The A-Class: Not Your Regular ‘Entry-Level’ Merc
The engine range for the non-AMG A-Class line-up consists of two potent choices: a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a 2.0-litre diesel
Can a Mercedes-Benz ever be ‘entry-level’? Well, surely not, given the brand’s positioning and it’s emphasis on luxury. However, there needs to be an entry point to the world of Mercedes-Benz; a product that’s accessible to a wide range of buyers while staying true to the brand’s ethos. Lower running and maintenance costs wouldn’t hurt its prospects either. And in terms of looks, luxury, and equipment, it would need to be as good as any other Mercedes-Benz model. In comes the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Limousine, a car that wants to be all that and more. Does it, though?
This is the second iteration of the A-Class in the Indian market gets; internationally there have been two more generations. It replaces the previous-generation CLA here, and as a result, it becomes the most affordable Mercedes sedan on sale. The A-Class is based on the brand’s MFA platform, which also underpins cars like the GLA. This means if you’ve driven the crossover, many elements will feel familiar. The A-Class is, of course, closer to the ground and feels better to drive. The engine range for the non-AMG A-Class line-up consists of two potent choices: a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a 2.0-litre diesel.
We got a chance to drive the former, and while it’s not the most powerful thing to have graced the A-Class’ engine bay, it seems to be adequate for everyday driving. The 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 163hp and 250Nm. The 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox works effectively to have power available for quick manoeuvres. It, however, does tend to get rough as you rev more. Like other Mercedes-Benz cars, what’s noticeable here is the overall stability in the way the A-Class drives. It doesn’t sit that low for it to scrape its underside, and the bump absorption is rather good, too. It’s admittedly not as supple as the E-Class but that’s going to be asking for a touch too much.
It’d be a missed opportunity for Mercedes-Benz if the A-Class wasn’t loaded with features. While the brand’s elegance and prestige are unmatched, many new buyers would be jumping to it from lesser cars. Also, since many top-class features are now available in cars at much lower price points, customers would feel short-changed when parting with nearly half a crore for an A-Class. Thankfully, there’s enough to enjoy in the car, in terms of features. From Mercedes-Benz’s rather sublime MBUX infotainment system to the usual bits and bobs like a sunroof, connected car features (Mercedes ME), and a whopping 8-year warranty.
The interior design and quality are second to none, especially when you look at the segment. And while positioned at the lower end of the range, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class doesn’t feel inexpensive. The rear seat space and headroom are good, too, and that’s bound to be appreciated by those who’ve signed up for Mercedes-Benz ownership for the first time. For those who enjoy driving, the A-Class won’t let them down, either. It’s a well-balanced mode of transport, offering fun and ride comfort in equal measure. This also means it’s made neither for performance enthusiasts nor for comfort-focused buyers. It strikes a balance between the two and excels at it.
The Merc A-Class is the kind of car that has the potential to be called a ‘classic’ in the future. The major reason behind that it now feels much closer to the rest of the Mercedes-Benz India line-up. Its predecessor wasn’t a bad car by any means, but there was a tangible difference between the India-made A-Class and the other larger cars like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. That gap is much smaller now, and it’s bound to reflect well in the future.
If you have the money and want more performance, the diesel option is a tiny bit quicker, largely because of more torque from the 2.0-litre engine. If you want something more serious, then there’s the Mercedes-AMG A 35 sedan. It is also locally assembled and has a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine which makes 225hp and 400 Nm. Mercedes-Benz claims that it can do 0-100kph in under 5 seconds, nearly four seconds quicker than the regular A-Class. It looks way better and has a 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, too.
And if that doesn’t satiate your desire to go fast, the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+ is the only alternative. It’s nearly double the price of a standard A 200, has no boot (only available as a five-door hatchback), and is poised to be one of the most driver-focused cars you can buy in India. Plus, there’s the claimed output of 421 hp and 500 Nm, which pretty much makes it quicker to 100 km/h than a brand-new Porsche 911 Carrera 4. If that’s not impressive, we wonder what is!
Coming back to the A 200, it’s also equipped to listen to your commands. The onboard MBUX system also ‘knows’ what you’d want to listen to and automatically switches to that radio station if you’d like. Plus the list of connected car features includes the ability to track the vehicle, add a geo-fence, remote lock/unlock, connect to Google Home and Amazon Alexa suites, and even look up points of interest in the vicinity.
The Denim Blue car seen in the pictures Mercedes-Benz’s press car, and it’s been specced just right. An AMG version (or AMG Line, which is currently unavailable) might look sporty, but this Progressive trim comes in looking perfect. Its closest rival is the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, which is also front-wheel-drive and comes with a choice of petrol and diesel engines. The 2 Series feels better to drive but it doesn’t look as elegant as the Mercedes A-Class. Its coupe-like roofline is more stylish but it’s not spacious inside. Plus, there’s no proper M version that can compete with the AMGs.
The Mercedes-Benz A 200 is the right car for someone who’s new to the brand but doesn’t want to stretch their budget for a C-Class. For those who already have a larger premium car in the household and want something for everyday use, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class works as a good choice. It’s a mini-me Mercedes-Benz that does many things right, and with prices starting at Rs 42 lakh (ex-showroom), we think it’s not too bad a deal.