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Mercedes-Benz A200 Saloon: Baby Benz graduates to stylish, sporty small saloon

By Ghaith Madadha - Nov 16,2020 - Last updated at Nov 16,2020

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Something of an eye raiser when first launched as a small, upright sub-compact — front driven and seemingly on stilts — the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was a departure for the much celebrated luxury saloon and truck manufacturer back in 1997. Since then, the A-Class graduated to a lower-riding, bigger and more up-market and conventional Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 rivalling C-segment hatchback by 2013.

Supplemented by a sportier coupe-like low roof CLA-Class sister model in its previous iteration, an A-Class Saloon proper, however, only arrived for the current fourth generation model, launched in 2018.

Taking over from the now larger, pricier and more luxurious rear-driven C-Class as Mercedes-Benz’ entry-level traditional saloon, the new A-Class Saloon is a more sophisticated car than its immediate predecessor, and comes with significant tech and infotainment improvements, a more “premium” cabin ambiance and more efficient, downsized, engines. An attractive design claimed to be the world’s most aerodynamically efficient regular production car with a drag co-efficient of CD0.22, the A-Class saloon also adopts angrier, more dramatically aggressive design elements, in current vogue, and diametrically opposite to the 1997 original.

 

Squinting and snouty

 

Slightly larger than its predecessor, the new A-Class has a tauter, leaner and more athletic demeanour, with sharper lines and snouty forward jutting fascia. With scalloped bonnet ridges and slimmer, squinting and more heavily browed headlights flanking its broad, gaping grille — now wider at the bottom edges — the new A-Class has a distinctly sportier aesthetic. And with such aggressive looks and a low, coupe-like arcing roofline, the A-Class arguably brings into question the necessity for the so-called “four-door coupe” CLA-Class, with which it shares platform, engines and much design cues.

Only just taller and slimmer than the stylistically sportier CLA-Class, the A-Class Saloon shares the same downsized turbocharged direct injection 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine, replacing outgoing models’ 1.6-litre. Offered in three states of tune for the A160, A180 and driven A200 models and dubbed M282 for service with Mercedes-Benz, the A-Class’ entry-level engine series comes courtesy of the German manufacturer’s on-going collaborations with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. A derivative of the French automaker’s TCe branded engine line, it is tuned to produce slightly more power but less torque in top 1.3-litre iterations.

 

Punchy delivery

 

Developing 161BHP at 5,500rpm and 184lb/ft torque throughout 1,620-4,000rpm, the A200 Saloon can carry its not insubstantial 1,390kg mass through 0-100km/h in reasonably brisk 8.1-seconds and onto a 230km/h maximum. Driving the front wheels through a smooth, quick-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox with numerous ratios to best utilise available power for performance, versatility and efficiency, the A200 Saloon returns low 5.2-5.5l/100km combined cycle fuel efficiency. More efficient and slightly more powerful than its 1.6-litre predecessor, the 1.3-litre is responsive, but is best in its broad and generous mid-range torque plateau.

Confident, willing and punchy in mid-range and eager towards its comparatively low power peak, the A200’s turbocharged engine spins up quickly after a brief moment of turbo lag from idling, and pulls hard from low down in the rev range. Fun car to drive spiritedly, especially using its gearbox’ manual shift mode to keep the engine revving in its sweet spot, the A200 may be a refined and confident cruiser, but is nevertheless rewardingly agile through winding country lanes, where its quick well-weighted steering is best in meatier sport mode.

 

Agile ability

 

Tidy into corners with its steering proving direct and accurate, if not the most nuanced for road feel, the smaller A200 is nevertheless more nimble through switchbacks than larger — albeit better weighted — rear-drive Mercedes saloons. Confident, quick and with composed body control from its fixed rate suspension, the A200 is eager into corners and grips well, but has a tendency to under-steer earlier than rear-drive sisters. That said, its rear seems to have greater mechanical rear grip, with less reliance on electronic stability control corrections on smooth low traction switchbacks.

Riding on MacPherson strut front suspension and either an independent multi-link rear for more powerful variants or a more basic torsion beam design for 1.3-litre models, the A-Class proved quick, confident and rewarding through winding routes with a certain old school fun factor that shines through its refined and well-damped demeanour, when driven briskly, if not quite at its handling limits. The A200 Saloon is settled, smooth and reassuring at speed, and manoeuvrable in town. A comfortable ride, it does, however, feel somewhat firm over more jagged road imperfections.

 

Sporting flavours

 

Distinctly sporty yet up-market in its interior flavours with its thick steering wheel, three round centre vents and jutting dashboard, the A200 delivers a well-adjustable, comfortable and supportive driving position with good front visibility, while rear visibility is aided by its reversing sensors, camera and parking assistance system. But with its low roofline and compact wheelbase, the A-Class Saloon’s rear space is adequate for most, but not spacious for larger or taller occupants. Otherwise decent boot space is, meanwhile, hampered by an intrusive optional above floor strap-down spare tyre.

Well-equipped, the A200 Saloon features numerous convenience, safety and infotainment systems, including a wide all-digital instrument display and infotainment screen combo. Highly configurable and with numerous instrumentation set-ups, the menus can take a few minutes to get used to. Likewise, one soon adapts to the sensitive centre console and steering wheel touchpad controls, as unintentional brushes can re-configure preferred screen set-ups. Seemingly well-made and using good materials the A200’s sportier side was highlighted with its dark mixed leather and fabric upholstery, while a rear armrest was a welcome convenience.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

 

Engine: 1.3-litre, turbocharged, transverse 4-cylinders

Bore x stroke: 72.2 x 81.4mm

Compression ratio: 10.6:1

Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC, direct injection

Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch automated, front-wheel-drive

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 161 (163) [120] @5,500rpm

Specific power: 120.8BHP/litre

Power-to-weight: 115.8BHP/tonne

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 184 (250) @1,620-4,000rpm

Specific torque: 187.7Nm/litre

Torque-to-weight: 179.8Nm/tonne

0-100km/h: 8.1-seconds

Top speed: 230km/h

Fuel consumption, combined: 5.2-5.5-litres/100km 

CO2 emissions, combined: 119-127g/km

Fuel capacity: 43-litres

Length: 4,549mm

Width: 1,796mm

Height: 1,446mm

Wheelbase: 2,729mm

Track, F/R: 1,567/1,547mm

Overhangs, F/R: 914/906mm

Aerodynamic drag co-efficiency: 0.22

Headroom, F/R: 1,024/944mm

Legroom, F/R: 1,062/861mm

Shoulder width, F/R: 1,400/1,372mm

Elbow room, F/R: 1,457/1,446mm

Luggage volume (without spare tyre): 420-litres

Kerb weight: 1,390kg

Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion

Turning Circle: 11-metres

Suspension, F/R: MaxPherson struts/torsion beam

Brakes: Ventilated discs/discs

Tyres: 205/55R17

 

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