BMW 218i Gran Coupé (left), Mercedes-Benz A 200 Sedan (right)

The premium compact car segment is heating up, with the two juggernaut German brands putting an increased focus on the bottom of their respective lineups. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz now offer small sedans that open up new frontiers in size and price.

Munich’s entry is the most recent – the company launched the 218i M Sport Gran Coupé in October in CKD locally-assembled form, priced at RM211,367 on-the-road without insurance and sales and services tax (SST). By contrast, the A 200 Sedan has been on the market since 2019; fully imported from the Rastatt plant in Germany, it retails at RM222,121 with a 50% sales tax exemption.

Like the A-Class, the 2 Series Gran Coupé breaks new ground by being BMW’s first global front-wheel-drive four-door (discounting the China- and Mexico-only 1 Series Sedan). Break out the measuring tape, and the similarities continue – the 2er is only 26 mm shorter (4,526 mm vs 4,549 mm), four millimetres wider (1,800 mm vs 1,796 mm) and 26 mm lower (1,420 mm vs 1,446 mm), the latter owing to its “coupé” status.

The BMW’s lower roofline makes it look slightly sportier than the Mercedes, while the frameless windows add a touch of extra flourish. This appearance is bolstered by the M Sport package, incorporating a more aggressive front and rear bumper design and flared side skirts with a gloss black lower finish. Both cars ride on handsome 18-inch two-tone alloys, with the BMW getting fractionally lower-profile tyres.

The 218i tester you see here also comes with an array of M Performance parts, which include a gloss black grille (in a similar mesh design to the M235i‘s, priced at RM576), carbon fibre mirror caps (RM4,324), a black boot lid spoiler (RM2,070) and a carbon fibre tailpipe finisher (RM1,712).

Inside, the two cars couldn’t be more different stylistically, with 2 Series having an angular dashboard design shared with other recent BMW models (such as the G20 3 Series). Meanwhile, the A-Class exhibits the typical Mercedes styling direction, with round air vents and a large freestanding display panel.

The A 200 also comes with a full-featured Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), complete with twin 10.25-inch displays and the advanced “Hey Mercedes” voice control system. The 218i, on the other hand, gets a smaller 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, the previous-generation iDrive interface and an analogue instrument cluster. The Merc also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which the BMW lacks.

Countering this advantage are some key features in the BMW’s favour. That car comes with dual-zone climate control which, crucially, adds rear air vents. Also fitted are body-hugging sports seats with adjustable bolsters and genuine leather instead of the fake stuff in the Mercedes, although the latter edges ahead with lumbar adjustment and a memory function for both front seats (the 218i only has driver’s side memory).

The rest of the spec sheet is largely identical. Both cars come with LED headlights and taillights, keyless entry, push-button start, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a reverse camera. The BMW adds a Qi wireless smartphone charger and a handsfree opening boot lid, while the Mercedes gets ten speakers instead of just six in the 218i.

Space-wise, both cars offer a similar amount of interior room, with the key difference being the lower roofline of the Gran Coupé that robs rear passengers of vital headroom. However, the BMW has a marginally larger boot, offering 10 litres more at 430 litres.

As for safety, both these entry-level sedans are fitted with autonomous emergency braking as standard. But – and this is rare in Malaysia – it is the BMW that is slightly better equipped, coming with lane keeping assist and blind spot monitoring.

One area that sees the biggest divergence between the two is under the bonnet. While the BMW is powered by a 1.5 litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine, the Mercedes gets its motive power from a Renault-sourced 1.3 litre turbo four-pot. As denoted by their model names, the Three-pointed Star is the gutsier of the two, with 163 PS (versus the BMW’s 140 PS) and 250 Nm (instead of 220 Nm).

Both are equipped with the same Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Of course, the Mercedes is the quickest, getting to 100 km/h more than half a second quicker at 8.1 seconds versus 8.7. Its 230 km/h is also significantly higher (the BMW tops out at 213 km/h), but surprisingly, its quoted fuel consumption figure is also slightly lower at 5.4 litres per 100 km versus 5.9.

One distinct advantage for the 218i is that it rides on a multilink rear suspension setup, compared to the more rudimentary torsion beam in the A 200. Both cars come with passive dampers, although the BMW has the stiffer M Sport suspension option instead of the Mercedes’ lowered comfort setup.

GALLERY: F44 BMW 218i M Sport Gran Coupé

GALLERY: V177 Mercedes-Benz A 200 Progressive Line Sedan

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