Friday, July 11, 2014

Mercedes Benz A Class 180 CDI review

2 hours of drive is very short time to review a car, but it is good enough to get a feel of the car and identify basic pros and cons. In this post I’ve attempted to write my findings on Mercedes Benz A Class premium hatchback car, purely based on my findings last weekend, when I rented it for 2 hours from Bangalore based Zoom cars self-drive company. Be sure to checkout this post for A Class photoshoot.

Where possible, I’ve made attempts to compare with other luxury cars I’d opportunity to drive- BMW 320d and an old Merc C Class.

When I sat inside the driver’s seat of A Class, I realized that only 1 leg and arm is enough to drive this car. In BMW 320d or the C class, one leg and 2 arms were required. (Left arm to operate gear lever, which though automatic, need to be guided to park, reverse, drive modes. In A Class, changing gears is facilitated by a lever behind the steering wheel, on right hand side. So left hand has almost no use, unless you wish to operate paddle shift.

Speaking of paddle shift, this was the first time I drove a car with paddle shift. One lever on the left to downshift and another on the right to upshift- these levers rotate with the steering wheel and driver can change gears manually with an additional finger. Given my short time with the car I couldn’t fully enjoy this feature, but it felt good to try it out. (Honda City and few other mid range cars also come with paddle shift) 

See lots of dust in the above pic- doesn't look nice in photographs- Probably Zoom should give a car vacuum cleaner to the fleet guys to clean the cars better.
Apart from paddle shift there’re a few more levers. Lower one is to limit top speed or to use as cruise control. In 320d, this limit switch is on the steering wheel. Left top lever is for wiper control and turn indicators.

The one I drove was A180 CDI. 180 doesn’t mean 1.8 litre engine. It has a 2.2 litre diesel engine, same one used in C Class and few other Mercs. But this car is heavily detuned to 107PS. Verna and Chevy Cruze have much more power than A class on paper and come for half the price. In a C Class the same engine delivers 170bhp. A class has a designated top speed of 190kmph, which Verna or Cruze can easily match, given some straight road, (but not as fast as A Class) So despite paying 30 lakhs, an A Class owner could easily get overtaken by sedans half the price. Probably Merc could have introduced one variant of A Class with power in the range of 150PS.

Mercedes has done same mistake with A Class that Renault did with Fluence. When Fluence was launched in India, petrol variants had lots of features, but diesel variant offered bare minimum features. Renault assumed India’s diesel customers only want lower per km driving cost and nothing else. This reading of consumer mind is proven wrong, since fluence sales never took off. Merc is doing same mistake- while petrol variant comes with Sun roof, twin exhausts and many other features, Diesel trim is denied that option. No Panaromic sunroof in diesel, nor twin exhausts. A new variant called Edition 1 was launched recently- looks like it has got a sunroof in diesel along with few other enhancements.
Rear view- notice the missing twin exhausts
Contrary to regular practice, Petrol variant of A Class is expensive by a lakh than its diesel counterpart. Petrol engine develops 122PS, gets better top speed, sunroof, twin exhausts and few other features. It might be worth to go for Petrol version. (If you can afford to spend 30+ lakhs on a hatchback, you should certainly be able to afford petrol, even at Rs 100 a litre)

Seat controls are on the door handle, not under the seat, with 3 memory options. A bit more convenient to operate.
Car defaults to Eco mode after each start, which is annoying.

Premium quality of interior can be instantly noticed. Seats are thinner and come with fixed head rest, not adjustable. Edition 1 gets some entertainment devices on back of the headrest. The AC vent design is unique to A class and B Class. C class gets traditional one.

It was extremely fun to press on the gas and hear the engine roar, while changing gears.  Feels so good. Couldn't cruise much in city though.

Interior lighting I feel inadequate. When asked Zoom guy told ‘because it is a sports variant, lighting is minimal). I don’t get this part- why can’t I have proper illumination inside a sports car?. C class throws some light if you open the mirror behind sunvisor. No such thing in A Class.
Reversing shows us projected path on top of camera view. Very useful. Unfortunately I forgot to take a pic of that.

Update: Dhananjaya Murthy has shared below image showing A Class's reverse view. Thanks to him for sharing the same

Central Console gets few storage boxes and cup holders, and a small knob to control display unit. No wood insert. I think 320d still looks better in this department. Zoom has started adding stickers indicating their rules and regulations (125kmph top speed, no smoking, no drinking, no pets).

Boot space in Merc A Class is not much. Spare wheel occupies a part of it.
Second row armrest felt a little less versatile compared to C Class. Second row space is just fine. No curtains on the door, like the ones in C Class or 320d.

Overall it was good 2 hours spent with A Class. If you ask me if this car is worth 30 lakhs, that you should answer with your heart and not mind. This is one of the cheapest Mercs you can buy and your ticket to Merc club. 

A class competes with other ultra premium hatchbacks- like a BMW Mini or VW Beetle. But both Mini and Beetle feel more suitable for women, while A class would appeal to men, who either can’t afford a C Class or are fine with a hatchback as long as it carries Merc brand name. But with 30 lakhs on road price (approx.) the decision to go for a hatchback like an A Class instead of a SUV (like fortuner) which has more space, ground clearance and power or a Sedan (like Passat/Skoda superb) that has a boot and more features & power is a decision one has to take.

Similar: 320d * C Class * E Class *


Rahul Suresh said...

thats excellent aproach

Mahesh Divya said...

Honda lunching mobilio you are automobile expert , any feedback on it?

Hoday city is better or mobilio ?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Rahul

Mahesh Divya: Mobilio is a 6/7 seater MPV while City is a sedan with 5 seats. These 2 are targeted at different set of customers. Can't be compared.

More details and feedback on Mobilio is yet to emerge, so too early to pass a judgment.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Hi following your site for a couple of months, Great reviews BTW. Going to be taking a trip to India and was going to rent a car for two weeks through Zoom. I was wondering what would you recommend the A class or the 3 series ? Trip is mostly going to be south India for leisure and its only going to be two people.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

3 series has more space, so if you have lots of baggage, go for 3 series.

Also 3 series has little more power, but that doesn't matter much because of 125kmph top speed limit.

Both cars have lower ground clearance, may not be good cars to drive if you have plans to drive in interior South India where roads may not be good.

Also these cars attract lots of unwanted attention from general public, which you might wish to avoid at times.

I suggest rent either of these for few days while visiting places around Bangalore and for long drives/outstation, take an XUV500. This way you will also save some money.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for reply. My problem is both of us on the trip are not the best with manual. As far as I can see these are the only two ones that have automatic. I would really like to rent an suv that has an automatic. Would you suggest anything else?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Unfortunately no self drive SUVs are available in Blr with Automatic.

Reva e2O could have been an option, but its 100kms range makes it useless for long drives.

Honda city Automatic is available in Pune.

Consider these:
Option 1: Do you have a friend in India who can drive you around?

Option 2: Rent a 3 series to explore places around Blr/Mysore etc, for rest of the trip, hire regular chauffeur driven taxi

Option 3: Try your hands on Manual transmission. It should be good learning experience.

Option 4: Buy a second hand car with automatic transmission, use it for few weeks and then sell it off for say Rs 50000 less.

Anonymous said...

Yes I will be travelling with one of my friend who lives in Bangalore. But he doesn't own a car as he usually rents a car on trips or uses his relatives car. Would love to get used to the manual, but since I only have 3 weeks in India and the first week being really busy I don't think I would have time to get used it.

I like the idea of maybe buying a used car that does have automatic transmission and selling it back. If that doesn't work out then back to the 3 series. I will look into this more. Thanks a lot for the help.

Dhananjaya said...

You are aware in BMW no spare wheel they run on flat tyre the same way even in Merc also not giving spares. Zoom is keeping one old suitable spare in boot so that it is occupying lot of space, you will not able to keep 2 bags properly . Even though car is 4 mtr+ BMW/merc they believe even tyre punctured it can run 200 kms on flat tyre which is not practical in indian roads. In merc no automatic control AC even mid sedan will give this features.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks DHananjaya... I didn't know that Zoom added the spare wheel and it wasn't a standard accessory.

Yes, run flat tyres are not really practical in India... and 3 series/a class design doesn't have provision for a spare wheel at all in the boot, hence it has to compete for space with our baggage.

Dear Anon,

what did you do finally?

Anonymous said...

Hi. That was an interesting read about A class and an honest review.
I am considering buying a four wheeler at the price bracket of 30-35 Lakhs.
My use is predominantly inside the city and I travel about 50 kms a day.
As rightly pointed out by you, I am torn between a Fortuner and a A Class.
Considering my use, as indicated above, could you please advise me on this.
Also, the maintenance cost of A Class is a mental block for me.


Shrinidhi Hande said...

Fortuner is more better in my opinion-but new 2016 model may take min 6 months before it can be booked in India.

Pajero is also a good car but poor dealer network and doesn't have status value like Merc or fortuner.

Passat/Superb is another good buy in that car.

If budget permits consider JLR Discovery Sport