perfect.
The front is aggressive with the V-shape and stunning diamond grille along with the "flare effect" DRLs. Move to the side and notice how low it looks and the character lines plus the coupe like design. The rear is more curvacious and the whole design has perfect harmony. Of course the twin 5 spoke 17” alloys add to the effect. The end result is a car that grabs attention similar to cars four times its price.
Step inside and it seems the feast for the eyes does not end. The quality is similar to any other Merc and in our opinion you cannot get a better interior at this price. The design is sporty and youthful just like the outside with no beige or wood in sight. Thanks to its low slung looks, getting in requires some effort but once in you would not want to get out. We also loved some of the details like those SLS AMG like air con vents.
The sporty seats at the front are terrific while at the rear there is enough legroom though headroom is in short supply. Make no mistake this is not for the chauffeur driven. There is of course a long equipment list which includes a 14.7 cm colour display, iPhone compatible USB, AUX-in, Bluetooth, audio streaming, MP3/WMA/AAC, CD cover display.
The tablet-like screen in the centre for the COMMAND system holds all the functions like navigation etc. Overall this is a special place to be and there is nothing at this price to even come closer to it in this regard.
The A-Class has two engine options namely the 1.6 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine and 2.2 litre, 4 cylinder diesel engine. We had the petrol for our test and this is one fiesty motor. Do not let the figure of 121 bhp for the petrol fool you as this feels quite fast on the road.
The credit for that has to be given to the 7 speed dual-clutch automatic transmission which is responsive and suits the car. There are three modes with Economy being for every driving and for when you will get the best efficiency (there is Start/Stop as well), the Sport is the best one where the gearbox lets you have some fun while for the best experience we recommend Manual mode where you change via paddles.
Being a turbo-charged unit there is no turbo-lag and power delivery is seamless. When it comes to ride and handling for a front wheel drive car, it just corners beautifully. There is tons of grip and even stability is excellent and there not even a hint of nervousness. The steering was impressive too! The ride and refinement though is not the high standards you expect from a Mercedes but the firm ride is not uncomfortable and goes along the sporty nature of this car.
Being a Mercedes there is a heap of safety kit on offer which includes ESP (Electronic Stability Program), ASR (Acceleration Skid Control), electric parking brake, ABS (Antilock Braking System), Brake Assist System, Attention Assist and Hill Start Assist.
As said earlier there are two variants on offer with the A 180 CDI Style having a price-tag of Rs 23.4 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) and the more expensive A 180 Sport as tested here at a price of Rs 24 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). Is it worth it? Yes it is but not by the conventional yardsticks.
This is not your usual Mercedes for lounging at the back nor is it the usual hatch that we Indians are used to. This is a car that tugs at your heartstrings with its stunning looks, special cabin and sporty dynamics. For this price we cannot think of any other car that is as fun as the A-Class and in the end what matters is that you are grinning from ear to ear when you are driving this car. That says it all.
Words- Somnath Chatterjee Photography- Rajeev Bhendwal