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Mercedes-Benz A-Class facelift First Drive Review

What is it?

The new A-Class is a louder and cosmetically enhanced version of Mercedes’ entry-level car. But by louder, we don’t mean the exhaust or engine note. It’s that green colour. Our test car is powered by the Delhi-banned 2.1-litre, four cylinder diesel engine that makes 136bhp and 300Nm of torque. So, nothing has changed on the engine front. And it still continues to use a 7-speed dual clutch automatic. Status quo again.

What has changed though – apart for that Elbaite Green hue – are the wheels (these are 16inchers), the finish to the grille (it’s all black now), tail lamps (these have redesigned detailing inside) and new badging (this one is called the A200d instead of A200CDI). The bumpers are new too. Also available as standard on the new A are the all-LED headlamps. Mercedes claims the illumination performance is much improved as a result, and we agree.

How is it on the inside?

As we mentioned this is a cosmetically enhanced car. So, there are changes to be found inside as well. The A-Class now gets new instrumentation which is easy to comprehend but doesn’t look as good as the previous one. The central area of the dashboard gets a new finish, and the signature central display as part of the COMAND system still occupies a place of pride in the A’s interiors. It’s got great resolution but we wish it had touchscreen interface too.

In terms of features, there’s a sunroof, single zone climate control system, a comprehensive driver interface, six airbags, cruise control and automatic headlamps. It also gets a reversing camera, powered seats for the driver, and attention assist with two settings – normal and sensitive. What’s more, the A-Class now gets different driving modes that can be accessed by a shortcut key on the central console. But more on that later.

As for the rest of the interiors, well, the new A-Class is still cramped at the rear, the boot isn’t exactly roomy (plus, the space saver doesn’t do it any favours), and you still won’t mistake it for anything but a Mercedes; yes, the quality on the A-Class is still top notch. It’s also practical; at least for two people. There’s enough storage, usable cup and bottle holders and the seats are superb up front. Things aren’t as good in the rear with the seat lacking thigh support and limited head, shoulder and kneeroom.

How does it drive?

Same old. Only a tad bit better. The ‘better’ bit comes courtesy the smaller wheels. Compared to the older A-Class, the new one rides on 16in wheels with higher profile tyres. And that’s helped the low-speed ride immensely. It is still stiff and a bit noisy, but never uncomfortable. Take bumps, road joints, potholes or even those plastic rumbler strips, and the A-Class rarely crashes into anything.

This is in Comfort mode (remember the driving modes we wrote about earlier?). There are three other modes – Eco, Sport and Individual. The Eco, as the name suggests, is to extract the best possible fuel economy and works almost identical to Comfort. In Sport, the steering weighs up further, the suspension stiffens and there’s change to the engine character as well. Honestly, the difference isn’t telling. But, if you look for it, you will find it. As for Individual, again as the name suggests, it allows you to tune your steering, suspension and engine response to your liking.

Otherwise, the A-Class is just the same. It feels planted and confident in a straight line, disguises high speeds exceedingly well, and around a section of corners, it is still good fun. Just the new tyres begin squealing a little early.

The drivetrain, as we explained earlier is the same. So, it doesn’t exactly feel hot-hatch-like and the diesel engine can sound a bit rough at higher rpms, but in terms of driveability, the throttle response and in fact the way the steering feels at high speeds, we have no complaints. It all comes together well.

Why should I buy one?

If you are young, and are looking for something distinctive, and want to buy into the luxury club, the Mercedes A-Class works well. And if you don’t like that green, you can have the hatchback in red, silver, white and black as well. It’s not the most comfortable, spacious or fun, and at nearly Rs 26 lakh ex-showroom, the new A-Class isn’t exactly enticing either. But it’s a car you can live with. And enjoy even. 

Where does it fit in?

If we were to look at the body style, there’s the BMW 1 Series as the A-Class’ conventional competitor. But, for a little more there’s also the Mini Cooper 5 Door. And then there’s the Audi A3. A nice looking car that has a lot going for it from its price to comfort levels to ease of driving. And it’s a sedan. The Audi A3 is probably the biggest thorn in the A-Class’ flesh.

Photography by Kapil Angane

Read our spec comparo of new A-Class vs Audi A3 vs BMW 1 Series vs Volvo V40 here.

Click here to view the Audi A3 First Drive Review. 

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