The entry-level European car segment here in Malaysia is heating up once again with the recent introduction of the locally-assembled Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan.

With the reduced pricing as part of the CKD exercise, we can now finally pit the two German rivals’ entry-level models here in Malaysia – the Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan and the BMW 218i Gran Coupe – against each other in a proper head-to-head battle, to see which one of these compact models is a better buy!

PERFORMANCE

BMW 218i Gran CoupeMercedes-Benz A 200
1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinderEngine1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
7-speed dual-clutch transmissionTransmission 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
140 hp @ 4,600 rpmMax horsepower163 hp @ 5,500 rpm
220 Nm @ 1,480 rpmMax torque250 Nm @ 1,620 rpm
8.7 seconds0-100 km/h8.1 seconds
213 km/hTop speed230 km/h

Based on numbers, the Mercedes-Benz A 200 is without a doubt the better car here in the engine department. The 1.3-litre turbocharged four-banger that was co-developed with Renault makes 23 hp and 30 Nm more than its rival, giving it a faster 0-100 km/h time (-0.6 seconds) and top speed (+17 km/h), and arguably also sounds better than the BMW’s three-pot mill.

It’s also interesting to note that despite its more efficiency-focused three-pot engine, the 218i Gran Coupe still uses more fuel (on paper) than the Mercedes – 5.9 litres/100 km compared to the A200’s 5.6 litres/100 km when tested via the NEDC test cycle. Less powerful and less efficient (on paper, again) – not a good look for the BMW.

But for some people, the powertrain is just one part of the equation. The other part being the elusive “driving feel”, and that’s where the BMW 218i Gran Coupe really starts to shine.

Equipped as standard with a set of passive M Sport suspensions (and multi-link set-up at the rear), the BMW 218i certainly offers more thrills per buck than the Mercedes. And despite bucking BMW’s modus operandi and going front-wheel drive, the 218i still somehow behaves almost like a rear-wheel-driven model when coming out of corners. The “most powerful letter in the world” is not just for show, after all.

It does, however, come at a cost. The firmer suspension does mean a more jaunty and harsher ride on your daily commute, especially when pitted right up against the Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan’s comfort-oriented set-up. Pick your poison, I guess.

The Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan comes with a more subdued Progressive Line exterior kit.

STYLE

The looks of a car is always the hardest to compare, because as they say, looks are subjective (for the most part). But to us, we find that the Mercedes-Benz A 200 sedan looks significantly more proportionate than the 218i – or perhaps we’re just not used to the “Gran Coupe” treatment on such a compact car.

To be fair, the BMW 218i’s most direct competitor is the CLA and not the A-Class sedan – but even then, we think that the CLA looks a lot sleeker than the Gran Coupe. That’s all moot, though, since the CLA is not officially available here in Malaysia (aside from the AMG CLA 45 S).

You can even equip your BMW 218i Gran Coupe with real carbon fibre “M Performance” parts…

With all that being said, though, the 218i Gran Coupe might actually be more welcomed by its target demographic of young successful people. The M Sport exterior kit does help add a lot more aggression to the Gran Coupe, especially when it’s parked right next to the A 200 Sedan with its more subdued Progressive Line kit. And of course, the frameless doors design is just the cherry on top.

Size wise, the Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan is bigger than the 218i Gran Coupe in almost every dimension, except for width (by 4 mm). The BMW does edge out a little in terms of its boot space, offering 10 more litres of cargo space than the Merc. It’s still nothing to shout about at 430 litres, though – other B-segment sedans like the Honda City already offer upwards of 500 litres.

As for equipment appointments, both cars are pretty similarly specced – both get fully LED head and tail lights, alongside 18-inch wheels, so it’s still up to your personal preference in design at the end of the day.

The A-Class Sedan’s cabin is arguably one of the best-looking modern interior in recent times.

INTERIOR

Just like the exterior, a car’s interior design is once again a question of personal preference. Some may like BMW’s classic utilitarian and clean look, while others may prefer Mercedes-Benz’s futuristic styling efforts on the A-Class.

Despite that, there are quite significant equipment differences between the two cars here – with the Mercedes taking the upper hand. The A 200 Sedan gets a much larger touchscreen infotainment display (10.25-inch vs 8-inch on the BMW), and its MBUX software is also significantly more modern than the 218i’s iDrive 6.0 – and you still have to pay for Apple CarPlay on the latter!

The Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan also gets a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster display, although it can be argued that the analogue unit on the BMW might prove to be more functional (just less flashy), especially with the glare on the A-Class Sedan’s unsheltered displays on sunny days.

Clean and utilitarian – that’s how you know it’s a real BMW.

As part of the localisation efforts for the A-Class Sedan, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia has removed the 64-colour ambient lighting system on the entry-level A 200 variant (but adds dual-zone climate control with rear air vents), so the BMW 218i Gran Coupe does claw back some points here, if that’s something you fancy.

Space wise, both of these cars offer similar room for the rear passengers in terms of knee room and legroom, but the significantly raked roofline of the BMW (thanks to its “coupe” status) does rob off a little of its headroom – a small price to pay for style?

SAFETY

Where the BMW loses in terms of interior appointments, it wins back with its safety kit. That’s because the 218i Gran Coupe is equipped with pretty much the full suite of BMW’s advanced driver assistance systems, which includes features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane change assist, rear collision warning, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, as well as a Parking and Reversing Assistant.

The Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan meanwhile comes with a leaner set of safety systems, only including features such as autonomous emergency braking, Pre-Safe pre-collision system, parking assist, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. It’s pretty rare in our market for a BMW to be better equipped than a Mercedes-Benz in this department, so this was a surprise – but a welcome one.

PRICING

The Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan Progressive Line is priced at RM210,903 and comes with a four-year unlimited mileage warranty, while the BMW 218i Gran Coupe comes in at RM211,367 with a five-year/unlimited mileage warranty with free scheduled service programme. Both prices are on the road, without insurance, and inclusive of the full SST exemptions that have been recently extended until the end of June 2022.

Where it gets slightly more interesting, though, is that you can actually opt-out of the five-year warranty package on the BMW, bringing the price down to RM199,177 with only a two-year unlimited mileage warranty. So if you want to save a quick penny in the short term, the 218i Gran Coupe might be the way to go.

So between this two German compact sedans, which should you pick? As always, it comes down to what you as a driver want in a car. Value driving? Then the BMW 218i Gran Coupe might be the better choice. But if you’re just looking for the latest tech and flashiest designs, then the Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan might be the one. Although let’s be honest, the choice between these two cars will boil down to which logo you ultimately prefer…


GALLERY

Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan Progressive Line

BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport