Somehow when I look at luxury cars such as the 2020 Mercedes-Benz A200 currently gracing our driveway, the first thought that comes to mind is that they have quite the fine line to walk.
I have even questioned this new sedan’s existence given that Mercedes also has the CLA now – for a while it did not make sense. But once you see the baby four-door in the metal, you will be reassured as to where it makes its argument well and sticks by it. The A200 is very compact and somewhat less punchy to what you’d expect, but it’s all in reason. A few colleagues have shared their voice about it being underpowered, but I reckon that it is perfectly proportioned with it.
Meanwhile, the grille of the car, lower fascia, and those squinting headlamps give it the perfect amount of sneer at the front, while the back (reminiscent of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe – but we know which came first) is somewhat pleasing.
Fortunately the folks at Mercedes-Benz had added the optional R52 100 AMG Line “bodystyling” package to our test ride, which adds slight differences in the bodywork, suspension that’s lowered and the chrome-finish diamond-block grille that we’re loving of late. Then there are the 18-inch AMG 5-spoke light alloy wheels that look the part. All of these make the the A Class a little more youthful, bridging the gap between a C-Class and a CLA that you’re so worried about.
If anything, the A200 is a lesson in how there is more to performance than the numbers you read on paper. In theory, the 120kW of power and 250Nm of torque of its 1.3-liter engine might seem underwhelming, even the 8.1 second 0-100km/h time is nothing to write home about. Once you are behind the wheel, though, it never pans out that way.
While the A-Class may look like its bigger sedan siblings at first glance, it’s a way more manageable car in tight corners – thanks to its nimbleness. Add on steering with just the right amount of weight, and you end up with a car that can be more entertaining to drive than its siblings twice the size. Even at slower paces, though, you quickly come to value the inside of the car.
Segment aside, the interior of the A-Class is one of the nicest places you can spend your time in one of the latest cars, no questions asked.
First impressions and the entire feel of the cabin is at odds with the specs: there is more rear headroom than in a CLA, but you start to encounter problems when you are looking at the overall legroom. Fortunately, the design of the dashboard and the large panoramic glass roofing leave it feeling roomier.
The A200 feels as good as it looks. Mercedes-Bez has taken a huge step up when it comes to their material game. Where the technology is concerned, twin 7-inch screens – one for the driver and one for the infotainment and air – are standard, but twin 10.25-inch upgrades are available at cost. That is a worthy addition, as it also includes blind spot warnings and keyless start.
There’s also an ambient lighting system and, while that may seem excessive, the way it so thoroughly lifts the interior makes it a must-have too. It brings great joy to kids during night drives.
Further toppling the usual rules about which cars debut which new features, you would remember that the A-Class is also first to bring Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system to market. While it cleans up the UI and generally leaves the menus less confusing than the old version, the biggest change is the “Hey Mercedes” smart assistant.
Then there’s also the optional augmented reality navigation system which floats turn-by-turn directions over a real-time view of the road ahead and proved surprisingly helpful when trying to figure my way through unknown routes. Sadly it can’t actually project those AR directions onto the windshield.
In case I was not clear, the 2020 A200 impressed me far more than I expected to be. My skepticism had been that it would be a less calculated car, effectively a way to lure new owners to the brand but then quickly propel them up the ladder to more expensive models because they’d find it to lag and be a bit sluggish.
Rather, I find myself asking whether it could actually steal a few entry-level C-Class and CLA sales. If you want to buy into the Mercedes lifestyle, and the styling, and the luxury tech interior, but don’t actually need all the rear space of the larger sedan, there’s a lot to recommend this smaller, nimble car.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz A200 sedan is priced from R674 940
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