The concept of a small luxury car is picking up in India, we take a look at two of the most formidable options.
We Indians have always been value conscious when buying our cars. But recently, we have softened up to the idea of small luxury cars as well. We searched for the smallest luxury hatches, and we found the Mercedes A-Class and the Volvo V40. We try both of them to see which one we like the most.
When we look at the luxury hatches on sale in India right now, in that price range, the biggest competitors are the Mercedes A-Class and the Volvo V40. While both of them might have similar price tags, the two are poles apart from what they offer to consumer demands.
On one hand you have the Mercedes A-Class catering to the conscious sutomer who cares more about the brand appeal and visual appeal of the car. And on the other is the Volvo V40, which Sweedish-ly focuses on practicality and comfort of its occupants. Apart from the similar price tag, what bind the two together is that both of them are stylish and luxurious.
In terms of styling, the front of the A-Class is probably the one that takes the cake. The front grille with the chrome diamond studs just look amazing. But the rear of the Volvo is just extraordinary. The way the rear tail lamps are shaped and the dual tone tail gate will ways catch your eye on the streets.
However, interiors of the A-Class – the variant we tested – wasn’t as impressive as the outside. While there is no compromise on quality, the A-Class just feels too stripped out in front of the Volvo. The all black interiors also don’t help much of giving a spacious vibe to a slightly cramped interior space. Even with the panoramic sunroof doesn’t help much of opening it up.
On the other hand, the V40 comes equipped with standard fitted panoramic sunroof, revering camera, leather seats, parking sensors, and load of other goodies. In addition to that, the build quality is solid, the upholstery feels like a new born baby’s skin and the seats are snug and supportive. For a person with a back that aches as much as a 90-year old man even with slightest movements, this car will allow you to do as long journeys as you desire.
However, the infotainment system is now quite dated. It has all these buttons that do many, many things. But at first glace, it is slightly overwhelming. The V40 is also expected to get an update this year, and it will probably feature the new iPad-esque touchscreen that is found in the new XC90. Now that will improve, and make the V40 a lot more desirable.
In terms of power trains, the V40 gets a 148hp 2-litre diesel engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. In city traffic, the V40 is rather calming to drive around and the throttle responds quite well. But when it opens up, the transmission being relative dates, fails to keep up with the power but throw it some corners and the hydraulic steering exposes the ills of modern electric steering systems. But due to the transversely mounted engine, the turning radius is quite poor.
The A-Class has a more dynamic fell and a slightly stiffer suspension. That means, though it will feel nimble and more agile than the Volvo, it does mean that the ride will be slight hard. The engine is the Merc produces 136hp and 300Nm of torque. Though the engine never feels particularly exciting power wise. Additionally, the NVH levels with the diesel engine are simply not up to the mark of what one would expect from Mercedes. There is far too much diesel clatter and vibration that seeps into the cabin. But the gearbox is subline wich plays in the favour of the baby Merc.
To be honest, the A-Class does feel like you pay more for the badge than you do for the car. Apart from the brand factor, there isn’t much the A-Class has to offer. The Volvo might not be the most exciting hatch in the market, but it does what its supposed to and it does have a little bit of flare that some buyers would seek when driving. The Volvo offers more comfort and the A-Class offers image.
So in a way, what we have is a choice between Digital and Analogue. The Mercedes looks modern, has a more modern gearbox, and has more modern mechanical aspects. The Volvo is a relatively old product that is still very much relevant because the digital competition hasn’t quite got it right as yet. The ‘Analogue’ metaphor is apt only in some aspects. The Volvo is quite a sophisticated car, its just aged very well. Which is why, if you are brand conscious, and style is what gets you going, by all means, go for the A-Class. If its anything else, the Volvo V40 is the better balanced package.
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