What is it?
It’s a V177 A200 Mercedes Benz sedan released for 2019.
A big thanks to Mercedes-Benz Canberra for allowing me the morning with the A200 sedan.
What's its history?
Most journalist begin a Mercedes-Benz A-class history with the W168, which failed the infamous “moose test”. This is probably for the humour value rather than any serious history of the model, since the only thing the 1999 A class and this 2019 A200 share is the badge and series name. I refuse to do this. This 2019 A200 sedan takes its cues from the current model range, such as the C and E class, rather than any prior iteration of the A class per se. So no moose jokes from me!
Who buys it?
Anyone wanting a premium brand sedan for a not-too premium amount. Mercedes have trickled down a lot of technology from the higher models and it shows.
What's it got?
The base A200 model is well equipped at its $49,400 (MRLP) and loaded with safety features. As has become the norm in this segment, there are plenty of options and, depending on what you pick, this will raise the price. The two most popular options, which were not on this test car, are the Vision Package for $2490 (MRLP) and Seat Comfort Package for $1,290 (MRLP). The first package gives a sunroof, multi beam LED headlights and a 360 degree camera. The second gives fully electric, heated seats. Mmm. Must have heated seats. The derrière comes first!
But even without these options, the base A200 has an excellent list of features that include: adaptive high beam assist; wireless charging; active parking assist; lane assist; traffic sign assist; navigation and the MBUX multimedia system with widescreen cockpit... and more on that last bit later.
The A200 has a punchy 120kW, 250Nm engine FW drive that gets the job done. It's attached to the 7G-DCT 7 speed gearbox and the result is a responsive take off. I was told the DCT is fussy during driving in traffic, but I didn't encounter that.
There are paddles. I used the paddles to show that I could, but in day to day driving most people would let the car drive in its automatic mode.
How's it drive?
The car drove well and communicated the road. The steering was direct and better than I expected, particularly in this age of dissociative electronic racks The A200 puts down enough power to be pacy without undue heart palpitations. The salesman informed me that the turbo may come on with a boost, but I found the power delivery remarkably linear. The suspension, although not adaptive, soaked up bumps and seemed planted.
All-in-all, it was a refined drive for its price point -- as one might expect of the brand.
Before we get to the seats and the other paraphernalia, we need to talk about the MBUX screen. It doubles down on the LCD screen and, despite looking like one giant LCD screen positioned around the driver, in essence there are two screens. The first, and closest to the driver, is the gauge cluster.
It’s a configurable LCD display that’s both bright and easily readable. As usual, there are a number of views, including a “SPORT” view. Probably the best one for a driver like myself (i.e. no discernible sense of direction) is the map view. The displayed map consumes most of the gauge cluster with easy to follow directions. The views of the gauge cluster are controlled by the right hand side of the steering wheel, but more on that later.
A structurally connected, although separate, LCD screen houses the infotainment display above the climate vents. This is controlled either by a touchpad located between driver and front passenger, or by the left hand side of the steering wheel. There is another method of controlling the vehicle’s settings and infotainment system through voice commands. What is configurable, from steering feel to the engagement of the ESP, is immense and well beyond the time I had with the vehicle. Indeed, if there is any criticism I have of the MBUX system, it’s that the system is so engaging and interesting, there’s always a temptation to look at it more than one ought. It’s probably just as well the car contains so many driving safety aids.
At first glance the steering wheel appeared busy, but it became intuitive after experimenting with it about ten minutes. On each side there’s a home button, a selector that you can swipe over or press, and a return button. The right hand side of the steering wheel controls the gauge cluster and the left hand side controls the infotainment screen.
Now onto the rest of the interior. The seats were comfortable, although with the base package they aren’t electronically adjustable. There was sufficient room in the rear for two normal sized adults, three in a pinch, and they'd be quite comfortable for teenagers or smaller children. This model had one climate zone (although I’ve never fathomed how, in a confined space, any car could have more than one), but it made up for this by having large, well-positioned vents. The vents, like the model before, could be turned on and off by twisting as opposed to those little dials.
The interior lights worked well -- I mean there’s not a lot one can say about interior lights -- and the door protector had the word “Mercedes” in a light to let you know that you had spent that little bit more to get that little bit more. Finally, from the alcantara headliner to the soft touch dash, the use of high quality components throughout the cabin as evident… except in one place where hard plastic was still used. I found it a little disappointing that the paddle shifters were hard, grey plastic. This appeared in contrast to the otherwise refined ambiance of the car. As usual for MB, the gear shifter is located on one side of the steering wheel and the all-in-one wiper-cum-indicator stalk on the other.
Finally, there’s voice recognition software activated by the command “Hey Mercedes!” This allows one to access all the options in the infotainment cluster. The speech recognition worked well, although my attempts to navigate back to the base using the software didn’t quite pan out. I suspect I needed more time getting used to the system... or it to me.
Fuel economy, boot space and other bits
My take is that, like most modern engines, the A200 is frugal and a careful driver should get 5.7L/100km on the combined cycle. It does this on 95RON, which should be somewhat cheaper. The boot space is good, easily able to hold a good size suitcase, and accessible.
Would you buy it?
If I were browsing this segment then the A200 would be on my shortlist. In particular, I might be swayed by this car’s extensive list of safety features. Safety has always been a prominent for MB and this car displays those design goals. Some of the safety features include active brake assist, blind spot assist and a pre-safe accident anticipatory system that includes preparing the car for a rear end collision!
The A200 makes a persuasive argument as a competent entry level into the MB line up. I expect most buyers will also tick the options box, particularly for the seat comfort package. The older I get, the more heated seats become a "must-have".
However, the base model would probably suffice most drivers in their day-to-day driving. The car is powerful enough, with enough refinement, to bring most owner a rewarding driving experience. Of course, if you’re want the butt-clenching-wheel-gripping thrills of an AMG then you’re going to have to buy its AMG sibling. But for most drivers, particularly in the city, the A200 will be everything they need.
But one thing I found quite interesting were the alloys. I'd never seen anything like them before.
Any thoughts or opinions, please comment.