The Mercedes-Benz A 200 is a theoretically easy buy, but the true choice is hard for a Singaporean buyer to make – CarBuyer.com.sg explains why
This is one of the most anticipated luxury cars of 2019, simply because it’s the: 1. Least expensive choice of the 2. most popular body style offered by 3. Singapore’s top-selling luxury brand.
It’s the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan.
The A-Class itself isn’t new, with the most recent third-gen hatch launching here late last year, but this is the very first time Mercedes has offered a four-door A-Class.
This is the twin brother of the sedan, the Mercedes-Benz A 200 Progressive hatchback, which we reviewed last year
We bet that the A-Class sedan will be popular also because it’s the spiritual successor to not one, but two top-selling Benzes.
This is the current Mercedes-Benz C 180, read our review of the not-Baby-anymore Benz here
First is the C-Class. The A-Class sedan is now the Baby-Baby Benz, so to speak, since it replaces the original Baby Benz, the C-Class in larval Mercedes terms. A good move since the latter is now S$185k with COE in its cheapest form, and not far off in length from the very first S-Class limousine.
Potential buyers of the A-Class sedan should also keep this in view: The very similarly-engineered new CLA four-door coupe, which recently debuted here
Second, Mercedes saw the need for a small four-door, and that came with the first CLA. The four-door coupe flew off the shelves in Singapore at its launch in 2013 and became a strong seller alongside the C-Class and E-Class.
But with the new CLA also very recently launched here, and not tremendously far off in terms of price – what’s a small Mercedes buyer to do? Read on, for starters.
Both the new CLA and A-Class sedan/hatch share much: New platform (updated MFA) and engine (new 1.33-litre inline four turbo co-developed with Renault) and seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, as well as a new interior concept (Mercedes-Benz User Experience, MBUX). It’s the same case with the other small Mercs like the B-Class, as well as the forthcoming new GLA SUV, and GLB seven-seat SUV.
You should read our review of the hatch in the exact same engine and spec – the A 200 Progressive Hatchback – on CarBuyer.com.sg to get up to speed with everything first.
Between the hatch and sedan, it’s obvious which model Singaporeans will choose simply because the embodiment of success in The Lion City just has to be a sedan with a three-pointed star on the bonnet.
The sedan does cut a more elegant figure (since it’s literally elongated), you also get the impression of having more car, not incorrect since there’s more sheetmetal as the sedan is 13cm longer (see chart). The good news is that the sedan’s a mere 10kg heavier, at 1,385kg.
The front end is identical to the hatch, with the arrow-pointed LED running lights and slender headlamp segments giving the front end focused appearance, while the boot looks like an organic part of the car, set off nicely by the A-shaped taillights.
In fact, the front end that looked almost awkward on the hatch with its low-slung, ground-bound appearance now looks balanced and fitting on the sedan – and perhaps that was the Mercedes game plan all along.
The smaller Benzes have never quite lived up to the refinement of their bigger brothers – the old GLA, CLA, B-Class are all cases in point – but the new generation do a far better impression of their plusher, more expensive siblings.
The interior is one of the loveliest around, regardless of segment and size.
Space isn’t at a huge premium, as there’s comfortable room for four adults – the rear is better at taking passengers than the CLA thanks to better headroom.
The new MBUX setup with dual 10.25-inch screens is something to behold, as are the air-con vents with ambient-light, a clean centre console space with plenty of storage. The steering wheel, with its leather and satin chrome surfaces, looks and feels identical to one from an S-Class.
Around town, both the sedan and hatch feel identical, though this test car was equipped with the optional comfort lowered suspension (S$1,200) seen on the AMG Line models.
The A 200 sedan is decently quiet for a small car, only when the road surface becomes truly horrendous does the tyre roar become obvious.
At higher speeds, the sedan has a slight edge in quietness over the hatch – Mercedes boasts it has the lowest drag coefficient of any production car at 0.22 Cd – and this also shows in the 5.5L/100km efficiency (5.6L/100 for the hatch).
The flipside is that the sedan has more of a classic Mercedes four-door vibe. There’s a slightly lazy initial steering and engine response, which the speed-obsessed will find irritating, but builds in deliberate, drama-free, and more efficient progress most folk will enjoy.
In contrast the hatch is a little more eager to dive into the bends, while the sedan also seems to let less of the bumps through, though the MFA platform jankiness is still a little noticeable over larger imperfections.
Unlike larger Mercs, when you turn the wick up on driving it doesn’t have the same ‘do-it-all imperiousness’ there’s a feeling that the rear torsion beam setup of the A-Class (both sedan and hatch) seems to be overwhelmed with challenging situations (such as a fast pace over mid-corner bumps).
Another sticking point is the drivetrain. It is very smooth, but unlike the VW Group 1.4-litre turbo, the 1.33-litre engine’s sound is more of a wheeze than a purr, there’s a small initial lurch when you apply the gas from a standstill, and the gearshift that follows isn’t as butter-smooth as most other dual-clutch units.
In tradeoff, it is impressively efficient, running low 6.0L/100km figures on average in mixed driving, around the same as a VW Golf 1.4
We said in our review of the hatch that the A-Class still can’t touch the VW Golf for all-roundedness, and the same remains true of the sedan.
Pair that with the fact that the A-Class sedan is still very spendy at S$161k with COE, and more expensive than its competitors.
The Audi A3 Sedan, goes for a mere S$140k with COE (although it’s less powerful) the new BMW 1 Series hatch is a few grand cheaper than the A 200. In fact, at this price we’re getting quite close to executive sedan territory – the impressive new Volvo S60 is only S$170k with COE in its cheapest form, and the Audi A4 2.0 is S$180k with COE, and of course, the C 180 at S$185k.
Then again, the sales figures show Mercedes is far and away the most popular luxury brand here and seems to operate on a different level so perhaps the real question is: If you have the money to spend and have settled on a small Mercedes, do you buy a new A-Class hatch, A-Class sedan, or new CLA?
We’re just going to be very Singaporean and eliminate the hatch (even though it’s our personal body style preference) because the sedan has more cargo space and looks better.
If you have the money and assuming you don’t want to go a size up, our advice is to bear the 12 percent premium and go for the CLA 200 instead of the A 200 sedan because it looks better, it drives better, is more refined, has better ride quality, and even more cargo space.
If there was a cheaper A 160 with a greater price gap to the CLA, then the choice would be easy. The A 160 model with the same 1.33-litre engine and 109hp is sold overseas, but there are no plans for it to be sold in Singapore.
That’s because VES will put paid to a meaningful price difference to the A 200 – Mercedes sold a just handful of A 180 sedans here and stopped, for that reason. Evidence: There is a A 180 hatch, but the C1 VES band means there’s only a S$3k price difference to the A 200, which retails at S$158,888 with COE.
The strong points of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class saloon remain the design, the cabin ambience and technology, and space, while its drive is decent, it still doesn’t quite have enough of the sheer can-do-ness of an S, E, or even a C-Class.
In other words, it’s merely a decent car rather than the excellent one it should be, considering the asking price, unlike the CLA. Sure, not everyone can stump the extra S$18k the CLA requires, but you pay the cost to be the boss.
Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan Progressive
|Engine||1,332cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||163hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||250Nm at 1620rpm|
|Top Speed||8.1 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||B / 128g/km|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|
|Price||S$160,888 with COE|