Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz won the 2019 South African Car of the Year (COTY) competition with the current range-topping A-Class, the A250. Cyberstoep’s Charleen Clarke was a judge in the competition but, while I was unable to get my hands on an A250, this A200 arrived soon thereafter for me to sample…
Immediately, certain aspects of the A200 made it clear why its bigger brother – a Golf GTI competitor – was a strong contender for the COTY crown. But, at R500 012, is the A200 also a worthy premium hatch?
What can I expect from the A200?
Premium the new A-Class certainly is – and the A200, even as the baby in the range, is no exception. Indeed, first impressions count, and fitted with the R25 000 AMG Line package the A200’s sharp nose, flowing profile and pert rear are enhanced with added aggression and a sexy set of 18-inch AMG alloys.
The AMG Line package also adds black leather and microfibre upholstery that’s contrasted with red stitching – which extends to the door cards and creates an overall sporty feel to the cabin. This is reinforced by the comfy two-piece sport seats that drop almost to the floor while providing enough support for enthusiastic cornering and comfort for the everyday commute.
In fact, the A200’s interior is very comfortable – and definitely the flashiest in its class… Space is good, even in the back, and the overall feel (despite some disappointingly flimsy-feeling touchpoints) is of a premium vehicle. Especially when you clap eyes on the twin 10,25-inch displays that dominate the simple, high-set dash.
Is it loaded with lots of safety features and other nice toys?
The main talking point of the A-Class is that it’s one of the first Mercedes-Benz models to feature the brand’s new MBUX infotainment experience – which is a world apart from the clunky old Command system. MBUX introduces previously unimaginable levels of customisability, connectivity and usability but, beware, the “Hey Mercedes” AI voice interface struggles with heavier South African accents…
However, while the basic MBUX system is standard, you do pay extra for the touchpad controller, wireless charging pad, navigation with augmented reality guidance (a brilliant feature if ever there was one), digital radio, the all-digital instrument display and the head-up display…
In all, this A200 was loaded with a whopping R175 000 worth of extras!
What’s it like from behind the wheel?
Powering the A200 is a surprisingly small turbopetrol engine yet, despite measuring just 1,3-litres, it puts out some impressive power and performance figures. Power is 120 kW, torque 250 Nm and it’ll reach 100 km/h in eight seconds dead. Indeed, it’s a strong unit. However, it is gruff – and that distracts from the premium feel of the car.
Drive is through Mercedes’s 7G-DCT twin-clutch gearbox that shifts quickly and responsively when on the move – with a pleasing, notable difference between the different driving modes. However, the clutch engagement could do with some refinement a slow speed – which, again, distracts from the premium feel of the car.
Mercedes-Benz claims it’ll consume an average of just 5,2 l/100 km but, as is the case with all such downsized turbocharged motors, the reality is heavier consumption… Especially, so, if you take advantage of the surefooted, entertaining chassis that underpins the new A-Class.
The ride, expectedly, is on the sporty side of comfortable. In fact, flipping the optional Dynamic Select into Sport mode has the ride a little too firm. Another minor criticism is that road noise is a little high at highway speeds.
Should I buy one, or look around?
The A200 can ride the coat tails of the A250’s COTY win with its own merit to back it up. It’s a good premium hatch. However, the drivetrain issues mean it loses ground to some competitors. The recently refreshed Audi A3 is certainly its closest, and comes in slightly cheaper, while the new BMW 1-Series has just been revealed and will have its work cut out in matching these two competitors.
The base A200 presents an intriguing package but, if you want all the toys, be prepared to pay… However, there are some that are worth forgoing – such as, believe it or not, the AMG Line package and Dynamic Select system – and so it is possible to keep the purchase price reasonable…
CyberStoep rating: 7/10