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The Mercedes-Benz A200 – A stands for astonishing

In dynamic and sport mode the car really comes into its own. The delivery of power will be sure to put a smile on your face, but also give you a hard time sticking to the speed limit.

Mercedes-Benz A200. Image: EWN/Thomas Holder

JOHANNESBURG - Simply put, the new Mercedes-Benz A200 is one of the best driving vehicles you’re likely to come across. With the older generation targeted at the stereotypical mother-of-two, this next generation is aimed at exactly that – the next generation.

Mercedes-Benz have really stepped up their game this time around – both in the performance and styling departments. On the highways, overtaking is a breeze whether you’re in automatic or manual mode. The take-off in eco-mode is slightly sluggish, but that would be expected. Flipping it into either the dynamic and sport modes really brings it into its own, though. The delivery of power will be sure to put a smile on your face, but also give you a hard time sticking to the speed limit. If you like the technical side of driving, you can fully customise your suspension, steering and engine power to your liking.

  • It's powered by a 1.3-litre engine which generates 120kW/250Nm, with a 7G DCT dual-clutch transmission.

  • Fuel consumption figures are said to be 5.2-litre/100km in peak form, but realistic figures will see you reaching 6.8-litres to 7.3-litres/100km.

  • Faster driving will see you head into the 7.5 to 8.0-litres/100km range.

The cockpit exceeds the expectations of what we expect from the German car manufacturer. The new dash has no conventional dials at all. For the purists who prefer speedometer and rev meter, worry not – you can have the traditional dials set up to your preference.

The new cockpit has highly configurable screen display called MBUX - ‘Mercedes Benz User Experience’. This includes two hi-res screens with running navigation, an onboard computer that will pair with your phone via bluetooth, radio connectivity and voice recognition for navigation and phone calls. Given the ‘disobedience’ in recent years from voice recognition, the MBUX was rather impressive – but still falling short of Tony Stark and Jarvis level. The car does have ‘learning software’ so it might understand questions better with time. It also learns habits – so if you tend to switch from music to talk radio for the news at 5pm, after a while it’ll start offering to do it for you.

The cockpit is a great place to be. The ambient lighting really brings the car alive when the sun goes down. The high-res screen and coloured aircon vents and dashboard lighting give night-driving a certain dramatic element to go with your comfort.

Interaction between the steering-wheel and the on-board computer is a dream – once you get used to it. Two sets of steering-wheel controllers let fiddle with all the settings, while you can also use a pad between the passenger and driver’s seats.

The overall build quality is pretty good, although the column stalks which operate the windscreen wipers and indicators let the side down a bit with their cheap plastic feel.

On a practical level, there is more than enough boot space to fit month-end groceries and school bags – with room to spare. For a trip away, there’s no need to worry. However, if you’re a tall person, travelling with three people in the backseat, leg and foot room will become a challenge.

The A200 comes in at R499,000 for the entry-level petrol version. This is along the same prices as cars in the same level from Volvo’s V40, VW’s Golf 7 and BMW’s X1. The diesel model comes in at R536,000.

The basic spec includes all the usual bits you’d expect, plus two seven-inch screens, connected navigation and voice activation, as well as autonomous braking that keeps an eye out for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

The sport and AMG lines include wheel, upholstery and body kit upgrades – which can make all the difference for some.

The executive pack gets you a 10.25-inch central display, folding dimming mirrors, heated seats plus self-parking. But if you want a sunroof, you’ve got to go the whole way for the 13-item bundle. Extras can set you back between R15,000 and R100,000 depending on which you choose.

For the price tag, the base A200 package represents some excellent value in its market, and has come a long way since the previous generation of “kid-carriers”. The sportier performance and looks complete the transformation so successfully that you’ll forget you’re driving a car that was originally invented to store school bags. While there are other models that focus on speed and power, the little A200 refuses to acknowledge it’s position as the baby of the group.

It’s a reinvention of the reinvention, and while it’s the closest thing you’ll get to the previous generation, it’s brilliance makes sure it’s anything but.

Picturs: Thomas Holder/EWN.

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