At under 2 million baht, is the A180 hatchback worth going for?
The new A-class marks Mercedes-Benz's attempt to catch the young generation of car buyers, which explains why the A250 comes with a reasonably powerful engine, sporty suspension set-up and racy looks.
However, there might be some people who don't need those brash elements, which is why the A180 could come under scrutiny by those who merely like a small Benz.
Compared to the A250, the A180 comes with a smaller 1.6-litre petrol-turbo engine producing 122hp, comfort-orientated suspension, smaller 17-inch wheels, less aggressive-looking bumper and reduced specifications.
Costing 1.89 million baht, the A180 is a good 600k less than its A250 bigger brother. Thus, should you really save that difference, which can comfortably get you another Eco-car in your garage?
Just because the A180 comes with a smaller 1.6-litre engine doesn't mean that it's a slouch on the move. With the help of a turbo, the A180 moves around sufficiently well at low to medium speeds.
And if you want to bring the 122 horses to life more easily, all you need to do is engage the Sport mode located on the console to let the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission yield earlier downshifts and later upshifts.
Let's not forget that the A-class is a C-segment hatchback that comes from a premium brand, so an engine with 122hp and 200Nm makes for ample performance.
Better even is the claimed economy of some 18kpl _ a figure that you won't be able to achieve in any other C-segment hatch in Thailand wearing a mass-market badge bar the Toyota Prius.
A good thing in the A180 over the A250 is ride comfort, with the former gaining on a softer suspension setting. And this hasn't necessarily undermined the car's handling, which remains neat and generally sharp in corners and at high speeds.
While the A180's spec sheet has been tampered with for the sake of its attractive 1.89 million baht price tag, those relating to safety have been preserved. Sure, premium brands have wide profit margins to play around with, but this should also serve as a reminder to mass-market players _ particularly those taking part in the 1.5-2 million baht price range of cars _ that the number of airbags or chassis electronics shouldn't always be linked to retail prices.
The A-class is supposed to serve as a sporty Benz, so it must look racy like the A250. This is not the case for the A180, which comes with smaller 17-inch wheels and monotone interior and exterior colours.
And while the A180's primary ride is appreciably softer, there is still a bothering amount of vibration over ruts, speed bumps and potholes.
Despite yielding adequate performance, the engine and gearbox doesn't feel instantaneously responsive.
This may sound petty, but as Thais generally like a decent spec in a premium import like the A-class, the omission of electrically adjustable seats might draw frowns on faces of some potential buyers.
BUY OR BYE?
There are two key aspects that work quite well in the A180. Firstly, an engine that effectively blends performance and economy.
Secondly, the chassis also combines ride and handling factors better than in the A250 and goes to show that Mercedes has sort of exaggerated the racy concept in the A250.
Sure, the A250 is meant to be a driver's car _ like how Volkswagen's Golf 200hp GTI is separated from the 122hp 1.4 TSI.
But the A180 still manages to deliver a level of sportiness buyers can come to expect and this is where it makes better sense, especially with that substantial price difference from the A250.
The A180 is the cheapest Benz available so far, and quite a decent choice for fans who have already decided to subscribe to the A-class notion.
Just don't expect it to have the proper virtues of a traditional Merc. Like the A250, the A180 isn't free from flaws.
Cabin is less garish than in the A250.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor