THE Mercedes A-Class may not be one of Stuttgart’s core models like the C-, E- and S-Class, but it represents a different approach for a different audience.
The first-gen was Mercedes’ first venture into the compact segment. It achieved its engineering goal, but somehow remained rather lukewarm in the market.
It was the third-gen W176 A-Class that started to gain traction in capturing a new market.
The success in being appealing to young drivers was demonstrated by the AMG’s A 45 that naughtily played along with the Golf R, Civic Type-R and even Mitsubishi Evos.
But can the new W177 A-Class take the baton and carry the momentum? We took the base A 200 for a spin to find out. We just think that it will be interesting to see how the base A 200 Progressive Line executes the recipe.
The baby Merc is priced at RM227,888.00, close to 30 grand premium than the previous-gen car.
Let’s talk about the appearance first. The new A-Class receives Mercedes’ new design language for the front fascia; thinner headlights flanking the grille that is now lower and less pronounced.
When the car made its official world debut, I was sceptical about the whole front design and to be honest, I am still trying to digest it today.
But who am I to question the work of the designers from one of the oldest automobile companies.
However, I do like the look of the LED DRL from far or in the reflection from the car in front.
At the rear, the tail lights are said to resemble those from Korean or fellow German manufacturers. I’ll leave this to you to judge.
The W177 now grows from every dimension. It’s wider, longer, taller and has a longer wheelbase. This means more spacious cabin and cargo space.
And I truly attest to this. The rear passengers can enjoy comfortable headroom and greater legroom than I can remember from the W176 A-Class. The cargo space is also bigger than I expected.
Behind the wheel, the first impression was how smooth and effortless the A 200 felt off the line. Tipping the scale at 1,375 kg, as a hatchback, I would say that it is on the heavy side of the spectrum.
But the smoothness of the Renault-sourced 1.33-litre engine made me believe it weighs 200 kg less.
The Getrag seven-speed dual clutch gearbox shifts seamlessly like a very good torque converter unit.
This is maybe due to the fact that it is a wet type gearbox. So, it shifts quite quickly but it is not as direct as Merc’s own DCT like those on AMG 45s that makes the rev needle jump on every shift.
What I can say is that the drivetrain is a good combination and suits the A 200 identity. It can be a great city car to be daily-driven.
You can push the car up to pace. The engine with 250 Nm of torque from a lowly 1,620 rpm, is punchy and effortless.
The cabin is very refined and quiet, too. It gives no clue to you about hard acceleration and high speed unless you glance at the instrument cluster.
But, and this is a major one. The rear suspension felt left out from the drivetrain’s competency.
However, this is only apparent when you’re taking a high speed corner and there’s undulating surfaces. There was slight lateral movement on the rear suspension travel.
It does not interrupt your confidence, it’s just the fact that the less-sophisticated torsion beam unit was fitted to the car.
The front axle was fine though. It delivered sharp and agile feel to the steering wheel and overall body movement.
The sportier and more powerful A 250 AMG Line gets multi-link setup at the rear; this and the upcoming A 35 and A 45 should have better stability.
Oh and the car was also quite shaky when travelling on road imperfections. Maybe it was designed for cities with smooth roads.
In terms of efficiency, the A 200 was surprisingly excellent. With the energetic pace it can deliver, it would still return around 14km/litre.
I easily managed to obtain 560km from 40 litres of fuel, and this includes relaxed highway drive, city drive with full passengers and a little bit of spirited driving.
MBUX and practicality
An A-Class has to be practical. I would give it an A for front and rear passenger space as well as number of storage compartments.
Even so, there are a few things I would have to point out. Firstly, there’s no rear air-con vent. Instead, there is this tiny storage space from the console between the front seats.
One more thing is the absence of some padding on the right-hand side of the front centre console for the driver to rest his/her left feet on.
And finally, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) multimedia system. It is the same system found on the E- and S-Class limos, but this extended version gets Linguatronic voice command system.
The 10.25-inch screen displays crisp content, in high res. No complaints here. The voice command though, I found it to be rather gimmicky.
It successfully got my commands on radio stations and air-conditioning, but failed to get my command on other controls such as navigation.
Well it is a new system and can still impress your buddies whenever they hop in your A-Class.
The Mercedes A 200 Progressive Line for me seems to go south on some points, but managed to be better on many other aspects.
At least that was just the base A-Class. I suppose the other higher variants could redefine the benchmark of premium compact hatchback.
All in all, this is part of Progress.