- Feels nicely sorted in almost all driving
- Knockout cabin
- Excellent after-dark drive
- Dual-clutch transmission can feel strange
- Strange shifter placement
- Some on-screen info / controls hidden by steering wheel
The newly launched A-Class also happens to be the least expensive Mercedes-Benz on the lot, which makes it one of the brand’s most important cars.
As the point of entry to the brand, the 2020 A-Class sedan in particular is a flagship in its own right – and a machine that the Mercedes marketing department hopes will tempt shoppers with its compelling blend of ride quality, interior design, and an after-dark driving environment that will knock your socks off.
The grille is prominent, but not excessive. The headlights are angular and sporty – even calling the Ford Mustang to mind from some angles. Signature design cues abound throughout, right down to the swoopy, chrome-lined greenhouse.
The A 220 sedan’s fascia is a freshly energized take on something familiar, and the rest of the package sees plenty of the brand’s styling energy applied in full. It’s sporty, elegant, and instantly recognized as a Mercedes-Benz from the outside.
On board, the A 220 makes a significant first impression as drivers tug a solid door lever just before sliding in behind one of the most vibrant-looking dash layouts on the road. In fact, much of the forward scenery is virtually cut-and-pasted from twice-the-price machinery higher up the model range.
The instrument cluster is a widescreen display that flows into the nearby infotainment system, with aggressive applications of rich metal trim. Better still, much of what you see and touch looks and feels substantial.
The ambient lighting is noteworthy, and after dark the cabin is awash in the vibrant glow of targeted fibre-optic lighting and high-resolution displays. By day, it’s metallic, graceful, and nicely ornamented; at night, it lights up like a high-end gaming PC, complete with excellent graphics from the giant central display.
On active safety, my tester had things nailed down. Complete with winter rubber, the ABS brakes offered up enhanced bite deployed towards fast and straight stops on challenging winter surfaces. The pedal action inspires confidence, and the stops are nicely sorted and free of much drama.
The LED-fired headlights are powerful, though the high-beams don’t make a huge difference far up unlit highways.
My tester was fitted with an assortment of outward-looking safety gear as well, including blind-spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, automatic emergency braking, and more.
My tester boasted enough interior room for four adults of a similar size (5'10", 200 lb), but only just. Shoppers have larger and more spacious options for the money, if needed. Up front, there’s adequate storage for small items and beverages, and plenty of charging nearby. Note that all power outlets are the updated USB-C style, and you may need an adapter.
The A 220’s trunk has all the good stuff: A sturdy feel, especially springy actuation for a hearty lift, and blessedly, a proper closer handle that negates the need to touch the salt-covered trunk-lid in winter months. The opening is wide, the floor is relatively low, and space should prove sufficient for most weekly duties or shorter road trips.
User Friendliness 8 /10
Mostly, the A 220 won’t cause first-time users too much stress – though you’ll need to spend a few hours to sort through your new supercomputer infotainment system.
Using a centrally mounted trackpad, the touchscreen, or some touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel face, you’ll manipulate hundreds of vehicle functions. These even include the style of digital tachometer you’d prefer, and the colour of the ambient mood lighting. Many of these features can be easily fiddled with using voice command, too.
The tech-savvy and highly connected shopper targeted by this car will have the entire thing sorted in about 90 seconds; tech-challenged folks may need a day or two.
Elsewhere, with automatic lights, wipers, and climate control, there’s little for the driver to do but focus on the road ahead. And with steering-wheel-mounted controls including voice command and remote infotainment manipulation, very little requires your hand to leave the wheel or your eyes to leave the road.
This includes shifting gears. The gear selector itself is just like a wiper stalk – it even sits where wiper stalks usually go – except it handles the job of shifting into and out of park, drive, and reverse. The small electronic wand is nice-looking and easy to use with your right-hand middle finger while your hand stays on the wheel. One gripe with the selector is that its position feels illogical and strange until it’s committed to memory. The wipers, by the way, are built into the turn-signal lever. I got used to it after a week, but it never quite felt right.
Further, the driver’s climate-control and heated steering wheel switches are hidden by the steering wheel, requiring drivers to avert their gaze in order to track the controls down.
Priced in the mid-$40,000 range, my tester’s equipment level made things feel like a good value. A large sunroof, push-button start, full smartphone and multimedia connectivity, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a kick-to-open trunk and seamless Android Auto compatibility were among my favourites.
Many shoppers will go with the Sport package – a $1,500 add-on that gets you some upgraded visuals, upgraded wheels, and sports seating and brakes. The aluminum shift paddles feel great, and the metal sport pedals feel as good as they look. The included AMG floor mats are a godsend in winter too; they trap everything before it spills to the carpeted floor, are easy to clean, and look great to boot.
Under the hood, it’s got a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder with 188 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. These figures suggest good fuel economy and decent punch, though A 220 is far from the gutsiest machine you could spend this kind of money on.
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Thanks to the low-end torque from the turbocharger, it feels downright punchy around town. Drivers get on-demand access to strong torque from low revs, and the car scoots along smoothly with minimal noise and revs. This is where the engine does its most impressive work, quickly whisking you around town and through your day.
During highway-speed merging and passing, the engine is tasteful, smooth, and never loud enough to interrupt a conversation – though some drivers will wish for a bit more kick.
Provided you and yours find the A 220 sedan roomy enough, there’s little concern relating to comfort. I noted no gripes related to seats, entry, exit, or manoeuvring around behind the wheel.
Some occupants noted a lower-than-expected seating height, and a bigger drop down into the A-Class’s cabin than expected.
Ride comfort is very nicely done, and drivers who find small luxury sedans too stiff or sporty will likely approve of the way the A 220 is dialled in. It takes fairly rough roads to coax much noise or harshness from the suspension beneath, and on the highway, the A 220 feels dense and smooth, and heavier than its size leads on.
It’s a small luxury car that rides like something bigger. The feel leans toward the comfy side of the spectrum, though there is a sporty tidiness to the suspension and steering that keep things lively for spirited browsing of winding roads, too.
Driving Feel: 9/10
The feel of the A 220’s various controls and systems coming together at the tips of your fingers and toes create a good portion of this machine’s secret sauce.
The steering adjusts its feel and feedback in relation to the current speed of travel, situation, and drive mode. The result is steering that always feels just about perfect – feather-light for parking, relaxed but precise on the highway, and quick and heavy when in sport mode.
The brakes operate with polish, too. The pedal is precise but not touchy, the action inspires confidence, and the response is smooth and consistent. Add in the comfy ride with a delightful touch of athletic flair, the excellent headlights, and the engine’s gleeful low-end torque, and you’ve got a machine that feels natural and composed in virtually any situation.
The operation of the all-wheel drive system in winter conditions is notable as well. Specifically, by powering all four wheels from the get-go, there’s no meaningful wheel slippage before full traction arrives. From the driver’s seat, the effect is immediate bite off the line, even in deep snow. The system even picks up on your vibe, allowing plenty of wheelspin if you’re trying to clear a snowbank, or locking things down if you’re driving extra carefully in a blizzard. With winter tires mounted, it’s point-and-shoot traction with no driver bandwidth required.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
I found my tester’s fuel economy to be reasonable given the available low-end punch from the turbo engine. On two occasions, I was able to handle a four-hour winter highway drive on a half-tank of fuel. Longer-distance drivers should find little issue with the A 220’s fuel tank size or cruising range. Official fuel economy ratings put the A 220 4Matic sedan at a combined 8.4 L/100 km. Your results will vary.
Provided shoppers are accepting of the A 220’s size and a few ergonomic quibbles, this machine amounts to money very well spent in the small luxury car segment today. Shoppers primarily after fuel efficiency and comfort served up alongside a high-end motoring experience will find fantastic return on their investment.
The A 220 isn’t the biggest or most powerful machine you could buy for the money, and a few minor ergonomic gripes may dull the appeal for some shoppers. Beyond that, it’s a package worthy of close consideration. On its interior design, after-dark driving environment, and user interfaces, it’s some of the very best and brightest stuff in the business right now.The real deal 3/17/2020 6:30:00 AM 3/17/2020 6:30:00 AM
|Peak Horsepower||188 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|Peak Torque||221 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||9.7/6.8/8.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||420 L|