Mercedes A200 lures rich millennials

The hatchback comes with a 1.3-litre turbocharged engine which is agile, aggressive and free from turbo lag

by RAHIMI YUNUS

COMPACT cars often times are the go-to for first-time buyers.

It is also the option for gifting. For instance, from husband to wife or parents to children.

Either a first-time buyer or as a present, they would want to purchase the sexiest car with advanced features — at the lowest price. In other words, they seek value for money.

For carmakers, it is a demand that requires the right approach between design, technology and price point.

From mass-market to premium marques, automakers cannot underestimate the small-size car market, mainly for one reason: To woo a new breed of young customers, to establish trust and brand loyalty — akin to first love, except for cars.

Premium brand Mercedes-Benz is no exception in the compact car game with the A-Class hatchbacks.

Last year, the German carmaker’s local unit, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia Sdn Bhd, delivered 1,875 units of compact cars, a 7.7% year-on-year drop.

Of its 13,079 total sale volume in 2018, 14% was made by its compact car segment.

The fourth-generation A-Class cars are predicted to boost growth with two variants, the A200 Progressive Line and A 250 AMG Line, which were introduced in October last year.

After spending a week with the new A200 during the Hari Raya break, I was left impressed by the performance of the 1.3-litre engine car.

Rated at 120kW/163hp, the inline turbocharged engine is agile, aggressive and free from turbo lag.

A small car packed with power, the A200 can go from zero to 100kph in eight seconds with a max speed of 225kph.

My drive from Shah Alam to Bagan Serai, Perak, via the North-South Expressway was filled with pleasure, especially when sedans with bigger engines made way to let me overtake them.

The rush of the torque through its seven-speed dual clutch transmission was satisfying, the steering felt connected to the wheels and the braking system fully committed.

The eco mode, a better setting for heavy traffic or urban driving, delivers reserved responsiveness while in the sport mode, you command the road.

However for the most part, I drove in comfort mode as it served my needs for power and consumption.

I spent only RM70 on fuel to drive over 650km from Shah Alam to the north of Perak, then onwards to the southwest Bagan Datuk, before heading home.

The car consumed on average 5.5l of petrol per 100km on highways and between 8l to 10l per 100km on country roads.

Comfort mode would give the car occupants a cosy ride, particularly over uneven grounds, but the suspension in the RM227,888 A200 did not feel as premium as the price when it encountered sudden or jarring impacts.

The cabin noise also surprised me, but one may argue that it is typical of any sporty compact car like the A-Class.

What I loved most about the A200 is the look and feel of the interior.

The elegant and sporty dashboard is equipped with twin 10.25-inch display screens, giving you a cinemascope viewing.

The contemporary feel is elevated by the turbine-look air-vents in the middle and a streamlined button setup to make the cabin feel less cluttered.

For the first time, the new A-Class comes with the seamless Keyless-Go function for enhanced convenience.

The 64-colour ambient lighting illuminates the dashboard, the blades of the air vents and the front doors, making your night drive more enjoyable.

Additionally, the A200 is equipped with the all-new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, which comes with an intelligent control system “Hey Mercedes”.

The technology was said could recognise natural speech, but in my experience, that was not always the case.

It sometimes did not process my instructions as simple as changing cabin temperature or setting destination navigation.

Regardless, the MBUX elevated the connection that I had with the car.

On the exterior, the A200 amplifies its youthful and dynamic character with a shark nose look and angular LED headlights.

The rear is sculpted with new taillights that stretch from the edge of the license plate to the rear quarter panel — almost the same as those in Toyota Caldina.

The A200 and the RM263,888 A250 are Mercedes-Benz’s answer to the RM185,800 BMW 118i M Sport.

Buyers also have the option to go with the Volkswagen Golf range — RM174,110 Golf R-Line 1.4TSI, RM247,662 GTI 2.0TSI or RM305,562 R 2.0TSI.

Consumers are expected to be very calculative in buying the A-Class as cheaper options are available without compromising the performance, only perhaps a little less of being an intelligent “talking car”.

I will leave that to the market forces to decide.