Baby Benz makes luxury affordable
The new entry-level A-Class comes in at under 2 million baht
published : 24 Jan 2022 at 04:30
newspaper section: Life
writer: Kingsley Wijayasinha
Owning a Mercedes-Benz is a big thing in Thailand because there's a high price to pay for these German luxury cars.
But for those who aren't ready to cough up 5 million baht for a midsized saloon or SUV Merc, the A-Class is an entry-level baby Benz that more people can afford.
Priced at 1.99 million baht, the A 200 Progressive may be at the bottom of the Mercedes-Benz line-up in Thailand, but in many ways, the small subcompact saloon does have what it takes to qualify as a luxury car.
There is also the A 200 AMG Dynamic that comes with some upgraded features and sportier styling, along with a slightly higher price tag (2.15 million baht).
Design and equipment
While previous generations of the A-Class were all hatchbacks and weren't actually luxurious-looking, the new A-Class sheds the old image and shares the same styling as larger models. In Thailand, the sedan version is offered although in other markets you'll also find the hatchback as well as estate versions.
The A-Class features Merc's Sensual Purity design philosophy and it clearly looks much more attractive than previous generations.
The A 200 Progressive lacks the sporty treatment that the AMG Dynamic has, like the Diamond-style radiator grille or 18-inch AMG wheels, but no harm done. It still looks handsome with the Progressive styling for the front grille and bumpers along with the smaller 17-inch wheels wearing 205/55 tyres that promise greater ride comfort than the sporty 225/45 tyres of the AMG Dynamic, which also gets lowered sports suspension.
From the side, the A-Class looks stylish and energetic. The sleek windows and high waistline give it a purposeful appearance.
The rear end features a spoiler-type trunk lid while the rear bumper features a lower black garnish that looks clean, although the twin chrome exhausts are just decorative.
The interior of the A-Class is remarkable. The design, as well as the materials, are top-notch as you'd expect from a Mercedes. The A 200 Progressive gets standard leather seats (sports seats in the AMG Dynamic) and a good-looking multi-function steering wheel with piano black garnish, along with some carbon fibre panels and brushed metal that help lift the atmosphere.
But the best features are the turbine air vents that look super luxurious as well as the MBUX infotainment system featuring two 10.25-inch high-res displays laid out next to each other forming a super-long screen. The navigation system boasts sharp 3D graphics with live updates and the speech recognition (just say Hey, Mercedes) has been upgraded.
Another feature that makes the interior super cosy is the 64-colour ambient lighting that has not been cut from the equipment list of the entry-level model. There is also wireless charging for smartphones, plus Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility and Mercedes Me Connect.
Since the gearshift has been positioned on the steering column, the centre console area now houses a touchpad controller as well as several other controls.
The cabin offers increased space over the older models (the A-Class has grown significantly over the years) and there is 420 litres of trunk space. The driver's seat is powered and comes with memory, while the rear backrest is split foldable.
The A-Class is powered by a small turbocharged 1.3-litre engine which may wrongly imply that it's underpowered. While the engine displacement has been lowered in order to achieve better fuel economy and emission levels, Mercedes-Benz has made sure there is plenty of power and torque to get the A-Class moving -- 163hp at 5,500rpm and 250Nm from 1,620rpm to 4,000rpm.
The powerplant is mated to a 7-speed DCT box offering peppy performance for the front-wheel-driven A-Class, although it may not be the smoothest revving. Mercedes-Benz claims 0-100kph acceleration in 8.1secs and a top speed of 230kph.
The average fuel economy is claimed at 16.7kpl, which is a benefit of the small engine. The suspension comprises spring-strut and torsion beam, with front and rear stabilisers offering good handling and road holding while maintaining decent ride comfort on the highway. The steering feels good in the hands, with the steering ratio being direct enough to provide quick manoeuvres when weaving through city traffic.
Stopping power comes courtesy of adaptive disc brakes all-round with hold function and hill-start assist.
There's a total of seven airbags and three-point seatbelts for five occupants. There is the usual active brake assist, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitors, along with active parking assist and intelligent cruise control. Meanwhile, attention assist checks whether the driver is in good condition to operate the car by checking on drowsiness.
The A-Class is proof you don't have to spend a fortune to get a Mercedes-Benz saloon. True, it may be the smallest one in the Mercedes line-up, but the A 200 Progressive does pamper you with elegant design both inside and out, as well as high-end technology and decent performance.
Meanwhile, for those who want a little more out of the A-Class, a 160,000 baht upgrade to the AMG Dynamic trim may also be a good option.
Pros – Elegant design, peppy performance, high-grade materials
Cons – Not the smoothest engine, still room for more options
Luggage area: 420 litres