The A 180 Saloon is the closest thing to the default choice for a small Mercedes in Singapore, and it even has an advantage over parallel imports
If you want a small Mercedes-Benz and are burdened by the sheer range of choice available now, then this is the car to get: the A 180 Saloon.
There are no less than seven small Mercs to choose from here, the culmination of the brand’s plan to conquer the small luxury car segment: There’s the A-Class hatch and sedan, B-Class MPV, CLA four-door coupe, CLA shooting brake / wagon, GLA small SUV, GLB small seven-seat SUV – and while each has their own audience, it’s this car here that is the best-selling small Merc bar none.
Why? Just as it is with the C 160 midsized exec sedan, which is the best-selling mid-sized Merc, the A 180 is the car with the most modest engine in its family. In this case, a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) Category A friendly 130hp, 1.33-litre. Previously, the A 200 was the entry-level A-Class – it has the same engine but with 163hp, i.e. it’s a Category B car.
And it’s also worth mentioning that all those cars, except for the GLA and GLB, now have ‘180’ variants just like this too. But none of them, A-Class saloon aside, have as much popular appeal.
The A 180 hatchback is the least expensive of the small Mercedes-Benzes, at S$151,888 with COE compared to the saloon’s S$153,888 with COE, but the saloon is more popular simply because Singaporeans love four-door cars, and five-doors only if it’s an SUV, not a hatch.
With the A 180 you pay 8.5 percent/S$13k less than the A 200, but pretty much only lose 33hp in the deal – and you don’t need that here anyway.
And the kicker is this: This double A model – A-Class that’s Cat A friendly – is only sold by official importer Cycle & Carriage. The A 180 model sold by parallel importers is usually sourced from the UK, has 136hp and is therefore not Cat A friendly.
While Cat A and Cat B COE prices aren’t as estranged as they used to be, there’s still a meaningful S$4k price difference between the two, and that’s a gap which becomes more and more important the further down the expensive-ness scale you go.
Now that we’ve gotten all the reasons for buying it out of the way, what’s the A 180 like? Well, it’s almost exactly the same as the A 200. Those who are sold on the idea of the least expensive, official, Mercedes four-door grab your chequebooks and head straight on to the showroom.
The car we tested is the Progressive variant, the sole version available, and it looks perfectly presentable just like the A 200 Progressive.
If you want racier bits ie AMG Line, you have to make the step up to the A 200 (1.33-litre) or A 250 (2.0-litre).
Personally AMG Line variants don’t do it for us here since they add just a little cornering prowess thanks to a lowered suspension, but the A-Class needs a plusher, not lower setup.
In fact, the ride quality isn’t quite what you’d expect from a Mercedes saloon, and more in line with the rest of the small Mercs like the GLA. There isn’t much road or wind noise, but it doesn’t quite smooth away bumps like a C-Class does. In fact the suspension setup is a little to the sporty side as the car corners relatively flat and can hold lots of speed in the bends too.
And like said – you’ll never miss that extra 33hp either. The 1.33-litre turbo unit – co-developed with Renault – has all the low-end gumption it has in more powerful state of tune, and is yet another case for torque over power in a place like Singapore.
Sure, the A 200 gets to 100km/h from nothing 1.2 seconds faster, but below 70km/h we think it’s pretty much a tie. In any case, the 1.33 feels best when it’s driven gently, and revving high it gives a less-than-favourable sound, one much more in character with 130hp than 163hp.
If we’re making it sound like the A-Class isn’t the best driving car in its class, that’s because it isn’t. BMW 118i (hatch) and 218i Gran Coupe (four-door) both offer a better drive. Perfectly logical, considering the target audiences.
Mercedes makes up for it in other areas such as the design and interior of the car, as well as that je ne sais quoi that makes Singaporeans act like sharks when chum hits the water.
The A 180 has the same beautiful-looking, digital cockpit as the A 200, with both 10.25-inch displays and gorgeous interior lighting still present, as is the wireless device charger, and smartphone connectivity for Apple and Android phones.
Compared to the A 200, you lose out on keyless entry, which is bizarre since it still retains keyless start, and that’s pretty much the only significant point of difference. So other than the needless 33hp and keyless entry, the A 180 is identical to the A 200.
Again, for the in-depth on that, read our A 200 hatch and A 200 sedan reviews and in reference to that, we’d say the A 180 even fixes some of the things which make the A 200 a tougher choice.
Less expense, same shiny-luxo small sedan, and optimised power that the A 200 never really needed anyway. Win-win for Merc buyers, and a great example of how a small market tweak can easily produce a class best-seller in Singapore.
|Engine||1,332cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||130hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||200Nm at 1460-4000rpm|
|VES Band / CO2||B / g/km|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|
|Price||S$153,888 with COE|
|Verdict||Cheapest Mercedes-Benz four-door, COE Category A, deal done.|