As an admitted geek who cares more about gigahertz than horsepower, I've wanted a car with adaptive cruise control for a long time, well before I could afford one. ACC with stop and go down to 0km/h is a great technology with an active radar, allowing for easy driving on long commutes, and increased safety when glancing at screens in stop-start traffic - as most drivers tend to do these days.
My "nice-to-have's" were leather seats, Bluetooth, adaptive cruise, dual-zone climate, brake hold, and premium sound, but ACC was always the deal-breaker. The Wikipedia entry on ACC was my bible, trying to find an older car which had ACC to 0km/h (stop and go) and not the used partial cruise where it conks out and disengages at 30km/h.
Mainly I was looking at used Golfs, but the newest Golf Mk7.5 Highline with Sound & Vision Pack and Driver Assist was out of my price range without a big car loan. In my search I also test drove the i30 SR Premium, the Honda Civic VTi-LX, and the Subaru Impreza with Eyesight. I even considered the minefield which would be a well-used Audi with lots of kilometres. For a while I was fascinated with the Skoda brand, seeing older Skoda Superbs that seemed like great value for money. I nearly grabbed a Golf wagon in Tasmania to bring back to Melbourne, and considered an Octavia, but on further research found the ACC disengages at traffic lights because it is missing an automatic parking brake.
The final car that very well nearly tempted me was the Holden Astra RS-V, which had the tech, included Android auto, and won Euro car of the year. It initially had good pricing, but then when I was looking, I couldn't find a good price on one with an extended warranty.
After years of research, I finally discovered the magic words, "Distronic Plus". You see, ACC has a lot of funny names and I had always thought Mercedes was out of my price range. It was only a few days after discovering the magic words that I saw a B200 with all the extra packs and I knew I had found the car of my dreams.
An old guy had listed a 2013 B200 CDI (diesel) with only 41000km (that's 7000km a year folks), always serviced at the dealership and with all the trimmings - Comand Pack (12-speaker Harmon Kardon, DAB+, DSP), Driving Assistance Pack (Distronic Plus, Blind Spot Sensors, LDW), Exclusive Pack (Leather Electric, Heated seats with memory), Vision Package (bi-xenons, Sunroof).
On top of all that, you had your standard equipment - the feeling of driving a 3-pointer, well-built ANCAP 5-star rating, reversing camera with moving guidelines, front and rear parking sensors, auto self-parking, GPS Navigation, dual-zone climate and also brake hold - a feature I also wanted and which works a bit different in Mercedes (you have to push the brake hard once after stopping). Essentially it had everything I could ask for, except for Android Auto, ventilated seats, push button/remote start and keyless entry. This car is very fuel efficient and economical, being a diesel engine.
At this time, I had just moved into a new apartment with my girlfriend, so we had boxes everywhere. That very same weekend of the move (on the Friday) I told her that I booked a flight to Sydney the next day. So I grabbed a bank cheque, flew to Sydney on Saturday and stayed overnight in a crappy Airbnb. The next morning, I took a bus to a very fancy retirement village in Lane Cove, overlooking Sydney Harbour. This place was deluxe!
It turns out that the car had lived its entire life in the bowels of this place, in an underground car park. The car was in mint condition - the owner was already retired when he bought it new for $65,000, and it had done barely any kilometres. I bought it on the spot, didn't even bother getting a RWC, and drove straight through western Sydney and onto the Hume, as I had to be at work on Monday morning. My cost? $19,000 plus ORC.
Put simply, I think I am driving the best car per dollar on the road.
Having owned this car for 9 months and recently having the first service (B service) done by a Euro specialist in Hawthorn, I've found that there were a few issues - the Inlet filter was fouled and due to be replaced and same with ignition plugs, both due 2017 - so seems Mercedes dealership service in Sydney dropped the ball there. Other than that, the battery was a bit low and needed replacing in six months.
I am not a gambler but I did roll the dice on a used European car and I won this time, as long as I go for a 50km drive every 2 weeks because it's a diesel and needs to be driven. Straight after the service I loaned it to my girlfriend for a girl's weekend away (our friend had won a prize for a stay at a Canberra hotel). It worked out to be a bit longer travel time but much cheaper to drive to Canberra (versus flying), so I loaned them my car. They enjoyed the amenities like the premium sound but couldn't figure out how to use cruise control for the entire 1300km round trip - even her friend, the analytical one (she's my accountant!).
Cabin Space and Comfort
As you can see from the photos, I slotted in a 55-inch OLED TV one time with no problems. At the moment, I am working in Docklands and instead of paying for parking, I park in Port Melbourne and keep a hybrid road bike (full-size) in the boot by twisting the handlebars around. I don't even have to remove the front wheel, I just slide my bike in and out, and commute the last 2km by bike, which is fun.
As I am normally driving alone, it has plenty of space and of course a Mercedes cabin is a great place to be. This is my first time owning all of leather, heated and electric seats, dual-zone climate, and all features are well appreciated by everyone. I just hit the big four zero, so getting in and out of this car is a breeze with the higher entry point (in America this model had a limited run as an electric with a battery pack across the bottom) and the higher driving position is better than a sedan, but not quite at SUV level. When I drive past GLAs they don't seem to be sitting that much higher than me - maybe two inches.
Performance and Economy & Ride & Handling
I've had no problems with the DSG, or have felt much turbo lag. Actually since the service, I feel the car has improved in its handling and performance. What I think happened is that the car has some sort of driving memory for how you drive and this was stored to prefer the driving style of a 71-year old retiree puttering around the hills and traffic of Sydney. There are some forum threads and YouTube videos about how to reset it. Maybe when they serviced my car recently they also reset those settings.
Its handling a lot better this week although maybe it's my imagination. My biggest complaint before was the handling and suspension, as it is a bit harder than I would like with the run flat tyres (no spare), as I do zip around town and take on speed bumps. Getting off the mark isn't great either, as I like to take my chances when I find them in traffic. Going in, I knew this would not be a performance car, but it is a 1.8-litre turbo diesel with 100kW at 4400rpm and 300Nm Torque at 1600-3000rpm, so I do rely on the torque and enjoy doing so. That's more torque than the new i30 petrol model and the Golf Mk7.5.
My Mercedes does 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds, versus 6.87 for Hyundai i30 SR, 7.7 for a Skoda Superb 140TDI, 9.3 for a VW Polo and 10.1 for the Subaru Impreza.
Technology and Connectivity
As stated earlier, this car came loaded with the packs and that is what really mattered. It's hard to find a used B200 with these four packs, all of which had something I wanted. At the end of the day, I'm not missing Android Auto that much, not enough to replace the stock head unit with a risky overseas model. While there are some nice 10.1-inch options, the resolution and touch is still not the best. If there is an aftermarket option with wireless Android Auto I might take the plunge, however for now I have a wireless magnetic adapter and I enjoy having two screens - my phone screen mounted with 3M tape below the vents, as it is hard to find a vent mount for Mercedes.
The major self-driving features that this car is missing is Traffic Jam Assist, which is a low-speed mode available in new Audi, VW and Skoda models. There is also lane-centreing, a newer version of LKAS, of which the best example can be found in the new Ford Focus 2019. I was surprised how useful and enjoyable the blind-spot assist system in the side mirrors are, and how few cars costing double or triple what I paid still don't have that feature. Brake hold is just as good as I thought it would be and I am glad I have that.
The automatic wipers and lights are great, and I'm even using the auto-park assist frequently, as it does save time and energy. Retractable mirrors when you lock the car is a cool feature but mostly so I can tell if the car is locked. Daytime running lights look awesome - I'm missing LED headlights but that's no big loss, and same with electric tailgate and KESSY; it's nice to have but not essential.
I can't finish without mentioning the premium sound with the 12 Harmon Kardon speakers and DSP. It's just fantastic for car audio. I've had pretty crappy audio setups at home, but after getting the car, I've upgraded to a proper receiver and high quality speakers at home and only now can I notice the HK in the car is a little inferior to that. But in general, the quality of the sound is highly praised by all passengers, whether it's the DAB+ radio (that we Iisten to frequently), or streaming Bluetooth. I can't go back to non-premium sound, that's for sure. The Honda Civic I test drove had a crappy subwoofer in the boot, and the i30 sound is not much better. You need the Sound and Vision Pack to get decent sound in a Golf. It was only the Skoda's I was considering that had a decent (Canton) system.
Price and Features and Summary
After spending around $21k, including the cost for the car initially, on-road costs like stamp duty, and the first B service, the car has now done 53000km, with 12000km of those being mine. Being a diesel Mercedes, it has a long life ahead of it. Fuel efficiency is awesome - I completely love the car and don't regret my decision at all.
To get all the features I wanted for this price, including premium sound, was always my dream. I think it's crazy that this car is not more highly praised in the used car market, or in the head-to-head hatchback articles on CarAdvice, because they are always comparing new vs new. However with depreciation, the B200 circa 2013 with the option packs is now available at around the $20k mark, and if any of what I have reviewed appeals to you in any way, I wish you luck in finding a deal similar to mine.