Review: 2023 Mercedes-Benz A200 - No shortchange here, just smiles
Sanjay · Feb 13, 2023 09:00 AM
Base model acceptance is quite an odd thing. On one end, 50k of them like them enough to form a quirky Facebook group. Further down the gamut you have the hardcore kaki kecam who are frothing to give you an earful (eyeful?) if you so much as so dare to choose a lower-end German car.
When the truth's been told though, the A Sedan in its current iteration is a solid product. Its purpose is well defined, and so is its quality.
Luxury 'base models' – a term I use very loosely here – exist to give buyers or would-be customers a nice checkpoint between current achievements and things to come. A lot of that balance hangs in the way manufacturers spec their local offerings; do it right and customers will come back.
Paywall many things and they'll skip you the next time they have more to spend.
Looks expensive, inside and out
Credits to Mercedes-Benz though, they've gone and hit all the right notes with the A200 Sedan. It's not a titchy sum at RM 229,888 – but it is the cheapest new Merc' you can get, even cheaper than the GLA 200 – and more importantly you never feel that price gap. On the contrary, you feel good.
The equipment list helps immensely with that. 2022's update put in single-zone air-conditioning, powered passenger seat, and joy of joys, 64-colour ambient lighting. Out goes dual-zone air-cond (along with rear vents) and the manual front seat, but those aren't things you'll miss we reckon.
There's no question that the interior is where Mercedes-Benz does its best work. Yes, we've thrown shade at digital cockpits before, but great execution is still its saving grace, and in that the A200 it's summarily excellent.
The merits of its one-piece, dual-screen display (10.25-inches each) have been spoken of before. So are the material choices – the mix here is quite thoughtful and feels proper, much like you'd get in pricier models.
But the final piece of the puzzle that truly lifts the whole thing up is the ambient lighting. It's something that every Merc should come with, and we're glad this time around it's standard in the A Sedan. Cabin wise, THIS is exactly how it leaps ahead of its nearest rival, the 218i.
There is a heightened sense of occassion in here. If you haven't been in a recent Mercedes, this would be a swell introduction.
Were the rear air-cond vents missed? Eh, not really. You're dealing with a tight cabin anyway, so apart from running higher fan speeds and lower temperatures on a particularly stuffy day...you and yours will be just fine.
Drives well, rides comfortably
On-road prowess is also quite the A200's strong suit. We broke away from the capital's smooth roads, and took the baby A up to a hilly enclave in Pantai, Seremban. Why it's called that when there's none around is anybody's guess.
But what we found out is that the breadth of its talents go beyond just the highways.
Across sweeping long journeys, the A200 gives drivers the weighty, planted feeling that good 'Conti' cars do. Like a proper Merc, it smoothens road ruts and minor dips properly.
You're going to find it a bit difficult to catch it unwares, as each input is replied by solid feedback through the fantastic steering wheel. You can sharpen things somewhat by messing with the settings, but leaving it in Comfort proved to be the most, er, comfortable.
Where things get a little tricky for it is on really imperfect roads. Pockmarked roads can be a little too much for it to handle sometimes, resulting in a jittery cabin; perhaps that's the limitation of the torsion beam rear array.
Point to note, it's a little low in front, so be mindful of your steps to avoid nicking the paint off your front bumper.
Big props goes to the Renault-sourced engine. It's tiny (1.33 litres!) and before you think it's unbecoming for the three-pointed star...give it a shot first. The engine note is a sweet little rasp in Sport (don't get itchy for pops and crackles now) and power is right there when you call for it.
You've got 163 PS and 250 Nm to play with here. For everyday applications this is just enough power to get playful with once in a while – or ease into a comfortable cruise, your choice.
Lots of the turbocharged torque is available down low (1,620 rpm to 4,000 rpm) so it has a fun, point-and-squirt character.
Small point about the smoothness of it though because that could be better improved. There's a bit of a delay when you mash the accelerator, we suspect that's down to the calibration of the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic (wet DCT) that isn't the snappiest around.
Despite that pointiness, fuel efficiency returns are pretty alright. On a single tank, we got 450 km out of it, and the onboard computer read that we did a reasonable 8.8 litres/100 km.
Verdict: A beautiful sunset
To appreciate the A200, break away from the confines of numbers and hard data.
At these prices, the practical buyer will just get a Camry and be done with it. If one's snooping a small car that's nudging RM 230k, chances are emotions matter a lot, and that's where the A-Class, even in today's A200 guise, has a lot to give.
You get the sense that you are not getting a distilled and filtered model that's just there to plug a gap, and you really did choose a baby Merc. It rides and drives well. It's a head turner. And not having a three-cylinder engine? Perhaps a bonus.
Even in this form, there is a sense that Mercedes-Benz pored over the same love and care from its higher end models into this; proof of that is in its feature list and improvements it gained.
You might also want to know that this is the first and last you'll see of the A-Class sedan. Mercedes-Benz won't be making any more of these by the second half of this decade, so if you'd like a youthful, compact premium car that's not an SUV or a C-Class...this is now or never.
With humble beginnings collecting diecast models and spending hours virtually tuning dream cars on the computer, his love of cars has delightfully transformed into a career. Sanjay enjoys how the same passion for cars transcends boundaries and brings people together.