A Mercedes-Benz SLC to rival the Mazda MX-5? That’s what this – the Mercedes-Benz SLC 180 – is about, apparently. The SLC 180 is the new entry level variant of Mercedes’ metal folding roof roadster previously known as the SLK, taking over from the SLC 200. In the UK, the SLC 180 AMG Line is priced from £32,039 (RM180,240).

Autocar points out that while that is £2,681 (RM15,078) less than the SLC 200, it’s still £8,644 (RM48,614) costlier than the entry MX-5 RF and £2,419 (RM13,604) more than the Abarth 124 Spider. However, the baby Merc roadster comes with lower monthly instalments due to its better residual values, making it cheaper on a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) deal.

With monthly payments start from just £276 (RM1,552), the new SLC 180 asks lucky UK buyers a pertinent question. While the latest ND MX-5 has been universally hailed as a pure, back-to-basics drop top that’s fun to drive – and there’s now a Retractable Fastback version that’s more versatile – Mercedes is dangling much better refinement and that powerful star badge. And it won’t be obvious that you bought the cheap one – the AMG Line styling assures that.

The MX-5 is a great driver’s car, but what if you could have a Merc SLC for lower monthly payments?

What else does an SLC 180 buyer get? Under that long hood is a 1.6 litre turbo engine producing 156 hp and 250 Nm, which is 24 hp/50 Nm less than the SLC 200. That’s the A 200‘s engine paired to a six-speed manual standard in the UK (9G-Tronic auto is a £1,600 option), it’s good for 0-100 km/h in a decent 7.9 seconds. Roadsters aren’t for racing anyway.

Standard kit includes 18-inch rims, Artico synthetic leather seats, Active Brake Assist, cruise control, sports suspension and a sports braking system, among other goodies. Oh, and a key fob with the three-pointed star, of course.

Back to the Mazda MX-5 RF vs Mercedes SLC 180 question. If you’re wondering what we chose in the office, it’s 4-3 in the favour of the Mercedes, with voting falling along age lines. Moot of course – with the MX-5 RF and SLC 200 priced at RM243k and RM400k here respectively – but which would you choose given the UK circumstance?

GALLERY: Mercedes-Benz SLC 200

GALLERY: Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 AMG Line