A200 Sedan CKD: can Merc offer better value than BMW's 218i Gran Coupe?
2021 BMW 218i Gran Coupe CKD vs 2021 Mercedes-Benz A200 Sedan CKD (predicted)
In a recent interview with TopGear Malaysia and fellow media peers, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia all but confirmed that the A-Class Sedan will be locally assembled in Pekan, Pahang. A CKD compact car has been a long time coming for the three-pointed star. But up till that big reveal, there were no concrete clues as to which model – from A to GLB – would get the ball rolling for the brand’s localised MFA2 (Modular Front Architecture) family.
The V177 A-Class Sedan is an unsurprising choice given the Malaysian market’s natural gravitation towards saloons across all segments. It is also the most affordable car in the Stuttgart brand’s local catalogue, with the A250 AMG Line CBU (pictured) priced from RM259,255 – the GLB200 seven-seat SUV comes a close second at RM269,118. Naturally, the most obvious question on everyone’s mind is: how much cheaper can we expect the locally-assembled car to be? And how will it stack up against its most obvious CKD German rival, the F44 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe?
Time to crunch the numbers…
A battle of entry prices
Over in Camp Bavaria, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is offered in a sole 218i M Sport format. The three-pot saloon is the most affordable car currently sold by BMW Malaysia, priced at RM211,367 on-the-road without insurance, inclusive of the full exemption on sales tax for locally-assembled vehicles.
To truly destabilise the 218i GC’s monopoly in the narrow price bracket separating D-segment sedans from European staples such as the BMW 3 Series and Merc C-Class, the A200 Sedan seems to be the most viable option for Mercedes-Benz Malaysia as far as maximising its local assembly plans is concerned.
As mentioned earlier, the A250 is currently listed as the cheapest Merc you can buy in Malaysia today. Though not presently available here, for now at least, the A200 was once sold here as a CBU for RM222,212. That’s nearly RM11,000 more than the 218i Gran Coupe, which really isn’t bad given it’s a full import. So, how much cheaper can one expect a CKD to be?
Much of this boils down to the percentage of localisation exercised by Mercedes and a bunch of other parameters that influence a vehicle’s selling price. We’ve seen anywhere from a few hundred Ringgit to six digits being slashed from local assembly in the past. For some context, the GLE450 became RM110,000 or 23 percent cheaper after it became a CKD model. Over at BMW, the G20 330i M Sport was more affordable by RM40,000 or 14 percent after it was localised.
Using the A200’s former CBU price tag as a benchmark, even a modest 10 percent reduction would shave off enough for prices to dip below the RM200k mark, if ever so slightly. While this is far from a certainty, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia would do well to make it happen as it’ll give the A-Class an instant advantage over the BMW 218i Gran Coupe in terms of perceived affordability at first glance.
That said, the lowest price doesn’t always sell the most cars in a segment that plays to the whims and fancies of those with the financial clout to make up the difference on their passive incomes alone. And there’s also the case of maintenance, which costs nothing for five years if you opt for the Bimmer – you can even remove the Extended Warranty & Service Package to get your hands on the 218i Gran Coupe for RM199,177 with a basic two-year warranty. So, how else do these compact sedans justify their asking prices?
Is bigger better in a compact world?
Right off the bat, Mercedes has more car to offer for your Ringgit, although it has to be questioned if bigger is necessarily better given the unifying compact theme. Measuring 4,549mm (l) by 1,796mm (w) by 1,446mm (h), the A-Class Sedan is 24mm longer and 26mm taller than the 218i Gran Coupe. The BMW naturally sits closer to the ground as it’s meant to be a four-door coupe in the vein of the 4GC and 6GC instead of a conventional saloon, which means you get a set of lovely frameless doors to flaunt too.
The Bimmer also has an additional 4mm of width to add to its sportier stance out of the factory. However, the Merc’s longer wheelbase (2,729mm versus the 218i’s 2,670mm) promises better high-speed stability and rear passenger legroom – that its roof isn’t as stylishly raked as the 2er’s bodes well for space and practicality too.
Speaking of practicality, boot capacity is pretty decent across both models, with the 218i Gran Coupe edging ahead with an extra 10 litres of volume (430 litres versus the V177’s 420). However, do not expect any of them to give similarly-priced or cheaper Japanese D-segment sedans a run for their money – even B-segment staples like the Honda City and Toyota Vios have over 500 litres of boot space to offer.
Berapa cc: cylinder count vs cubic capacity
If you’re basing your decision on what both cars have to offer under the hood and how they drive as a result, this is where things deviate dramatically, making the decision process a whole lot trickier. Do you go for the smaller engine with more cylinders, or the slightly bigger that’s only a three-banger? That’s the unique conundrum presented by the 218i Gran Coupe and the A200 Sedan, which are powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder mill and a 1.3-litre four-pot engine, both transverse and turbocharged, respectively.
BMW’s B38 engine, which displaces 500cc per cylinder, makes 140bhp and 220Nm of torque in the 218i Gran Coupe. The A200’s extra cylinder makes the difference here, as its M282 mill co-developed with Renault and Nissan generates 163bhp and 250Nm – 23bhp and 30Nm more than the BMW. A seven-speed DCT sends power to the front wheels in both the German rivals, but the A200’s greater output clearly prevails in a straight line; it does 0-100kph in 8.1 seconds and tops out at 225kph against the BMW’s 8.7-second century sprint and 213kph top speed.
Despite going the three-pot route for better efficiency, the 218i Gran Coupe uses more fuel on paper than the Merc, with a quoted figure of 5.9 litres per 100km against the A200’s 5.6. So it’s less powerful and less efficient if the published numbers are to be believed. But it’s worth noting that BMW is also pretty good at things that are difficult to categorically quantify – things like cornering traits, steering feel and overall driving thrills. The 218i is equipped with M Sport suspension after all. And the selling points that capitalise on ‘the most powerful letter in the world’ do not stop there.
Packaging makes a difference
Despite its entry-level pricing, BMW Malaysia still wants the 218i Gran Coupe to be seen as a sporty car. The M Sport packaging helps drive the message to a certain extent, with things like more aggressive bumpers, M Sport wheels, door sills, steering and pedals all part of the CKD deal. The Mercedes A200 Sedan was not offered in AMG Line specification back when it was sold here as a CBU. Instead, it featured a more muted Progressive Line styling, which still looked nice and refined, such is the Three-Pointed Star's magic touch on all things on four wheels.
Inside, the A-Class is easily the more futuristic of the two. The W177 hatch on which the sedan is based was the car that debuted the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), which is paired with dual 10.25-inch screens and 64 colours to choose from for ambient lighting. While BMW's 'Live Cockpit Plus' looks more traditional on the surface (a selling point in itself to old-school romantics), the 218i Gran Coupe does pack some tech that MBM would do well to match; Driving Assistant features such as lane change warning, speed limit assist and parking assistance are particularly handy.
At the end of the day, it's difficult to decide who has the better package at this point without knowing exactly what the incoming CKD A-Class offering entails. Will Mercedes spec the A200 with AMG Line trimmings to challenge the 218i's M Sport allure? Or would the Stuttgart brand drop the A200 entirely, ditching the duel with BMW to offer an A250 as a sole variant it can market as a more premium product in every respect (a CKD AMG A35 is possible too)? There's also the big question mark hovering above BMW Malaysia with regards to how the company will respond to new competition. Should the A-Class undercut the 2GC, BMW could technically launch a cheaper Sport variant as it did before with the F20 118i. Back then, RM12k separated the 118i Sport and M Sport models, leaving the opportunity open for a sub-RM200k Bimmer even once SST is reinstated in full.
Either way, it's refreshing to see two nameplates that did not exist five years ago slug it out and potentially redefine the premium market as we know it in Malaysia. Whose side will you be on?