The Mercedes-Benz brand of automobiles has always garnered a high level of respect for both safety and putting advanced technology front and center. For the consumer, Mercedes-Benz combines safety, comfort, and a level of refined luxury that has defined the brand for decades. The A-Class continues that tradition in a small 4-door sedan package. More classically styled than the CLA, the entry-level sedan that Mercedes-Benz has been selling for about 6 years, that many old-school Mercedes-Benz owners felt was not befitting the Star. The 2019 A-220 4MATIC Sedan offers much of what both Mercedes-Benz loyalists and younger buyers are looking for. Though at a price point and attention to build quality, that may not be what consumers want or expect.
The A-Class looks more like a Mercedes-Benz, the interior feels more like an upscale M-B with an attention to detail in both materials and styling. Surfaces are designed and made of materials that are both pleasing visually as well as to the touch. Grabbing the meaty steering wheel of this, the smallest of the USA models in the current M-B lineup, reminded me of the early 190e of the 1980s, referred to at the time as the “Baby Benz.” The first thing I noticed about the A-Class was how much it was like the more expensive SUV models with its rectangular full dash display, and like all M-B’s, attention to detail and fine level of design.
None of this comes cheaply, and the M-B brand has always offered price points that are higher than similar level models from other manufacturers. The new A-Class starts with a mid-$30K entry price before options and delivery, and on our tester topped $49K. That included a lot of extras, some of which were wonderful, some of which seemed to be just add-ons that I questioned did I really want or need? And would I pay for if I were buying this car?
What To Expect in the A-Class
There is no question it is a Mercedes-Benz. The A-Class carries classic Mercedes-Benz styling with sleek flowing tailored lines, with solid square shapes that are aerodynamic and pleasing to the eye. In a world where so many small sedan designs are similar, the A220 is not contrived or to be confused with any others from a variety of manufacturers.
Indeed the A-Class is similar in size to its 1980’s W201 – 190E forebearer, with a well laid-out but tight interior for four passengers. While the front was comfortable, the rear seat leg area became cramped with front seats moved back into a comfortable position for the front seat passengers. The A-Class has an impressively spacious trunk, which is often not the case cars this size.
A real surprise is that the A-Class has a bit of a harsh ride. Even in the world of sports sedans, which tend to be stiff but well sprung. Mercedes-Benz hallmark has always been a smooth and soft ride, even on its racier AMG versions. You will be aware of the condition of the pavement as you drive this car.
Inside the A-Class, the first thing you notice is the rectangular pad-like screen that combines the 7,0-inch digital instrument cluster and the 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia display mounted on the dash. The same as you will find in the new GLB and GLS. The A-Class features the MBUX infotainment system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), incorporating artificial intelligence to learn automatically adapting to changes in patterns of behavior. This MBUX has an entirely new user interface, natural speech recognition, touchscreen capabilities, and a new touchpad on the center console.
Along with the MBUX multimedia system with intelligent Voice Control, the A-Class includes a panorama sliding glass roof, complete in-car connectivity with standard smartphone integration with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The exterior features standard 17″ wheels and LED headlamps and taillamps. Though our tester had the optional $500 19-inch black AMG multi-spoke wheels, and the $900 Exterior Lighting Package with active LED headlamps and adaptive high-beam assist.
The A-Class is equipped with a lot of the latest safety and on-board tech. This does take some getting used to, and well worth taking the time to learn how to use it and how it works. I was quite impressed one dark evening, sitting at a stoplight in Georgetown DC traffic with a myriad of automotive and pedestrians all around. The center display showed both a bicyclist and a scooter, one on either side of me that seemed to just appear. The A-Class’s surround camera picked them up and displayed them clear as day. Later that night, I thought I would change lanes, the A-Class’s right outside mirror lit up with the Active Blind Spot Assist warning, though I saw no car. Then a car without its lights on passed by me on the right. Without that modern tech, I would never have seen any of those hazards and possibly making a mistake that would have caused injury or damage.
The in-car safety technology found in Mercedes-Benz cars has no doubt prevented many accidents. Today’s latest round of safety-tech is going to provide drivers with even more protection as our ever-encroaching, and busy roadways and diversions distract our attention.
Like all German auto brands, options quickly add to the base price to provide a bigger bottom line. The Mercedes-Benz A 220 Sedan starts at just $32,500, while the A 220 4MATIC Sedan will start from $34,500. My tester ended up with a $49,785 sticker (including a $995 delivery fee.) $2,250 Driver’s Assistance Package, $1,550 Premium Package and a number of $200 to $900 options that gave the car everything from wireless charging (something I strongly believe in,) to heated front seats, $580 and a Burmaster Sound system, $850.
While the base price may be tempting, it is always best to compare what the car equipped the way you would want it to be when looking at the full price tag, and then comparing it to similarly equipped models that you could choose from.
The A-Class Sedan can also be customized with unique design and equipment lines, including the optionally available AMG Line or Night Package, as well as a Multimedia Package that includes Mercedes-Benz Navigation and augmented video. KEYLESS-GO with HANDS-FREE ACCESS is also available, which conveniently enables the hands-free and fully automatic opening of the trunk lid with a kicking motion under the rear bumper.
As with every Mercedes-Benz vehicle, safety is a top priority. The standard and highly sophisticated safety systems include Active Brake Assist, Crosswind Assist, and adaptive braking technology with Hill Start Assist and HOLD function. In addition, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC® with Route-Based Speed Adaptation, Active Steering Assist, and a suite of advanced driver assistance systems are also optionally available.
As the new gateway to Mercedes-Benz, the A-Class Sedan is well-positioned to attract a new generation of buyers to further advance the brand’s success story in the premium compact segment that began in 2013 with the launch of the CLA. In 2017, nearly one in two buyers of a Mercedes-Benz compact car in the U.S. had previously driven a competitor vehicle, and more than 50-percent of CLA customers were new to Mercedes-Benz (first-time buyers and conquests).
Indeed Benz was the very first car ever made, and while other German brands have gone for a sportier image attracting a younger demographic, Mercedes-Benz has its own way of defining high performance with AMG. The letters “AMG” stand for Aufrecht, Melcher, and Großaspach (Aufrecht’s birth town). AMG is Mercedes-Benz’s refined, well thought out, and well-engineered approach to performance, both from a power plant point of view to the way the car rides and how it looks. And in the case of our A-Class test vehicle, a fashion statement, more than any performance or handling upgrades.
The 2019 A-Class provides that mix of old-school Engineering with today’s modern technology, complete with the safety that comes with the cameras, sensors, and all. At one time, the C-Class and it’s predecessor the 190E was the entry-level to the Mercedes-Benz Line. During the recent decade, smaller sportier cars with lower price tags have been slipped into the lineup. M-B slipped a sleekly designed CLA into American dealers showrooms just six years ago, while keeping the more classically Mercedes-Benz designed A-Class for the European market.
We liked the A-Class better than the CLA, While the CLA was an affordable way for younger buyers to join the legion of loyal Mercedes-Benz buyers, it never really lived up to the heritage the brand had built over the last fifty years.
Where the A-Class Could Improve
I did find a few weaknesses in the 2019 model I tested. The ride is a bit harsh for what I think of as a Mercedes-Benz. The A-Class is sort of a brick drop when you hit a bump. You feel it, clean and straightforward, no dampening or athletically springing back from it, even for what you would expect on a sports sedan.
The plastic on the center console scratched easily and had a sharp edge. While the design was great, it will not hold up like one would expect from a Mercedes-Benz.
Powertrains in Mercedes-Benz have always been known to be tank solid. The A-Class’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine did not feel or sound as one would expect. During one acceleration on a highway on-ramp, this tester studdered and felt as if were grinding gears before jumping into full speed. Build quality on our test car was a bit sloppy, our tester had some heavy gloopy caulk lines on the seams inside the trunk lid area, again, not the quality that we would expect from a Star Car.
Would I buy this Car? Much of the standard equipment in the A-Class is what you would expect in the C or E-Class models. The A-Class is a very stylishly designed car, everything in proportion, tightly tucked in, while not large on the inside or outside, still a very attractive and timeless design, not unlike the decades of models before it. So in that mindset, I liked the car very much. It is the details that I found that the A220 did not live up to a Star on the hood. A C-Class will be a good option, even one previously owned if you are trying to stick to a tighter price point.
Words and Images by
William West Hopper
Mr. Hopper has been a Mercedes-Benz enthusiast since he saw his first SL in the early 1970s. Serving on the local and national Board of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America for close to twenty years. Mr. Hopper has written for several enthusiasts and commercial publications about Mercedes-Benz automobiles.