Review: 2023 Mercedes-Benz A200 sedan (V177) facelift; Less is more proves to be the right recipe
Sanjay · Sep 4, 2023 06:02 PM
Fashionable young urban professionals have swarmed the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and for good reason – it's a quietly brilliant car that serves a tantalising tease of what's there to achieve at the top of the brand's range.
Overview: Mercedes-Benz A200 Sedan (V177)
1.3L turbo four-cylinder
163 PS @ 5,500 rpm
250 Nm @ 1,620 - 4,000 rpm
8.4 seconds (claimed)
CKD Pekan, Pahang
Jostling for customers hasn't been easy for it though, particularly with a BMW 218i Gran Coupe-shaped pinprick always looming in the cushion somewhere.
The irony of quoting price battles in the premium segment isn't lost on us, but hey, cheaper is cheaper – this facelifted A200 Progressive Line asks for RM 238,888, losing the price advantage it once had (the pre-update car went for RM 229k) over the RM 235,000 Bimmer, and this is in a segment where the Bavarian was already quite competitive.
An update to clarify/strengthen the A-Class' position couldn't come at a better time, and in June, we got the facelift. With it, the A200 in particular just about completely shed all pseudo-sports sedan makings and leaned fully into its comfort roots, and we think it's all the better for it.
Small on wheels, big on comfort
Key to that claim are the downsized wheels. A set of flat-faced 17-inchers replace the AMG-inspired 18's of the old car, and as is the case with these things, an inch here is a mile gained somewhere else.
In that sense – as far as the plump sidewalls show – that mile comes through a plusher ride. Would we say we expected this? In an age where sports sells, not quite; especially since the new set looks a little dowdy compared to the more stylo-mylo AMG 5-spokes.
Subjective questions are easily answered in the morning commute though. True to form the extra 22% of sidewall (205/55 profile tyers, versus the 225/45 set prior) sucks up ruts and ruin palpably better than the good-but-not-quite-this-good pre-facelift car did – and that's improved ride at the rear somewhat, where it used to skip about on ruddy tarmac.
More pleasant surprises come when the new A200 itself arrives at some corners, because it hasn't quite traded off all semblance of sharpness either. A quick steering means there's a level of nimbleness communicated to the driver, more than enough for a weekend blat up some hillside resort. Within reason, of course.
On long stretches the A200 is very stable at speed. The Teutonic sense of being engineered to sit at over 200 km/h on the autobahn is well and present, so a Malaysian highway with our limits doesn't even nibble the edge of the envelope.
Driving you across the highways is the same 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine (non electrified unlike its mild-hybrid A250 sibling), and for the most part it's a sweet little powerplant – midrange torque is a particularly strong suit, and when its on the boil, in the right cog, you'd be surprised at how hard this thing pulls with an unexpectedly sweet exhaust note to boot.
163 PS and 270 Nm will be reasonably plenty for most applications this car will be put through, paired to a notably eager 7-speed dual-clutch automatic (DCT). It's an inoffensive combination for the most part, save for our gripes that the shifts aren't super snappy like a DCT would usually behave (slurring on the upshifts being most clearly felt), while calibration in low speeds could be smoother.
Cabin comfort, and what's new?
Come inside and Mercedes hasn't changed the playbook all too much – there are some adjustments, hits and misses between the good and the bad.
Chief among the changes is the jettisoning of the touchpad, now replaced by, err, a flat tray. Sure, the cabin is more minimalist for it, but this also means more fingerprints and more time for the eyes to be off the road to work the 10.25-inch infotainment screen.
Faffing about on the steering wheel to operate things don't make things any easier too, especially not when you consider its own set of perplexities – how is it that it still lacks a dedicated 'skip song' button?
And it's a shame for a car that has one of the crispest, most reponsive touchscreen/software combos you can get today. The new NTG 7 Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) OS zips through screens and connections – Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is wireless, and Waze is almost always ready by the time I put the seatbelt on – making for a truly fluidic in-car experience.
As it remains space has always been a premium in A200; the rear seats can fit two or three people (with a bit of squeezing), while the headroom and legroom are just about adequate for a car this size.
How does the updated Mercedes-Benz A200 fit in then? We think it's quite possibly the most roundly-talented luxury-badged entry level sedan on the market right now. One glance at the competition tells you that – the BMW 2 Series comes in at a lower price point, and the Audi A3 eliminates itself from the pool despite its talents because of its absurd pricing.
The Mercedes wins by striking a neat balance between a fuss-free family transport and darty weekend warrior, while managing to feel just a little keener in the comfort department than the old A200.
Bit if you're into the simpler tacts of a seductive image and the impression of tech – admittedly to some this will matter more than all that talk about handling and power – the A200 Sedan will keep you happy. There's also more affirmation in the fact that you're buying what is quite likely the last of its kind, before it fades into the sunset.
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.