What is it: The 2019 A-Class is the newest addition to Mercedes-Benz's North American lineup, though previous generations have long been sold in other markets. American buyers get the choice of one bodystyle (a four-door sedan), one engine/transmission combo (a 2.0-liter four mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch) and either front- or 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Key Competitors: Audi A3, BMW 2-Series, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
Base Price: $35,000 (est.) As-Tested Price: $48,015 (est.)
Full review: 2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 first drive
Highlights: The A-Class sedan is meant to complement, rather than replace, the CLA (or at least that's the official line at the moment). But from its road manners to the look and feel of the cabin to available tech, it feels a good measure nicer than the other small Benz. This particular tester gets all drive assist bells and whistles you can think of, a bunch you probably couldn't — and some frankly superfluous extras.
Our Opinion: I think there's a decent car under the flash on this Mercedes-Benz A220 — I'm pretty sure of it, in fact — but it's a little tough to tell. It's as if Mercedes-Benz took all of the technology and a lot of the glitz of a loaded C-Class (or maybe the new GLE, since it too has a metric ton of onboard tech) and smooshed it all into a much smaller car. As-equipped, it's a bit overwhelming.
No, that's not quite accurate: it's totally overwhelming. To start, there are two 10.25-inch digital screens in front of you. The central one is a touchscreen that can also be manipulated with a touchpad. The other one — the digital instrument cluster — mostly uses steering wheel controls, and you can change its appearance as well as the information it displays as long as you fiddle with it long enough. There's a configurable heads-up display that you have to nudge one of the steering wheel controls upward to access. Get ready for menus within menus within menus and redundant ways to access each.
Meanwhile, there's an MBUX digital assistant chiming to "help" any time you so much as think the word "Mercedes," and to add another level of distraction to the mix, whoever configured this car paid $310 for 64-color ambient party lighting on the door panels and even within the air vents that are supposed to resemble turbines but come off as disco-lit metal sphincters.
There is a lot going on here.
Strip a lot of that away, or at least disable it, and the A-Class seems like a fundamentally good small car. It feels less crashy and more than a bit more "premium," as diffuse as that term may be, than the CLA (which this does not, apparently, replace). The A220 has, at 107.4 inches, a longer wheelbase than the CLA (at 106.3 inches), even though it is slightly shorter overall. The rear seat area feels more usable, even for me, a six-foot tall male. In addition to the extra legroom, I think it's because the A-Class is a sedan, while Benz bills the CLA-class as a four-door coupe. Which means that on the former less rear headroom is sacrificed in pursuit of a sleeker profile.
Still, there's nothing about the ride that screams "supple," especially with the lowered suspension (courtesy of the AMG Line package) and big 19-inch wheels. You are getting a notably different Mercedes experience in this car than you would in a C-Class, which feels grander and more relaxed even when it's stripped down to the base grade. This is an experience the automaker has long offered in other markets, but it's a bit harder to wrap your head around here in the United States, where Benz has always been a luxury brand exclusively. I suspect that, to help bridge the perception gap, this tester has been totally tricked out and sports a sticker price of something like $48,000 (estimated). Wowzer. I'd like to know what this car is like when it's closer to the base price. I suspect it feels less anxious.
One more thing: Driving around, the MBUX assistant would occasionally pop up seemingly out of nowhere (nobody in the car had said "Mercedes" to prompt it, so it must have been some weird, misheard combination of syllables that pricked its digital ears). I'd say "never mind" to dismiss it. The car would then proceed read me the first few lines of the Wikipedia entry for, and I could not make this up if I wanted to, Emily Litella, who was apparently a Gilda Radner SNL character that was popular a decade before I was born. This happened a few times over the course of a long holiday weekend.
The whole basis of the bit was that the Litella character misheard everything, and as I later learned, her signature line was "never mind." Am I being paranoid, or was the car was straight up trolling me?
–Graham Kozak, features editor
Options: AMG Line including bodystyling, chrome finish, diamond-block grille, brakes w/ perforated front brake discs, lowered suspension ($2,600); Driver Assistance Package including active distance assist, Distronic active steering assist, active brake assist with cross traffic function, evasive steering assist, active lane change assist, active emergency stop assist, route-based speed adaptation, active speed limit assist, active blind spot assist, active lane keeping assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Pre-Safe Sound ($2,250); Premium package including 10.25-inch touchscreen, 10.25-inch digital display, blind spot assist, keyless go, hands-free access, auto-dimming rearview mirror and driver’s side mirror, power folding side mirrors ($2,100); titanium gray/black leather ($1,450); Multimedia package including MB navigation, augmented video, traffic sign assist ($1,150); Parking assist package including surround view system, active parking asssist ($1,090); exterior lighting package including adaptive highbeam assist, active LED lights ($900); Burmester sound system ($850); 19-inch wheels ($500); satellite radio ($460); 64-color ambient lighting ($310); garage door opener ($280); wireless charging ($200); brushed aluminum trim ($150)
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