2019 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic quick spin review

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The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the German brand’s new entry-level model in the United States, slotting under the current CLA-Class (a car that’s set to be replaced sometime next year). In other markets, the Mercedes A-Class comes in different flavors (including a sleek hatchback), but for now, we’re only getting the A sedan. Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four cranking out 188 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, though our tester sent power to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s a similar powertrain to the CLA 250, though our editors universally agreed that the A-Class feels like it’s gone to finishing school. Final pricing hasn’t been announced, but expect the car to start below $35,000 before options.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: This A-Class tester has a lot, if not all, of the boxes ticked, so we can assume it’s quite expensive even if pricing is still TBA. That said, I could do without half of the items on the Monroney — AMG Line package ($2,600), 19-inch black wheels ($500), Burmeister sound system ($850), exterior lighting upgrades ($900), garage door opener ($280), the special leather ($1,450) and aluminum trim ($150) — and this compact sedan would still feel like a proper, premium Mercedes. I would absolutely keep the 64-color ambient lighting ($310), though, because that completely bathes the interior with ambiance, an effective trick to make it feel special and expensive.

I’d probably also keep the Premium Package ($2,100) to get the bigger digital displays that provide a lot of useful information in a clear and user-friendly manner. That technology definitely adds to the premium feel, adding what I would argue is more than its price tag worth of perceived quality.

I’d also definitely keep the Driver Assistance Package ($2,250). This is something Mercedes-Benz does better than most of the competition. Distronic is a confidence-inspiring application of adaptive cruise control, paired with a steering assist function that actually works. I didn’t even realize that this would help you change lanes on the highway, even after using it. With my hands on the wheel, it felt as natural as myself easing it from one lane to the next. It wasn’t until I noticed the message on the instrument panel that said something along the lines of “Lane change to the left” after I signaled that I figured out what it was doing. Once I realized it was actually active, I paid closer attention, and unlike the lane change function in Tesla’s Autopilot, this never felt like it was going to stuff me into the back of another car. It simply wouldn’t help change lanes if it wasn’t safe to do so. That package also adds a lot of useful, last-ditch safety features like blind-spot assist, active brake assist and evasive steering assist.

Anyway, this car is a joy to drive. It has a butter-smooth ride, and a comfy, tech-rich interior. I love 2.0-liter turbo motors, and this one is no exception. The car has plenty of oomph, but I managed decent fuel economy in the high 20s despite heavy-footing a bit. The drive modes are useful, really changing the behavior of the throttle, transmission and steering to suit the situation. I especially appreciated how aggressively economical the Eco mode was, shifting early and keeping revs low, but still springing to life when called upon from the right foot.

Oh, and my full-size Nalgene fit in the door!

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: This felt like a class above. Size doesn’t matter. A standard for the segment. Pick your cliche, and they’re all true and applicable to the Mercedes-Benz A 220. It has the gravitas of the C-Class, but in a smaller package. The A 220 is attractive and luxurious inside and out. The powertrain is spunky thanks to the turbo four-cylinder’s 221 pound-feet of torque and the dual-clutch gearbox that holds gears in sporty fashion during acceleration. With leather, purplish ambient lighting and colorful digital screens, the interior looks sharp. Slap on black 19-inch AMG wheels and LED lights, and the A 220 looks and feels the part. My only issue is the price. It takes all of these optional goodies to make this car really feel like a Mercedes.

The small sedan segment is a curious grouping. The A-Class is better than its Mercedes sibling, the CLA. The A3 offers stiff competition, but the A-Class feels more elegant. If we make this an apples to green apples comparison, there’s also the BMW 2 Series (RWD) and crossovers like the BMW X2, Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes GLA. I’d pick the A 220 as best-in-class, but it’s tight with the A3. Both offer excellent driving dynamics and don’t feel cheap or compromised. And if you’re going to buy something this small, you might as well choose something that’s nimble and sporty in sedan form, rather than take a cramped crossover.

Senior Editor Alex Kierstein: I agree with my colleagues here, and I’ll summarize what I said in my first drive of this car: this is a better small car than the CLA, which technically sits “above” the A 220 in the lineup. I think that’s important. Why sell both here at all? I don’t think this much incrementation is necessary in what, in this country at least, is a small and shrinking segment for premium small four-door cars. The interior experience is stunning compared to the competition. My take is: sell this in a few grades and call it good. Alas, Mercedes has other ideas.

There are a few caveats. I had the luxury of driving the front- and all-wheel-drive models back-to-back during my first drive. The AWD AMG Line car seems poorly damped, although it’s less noticeable in isolation. Frankly, with proper season-specific tires, there’s no real need for the AWD model in the first place. Save the bucks and spring for the Premium Package’s big displays, which really “make” the interior work — and make it feel like a Mercedes. The MBUX system, when it works, adds a techno-savvy element that makes the A-Class feel fresh.

Properly equipped, for most buyers I don’t think there’s much reason to spend more for a rear-drive C-Class when the front-drive A-Class does so much well. It’s a great size for young, upwardly mobile couples and will probably fit a car seat in a pinch without overly cramping anyone’s style. The trunk is huge. And it beats the Audi A3 on wow factor — and I actually like the A3‘s minimalist dash.

Associate Editor Reese Counts: To echo the other sentiments here, the new A-Class feels like a genuine Mercedes-Benz. I was never hot on the CLA (which for some strange reason is still on sale), and the A 220 just shows what a proper compact Benz should look and feel like (compact is a relative term, as the exterior dimensions are within an inch or two of my old W202 1999 C-Class). In my mind, it nails all the high points without skimping too much on the luxury and tech, two things in my mind that define Mercedes-Benz. Take a listen to the podcast to hear Greg, Alex and I discuss the car in length.

Contributing Editor James Riswick: Since no one else has really dug into MBUX yet, let me be the guy. Although prolonged exposure to it will probably yield additional nits to pick (like Alex, I drove it on the press launch), in general I’m impressed with Mercedes’ new electronics interface that will eventually find its way throughout the lineup. The new GLE and AMG GT 4-Door Coupe Sedan thing already have it.

Specifically, I appreciate that MBUX provides four different ways to accomplish the same task. There’s the new-and-improved touch-sensitive control pad (larger with a flat leather-like surface), the little control nubby things on the steering wheel (migrated from last COMAND generation), the central touchscreen (a Mercedes first), and the natural voice-recognition commands (“Hey Mercedes, take me to Reese’s house”). Personally, I would rarely use choices 1 or 4, but that’s my preference. Maybe you’ll like keeping your hands on the steering wheel and calling up “Hey Mercedes” for simple and complicated commands alike. Having such redundancy maximizes the car’s ability to cater to different tastes and preferences.

For contrast, consider the infuriating Lexus Remote Touch system, or touchscreens mounted too low on the dash, or knob-and-display interfaces that you sometimes just want to override and tap the damn screen. MBUX’s redundancy eliminates such annoyance.

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