We Malaysians are generally attracted to things that scream “value for money,” and who can blame us? The ideology is simple – a product that meets all major requirements without any excess, so that you wouldn’t have to pay more than necessary for it.

Take for instance the automotive landscape, where brands offer all-wheel drive on some of their models, although it may not be the primary criteria for people who regularly patrol the urban jungle. Most often than not, these variants are in the upper echelons of the model range, which can cost a pretty penny or two.

Therefore, alternative variants are introduced to broaden the model’s appeal, with certain items removed (i.e. all-wheel drive system) to make it more affordable. Of course, this introduces another concern – are these cheaper variants still worth the money or have they been stripped to become a kereta kosong as coined by some of our readers?

Well, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia recently launched the new GLC 200, a less costly version of its mid-size SUV that slots in below the GLC 250 4Matic and GLC 43 4Matic. At RM288,888, it is RM37,000 less than the AWD-equipped GLC 250 4Matic and you can even own one from just RM2,888 with Agility Financing. It all sounds very tempting, but the question still remains – is it a value for money proposition? Let’s find out.

Before we proceed, it is important for this writer to list what he feels most customers in the premium SUV segment are looking for when it comes to their purchases – usable performance, driveability, practicality, and with this being a product of the Three-Pointed Star, a showcase of luxury.

Let’s start with usable performance, which requires a peek under the bonnet. There, you’ll find the familiar M274 DE 20 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine from the W205 C 200, which the GLC shares its architecture with.

The powerplant outputs an identical 184 hp at 5,500 rpm and 300 Nm of torque at 1,200-4,000 rpm, with power going only to the rear wheels via a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission.

Those figures are a lot less than the 211 hp and 350 Nm you get from the GLC 250 4Matic, and this becomes obvious during our time with the entry-level GLC variant on the roads of Sabah.

On the drive up towards the Kinabalu Park, extra effort must be put in to get the SUV moving swiftly uphill, at which point the M274 sounds like its working overtime to shift the SUV’s 1,705 kg heft.

As a result, there’s a need to bring the paddle shifters into play to keep the revs within the power band range. An alternative, if that’s too much work, is to slip the car into Sport+ mode with the Dynamic Select switch on the centre console. Here, the powertrain is in its most aggressive setting, holding onto a gear for longer and providing a quicker response for the accelerator.

When you do get it up to speed, you’ll want to make sure to carry that momentum from one corner to the next because dropping off the pace will mean another round of hard work. It isn’t quick but it doesn’t have to be, as it is meant to be usable performance, not outright performance.

Away from a race to the clouds, the GLC 200’s powertrain remains pleasant when used around town and on the long stretches of road outside the city centre. Level-headed drivers will appreciate the progressive power delivery from the engine working in tandem with the silky smooth shifting that the 9G-Tronic provides.

A minor inconvenience is the slight delay the nine-speed ‘box presents when short bursts of acceleration are needed, for instance when initiating the occasional overtaking manouever.

Those who are looking for impressive 0-100 km/h times, divert your attention elsewhere. The GLC 200 does that sprint in 8.7 seconds, which is 1.4 seconds slower than the GLC 250 4Matic. As mentioned earlier, this is usable performance. Want something faster? Buy the GLC 43 4Matic instead (it does the sprint in 4.9 seconds).

The route towards the UNESCO World Heritage Site had its share of twists and turns, allowing us to find out what impact the lack of 4Matic had on the GLC’s handling. Fun fact, prior to the GLC 200, all other GLC variants sold in Malaysia came equipped with 4Matic.

With drive going to the rear, it creates a more “lively” experience, more so if driving spiritedly is your cup of tea. Turn-ins are pretty sharp and entering certain corners at speed induced a fair bit of oversteer that can be easily managed, even without the 4Matic system to divert power to the front (33:67 front-rear split).

There’s some agility to the SUV, although the assurance of an all-wheel drive system is certainly missed. Lest we forget, there are always limits to traction, so being a little too cavalier in the GLC 200 merely invites trouble if one is not at full alert.

Of course, the GLC 200 is fitted with Off-Road suspension, which retains the passive damping of the GLC 250’s Agility Control suspension, but with a 20 mm higher ride height. The latter is reflective of the Off-Road Line exterior styling (more on that later), and fits more in line with the SUV’s #hungryforadventure persona.

This setup, along with the 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels (shod with 235/55 series tyres) and nicely-bolstered seats, delivers a comfortable ride that I would say is better than that of the previous GLC 250 4Matic, even when travelling on roads that appear in dire need of a resurfacing. Keep in mind that prior to an update for the GLC 250, the SUV had AMG sports suspension and 20-inch wheels.

Primary ride is pretty decent while secondary ride is dealt with ease, with small imperfections being isolated from the driver’s bottom and cabin. There were more than a few times where rolling over potholes was an anti-climatic experience, with minimal jolts or shocks to report.

Steering feel isn’t one of the GLC 200’s strong suits either, largely due to the heavy assistance from the electric power steering. You can alter the weightage to it by cycling through the other various drive modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ – with the second one being the one best suited for city driving. An Individual mode is also available, if you need to personalise the car’s powertrain and steering characteristics.

Practicality wise, there’s a near-flat cargo area with the 40:20:40 split rear seats folded down, some cargo nets to hold smaller items, and a handy snap-in module to partition the boot space (not found in the GLC 250). The last item has brackets that can be freely positioned along the outer edges of the load compartment floor.

Despite its price tag, the GLC 200’s interior still resonates a luxurious ambiance that you would expect from among the current crop of Mercedes-Benz cars. The materials used feel nice to the touch, with good fit and finish for the components in the interior of the locally-assembled variant. Yes, the equipment list has been shortened here, but life inside isn’t as spartan as you might think.

The Audio 20 CD infotainment system and seven-inch display are still present, along with a Thermotronic triple-zone automatic climate control, white or black Artico leather upholstery, leather dash (with contrast topstitching in three colours), three leather seat colours (white, black and brown), powered front seats (with lumbar support but without memory function) and a three-spoke steering wheel (GLC 250 gets a flat-bottomed one).

The safety suite is identical too, with seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knee), Collision Prevention Assist Plus, Crosswind Assist, Attention Assist and Pre-Safe system.

Opting for the more costly GLC 250 nets you darker wood trim, Intelligent Light System headlights, a Burmester sound system, perforated front disc brakes, panoramic sunroof, surround view camera, keyless entry (GLC 200 still has keyless start) and the uprated all-wheel drive powertrain. You’ll have to think long and hard if all these features are worth the extra RM37,000.

Maybe the exterior could help you in the decision-making process, given our propensity for being visual creatures. Parked side-by-side, the GLC 250 is certainly the more handsome-looking one compared to the GLC 200, with its full AMG kit (and suspension) as well as those 20-inch multi-spoke wheels.

The GLC 200 on the other hand, appears to be the rugged sibling with its Off-Road Line styling kit. Among the highlights include a front bumper with a larger angle of approach, faux underguards done up in chrome, side steps and smaller 19-inch wheels.

Looks are without a doubt a subjective matter, and the GLC 200 will have its fair share of fans, if the price point isn’t attractive enough already. Best way to think of it – the GLC 250 is someone wearing a full business suit – while the GLC 200 is the same person in sporting gear instead.

To answer the question, yes, the GLC 200 is indeed a value for money buy. It may not have the same get-up-and-go or handling prowess as higher variants, but the entry-level model makes up for it by delivering a more comfortable ride (when compared to the GLC 250 with AMG sports suspension).

The equipment list isn’t as filled as the higher-up GLC 250 either. However, the GLC 200 comes with just the right items to ensure you don’t feel like you’ve been short changed when capitalising on the price tag that falls below the psychological RM300,000 mark. If you’re looking for an entry into the premium SUV segment, this is certainly well worth a look.

To compare specifications of the GLC 200 and GLC 250, head on over to CarBase.my