REVIEW | The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A200 sedan is a mixed bag

18 December 2019 - 12:13
By Brenwin Naidu
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan.
Image: Supplied The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan.

Inclement weather exposes plenty about a car. For example, slipperiness underfoot provides a true test for the efficacy of electronic stability aids – and whether the inherent mechanical grip is strong enough to negate their intervention anyway.

Those drops from above will reveal how good those slivers of rubber on the windscreen are at doing their jobs. Seals and channels on the bodywork get put on the front line; proving their worth at expelling water or letting the stuff filter through like a colander.

Luckily, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan we sampled during the recent, unrelenting rain in Gauteng seemed to hold up well. It offered a cocoon-like sense of snugness, sheltering driver and occupants from all manner of potential peril. Heated seats on, intermittent wipers activated and xenon headlamps illuminating through the fog ... One felt safe.

Trundling slowly through the cityscape on my daily commute gave me time to ponder about the chronicles of the baby Benz. Of course, the A-Class is not the original “baby”, according to the modern history of the firm. That credit goes to the W201 (the 190 series); a precursor to the C-Class.

Power delivery on the A200 sedan is anything but smooth and linear.
Image: Supplied Power delivery on the A200 sedan is anything but smooth and linear.

As you know, chasms are created in every product portfolio when long-standing models increase in size with each evolution. Which is perhaps why the people at Mercedes-Benz decided to tack a boot onto its compact car, pandering to shoppers whose budgets might not be able to extend towards the larger sedans in the stable. Or as an option for customers wanting to downsize without leaving the three-pointed star fold.

Hang on ... Wasn’t the CLA-Class meant to serve such a purpose in the first place? Maybe so – but you must concede to the obvious space compromises that come with that sloping roofline. This A-Class saloon offers just a bit more airspace for occupants, great if you are partial to elaborate headgear.

Aesthetically, a more substantial presence has been secured by that extra length. It is an attractive car, but I think the Audi A3 sedan (seasoned though it may be) trumps it for overall perfection in its proportions. Where the A3 cannot compete, is in the area of technology. The voice command element of the MBUX digital interface is simply fantastic.

You would have seen the commercials by now and how, “Hey Mercedes”, awakens an artificially intelligent soul living inside the dashboard. Tell her to open the windows, sunroof, adjust temperature, switch radio stations, navigate to a selected destination and she complies.

The interior is ultra modern and one of the more interesting in its class.
Image: Supplied The interior is ultra modern and one of the more interesting in its class.

Good thing the system works so well, because the touchpad on the centre console is a nuisance to operate. It’s as though one of the designers had a new Lexus for a weekend and thought, “Wow, why haven’t we given this computer-mouse-like set-up a try in our cars?” No. Just no, Mercedes-Benz. Please fix this.

Another thing they need to fix is the 1332cc, turbocharged four-cylinder in the A200. Its dour character totally spoils the experience. Driving in stop-go traffic and turning right at intersections are especially frustrating. There are several inches of pedal depression where nothing happens. Then it stumbles from its daze and spits all 120kW and 250Nm out, causing the front wheels to scrabble for purchase.

It's like that person who fell asleep in the Dis-Chem queue and woke up the third time the automated voice announced that teller three to the left was open.

So, rather go for the A200d, A250 or that Mercedes-AMG A35 MATIC. Expectedly, putting one in your garage is not going to be cheap. Pricing starts at R575 626. But judging from our well-optioned specimen, a customer could easily spend into the mid R600,000 region to make their car look like the unit the salesperson hooked them on in the brochure ...