Head to head: Golf 4 and Mercedes C200

Both cars tick the safety boxes with excellent safety equipment for cars of their time.  Photos / Net

What you need to know:

  • The Mercedes Benz C200 is a five-seater sedan, which was introduced first in May 1993, as a replacement for the 190. It became common on the Ugandan market in 2012. The VW Golf 4 on the other hand, is a five-seater hatch back. It was the bestselling car in Europe in 2001. Both cars command respect in Uganda. Mustafa Ziraba explains the difference between these two German made cars.

On one side we have the Mercedes C Class W202 and on the other, we have the VW Golf 4. Both cars are from Germany manufacturers and the simple fact is, the Germans love rules and regulations. If you maintain them exactly as they say in the book, using the proper fluids and parts, they will last forever.

Mercedes vs VW is like comparing a Rolex watch to a Swatch watch. Both have the coveted “Swiss made” citing but anyone with knowledge of the watch industry would not want to hear Rolex and Swatch in the same sentence.

However, Swatch, just like VW, rocks some of the most recognisable watch brands in the world including Omega, Rado, Longines and Tissot under its belt. VW owns some of the most legendary car brands including Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche, but yet the VW brand itself on a car is regarded as second-tier or even third.

Mercedes on the other hand, just like a Rolex, is a Mercedes, and that is all there is to it.  This is a comparison of two cars that cost about the same and appeal to the same demographics, at least in used car circles. VW always marketed the Golf as a reliable car and it did not become Europe’s bestselling car by accident.

Both cars, depending on the model, mileage and specification sell for between Shs12 - Shs20 million.


In the used car market, you do not have much of a choice in terms of colour. However, both cars were released in a variety of colours. Many times, Mercedes simply looks better than the Golf. But this is more of an acquired taste as at some angles, for instance from the back, it looks boxy and dated.

The Golf is not glamorous or exciting. However, this means it has the kind of look that shall appeal to just about anyone at all angles. The Benz has traditional Benz sedan personality traits with chrome accents in some later models. Think of it as a smaller rendition of the bigger cousins of the time including the hard E-Class and the aristocratic S-Class.

Up-front, there is a familiar-looking grille and a prominent hood emblem. If anything the timeless styling reveals that the C-Class has aged extremely well.


The Mercedes conveys a sense of robust, deep-seated quality, from the now aged but stylish interior with its well-chosen materials. Most used ones have the ceiling cloth falling apart. This is easily fixed with the right glue. The Golf has all its buttons within reach and are very visible. However the quality of materials is a bit questionable.

Both cars are roomy and can comfortably accommodate four to five adults. In fact, many at first struggle to reconcile the size of car to the interior space of the Golf. Because of their age, both cars show dated interiors in terms of shape and look of the interior. When driving, expect a ride free of squeaks and rattles from both cars


If we were limited to two words to describe the Golf on our roads, they would be resolved and agile. Resolved because no one part of the car dominates. The engine talks to the transmission like two old friends catching up at a party. Agile because even when driven at high speeds or in a corner, it cannot be caught out.

The Merc on the other hand is a sort of retired solider with softer suspensions. It gives a sort of laid back lazy drive with a cushy suspension. While the Golf is nimble and alert, the Merc exhibits superior performance.

Reliability and maintenance

Both cars come from a generation where most Germans car brands were getting “cheaper”. If you get one that was well maintained, and like clockwork continue the custom, you shall not regret.

Problem though is the fact that old German cars are simply not as reliable as their counterparts. Obviously you shall hear statements such as “they are super if you take care of them.” Sadly, the reality is that many do not take care of them as they should right from the first owner.

Things as commonplace as the window button can grow into a colossally frustrating problem. Proactively buying genuine parts is sort of binding.

Both cars are more than 10 years old and any car more than10 years old is at some point going to be a problem car.

Parts are readily available although at a premium cost. Although both cars shall be cheap in the long run, you shall soon find out that things that are supposed to be cheap in any other car suddenly became expensive.

Always go for the late models that concluded the generation, that is, 2002-2003 models for the Golf and 1999-2000 models for the Mercedes. The Golf is notorious for failed transmissions that are quite expensive to replace.

The Merc has several electrical gremlins and one that comes to mind is the faulty Mass Air Flow metre, a statistic confirmed by Paul Kaganzi, our resident expert.

Performance status

When you buy any of these cars, depreciation hits hard and fast. But the thing that makes Mercedes-Benz unique is that the three-pointed star signals something that is widely understood; engineering prowess. It does not matter what the car is, a small car, big truck, limousine, boda boda, bus, sports car, if it has a three pointed star, people know and believe it was well made, extremely durable, and soothingly capable.

And, like any product with similar attributes say a Rolex watch, Chanel purse, Bvlgari sunglasses, it naturally costs a little more. A Mercedes in whatever form in Uganda shall show that you are living the dream.

The Golf or the VW on the other hand is a hit or miss. Granted by virtue of its German roots, it shall command the desired respect and feel. However, if you are willing to stomach the extra maintenance cost on a used German car, the Merc shall eat the Golf’s lunch every time.

Online importing

Dual Airbags and ABS (Antilock Braking System) are standard. Because the Mercedes is a rear-wheel driver, later models incorporated the Acceleration Skid Control (ASR). If the driver accelerates abruptly and one of the driven wheels starts to spin, it helps the wheel to regain sufficient traction.

The C Class premiered around the world with a 1.8 litre as the base engine, badged C180, though the 2.0-litre C200 and 2.2-litre C220 have proved popular. The Golf engines include a 1.4L, 1.6L, 1.8L, 1.8L turbo, 2.0L, 2.3L V5, 2.8L V6 and 3.2L V6 all petrol engines.