Video review: 2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC by Drew Johnson
We try out Mercedes' latest small sedan.
Mercedes-Benz is one of the most talented automakers when it comes to slicing the SUV segment extremely thin. If you plotted each of Mercedes' seven SUV models on a Venn diagram, they would all have some overlap, and yet Mercedes is able to market each one as a distinctly different vehicle.
Having mastered the art of thin-slicing the SUV market, Mercedes is now applying its know-how to the small sedan. Mercedes already fields one small sedan in the United States, the CLA, and now the company is stuffing the segment with another.
What is it?
Mercedes' newest sedan offering is called the A-Class and it's the new entry point for the brand as a whole. With a starting price of $32,500, the A-Class is the cheapest Mercedes you can buy, undercutting the similarly sized CLA by $600.
The A-Class is also similar to the CLA in layout -- it's front-wheel drive based (all-wheel drive is available) and is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. But unlike the CLA, the A-Class has a traditional sedan roofline instead of a coupe-like silhouette.
What's it up against?
The A-Class squares off against vehicles like the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series, but it's likely that potential buyers are also cross-shopping against Mercedes' own CLA.
What does it look like?
Even though the A-Class' lines aren't as flowing as the CLA's, it's still an attractive vehicle. Its front end is purposeful with a distinctive grille and LED headlight accents that form a set of angry eyebrows. The optional AMG package brings a new front bumper that adds just the right amount of sport without being too aggressive.
In profile the A-Class is traditional Mercedes sedan with a long hood and short deck lid. Your mileage will vary, be we actually prefer the more upright roofline of the A-Class to that of the fastback-like CLA.
The rear of the A-Class is a clean design befitting of a luxury sedan. Once again, our test car's sporty quotient was boosted by a more aggressive rear bumper and dual exhaust outlets provided by the AMG pack.
And the inside?
The interior is where the A-Class sets itself apart from the pack. Not only is the A-Class' interior beautifully styled, but it's also crammed with tech.
The highlight of the A-Class' interior is an available dual-screen dash display that trickled down from the flagship S-Class. The left screen located in front of the driver is configurable and displays all the pertinent vehicle information you'd expect from a tradition gauge cluster (vehicle speed, engine temp, etc). The center most screen runs the A-Class' infotainment system.
Unlike an average vehicle -- which offers you one, or maybe two ways to interact with the infotainment system -- the A-Class provides you with four different ways to control everything. You can use the touch pads on the steering wheel or the trackpad in the middle of the console. Or if you're feeling artistic, you can draw whatever you're looking for on the track pad. And if you don't want to lift a finger, you don't have to -- everything in the A-Class is controllable via an Alexa-like voice assistant.
But it's not all high-tech electronics in the A-Class. Mercedes included traditional round air vents, toggle switches for the climate controls and plenty of leather and wood accents. Even the A-Class' door handles look like they were designed by the museum of modern art.
And best of all, the A-Class has enough room for actual adults. Because it doesn't have a sloping roofline, the A-Class has more front and rear-seat room than the slightly larger CLA. However, it should be noted that the A-Class has a smaller trunk than the CLA.
But does it go?
On paper, our A220 4MATIC isn't a powerhouse with only 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque on tap. But the A220 makes good use of what power is there.
Despite being down 20 horsepower and 37 lb-ft of torque compared to the CLA, the A220 is only 0.2 seconds behind its sibling from 0-60 (6.9 seconds vs. 7.1 seconds). And to be honest, that's not really a difference you can notice in the real world.
The A-Class feels plenty zippy with good power throughout the rev range; we never really found a situation where the A-Class felt flatfooted. Truth be told, we actually prefer the A-Class' lower power output compared to the CLA. In certain situations the CLA's engine can feel peaky, but we never experienced those kinds of moments in the less powerful A220.
The A-Class also tops the CLA in terms of ride quality. The A-Class is softer sprung than the CLA and uses tires with thicker sidewalls, so it has a more luxurious ride. But just because it's comfortable, don't think the A-Class is floppy.
Thanks to its compact footprint and optional all-wheel drive, the A-Class is actually good fun to chuck around on a curvy road. The steering wheel in the A-Class doesn't deliver a tremendous amount of feel, but it is quick and direct, so it's easy to point the car exactly where you want it to go. A Sport mode is available to sharpen the steering and quicken throttle response.
MG's bottom line
As it turns out, the A-Class isn't just another small Mercedes sedan, it's the small Mercedes sedan.
The A-Class isn't just an incremental improvement over the current CLA; it's a massive leap forward. And not just in one single aspect -- the A-Class has the CLA licked from styling to interior appointments to tech. Not to mention it's less expensive!
A brand new CLA is on the way for 2020, but until then, the A-Class is the small Mercedes sedan you want.
2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC base price, $34,500. As tested, $51,155.
Iridium silver metallic paint, $720; Black/red leather, $1,450; Natural grain black linden wood trim, $325; Premium package, $2,100; 19-inch AMG wheels, $500; Garage door opener, $200; Exterior lighting package, $900; Multimedia package, $1,150; AMG Line, $2,600; SiriusXM, $460; Burmester surround sound system, $850; 64-color ambient lighting, $310; Wireless charging and NFC pairing, $200; Parking assistance package, $1,090; Driver assistance package, $2,250; Destination, $975.
Photos by Drew Johnson.