2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4Matic Review - Punching Above Its Weight
2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC
The entry-level Mercedes-Benz sedan has an odd history. Until the W201 series in the mid-Eighties, there really wasn’t anything truly in the smaller classes, and the nomenclature (190E) seemed deceiving, reminding some of the larger E-class. Still, these were popular cars, even spawning the epic twin-cam powered Cosworth models that allowed the smallest Benz sports sedan to go race in the DTM series, and eventually bearing a more natural “C” class naming syntax.
But the C got bigger and more expensive, and soon upstart luxury brands began nipping at the heels of the three-pointed star on the lower end. The first A-class was underwhelming, though with the typical application of AMG-style power it could be fun.
This newest A-class, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC, has a good deal to answer for. Will the typical Stuttgart amenities be enough to sway those remaining small sedan buyers, or will they shy away from the babiest of Baby Benzes?
I know the styling is polarizing. The proportions are a bit funky, with a longish front overhang, a high cowl, a very upright greenhouse, and stubby tail all contributing to an unusual profile. But this is an example of making different work, at least to my eyes. In this well-equipped example with optional 19-inch wheels, a lowered suspension, and blacked-out trim, the A220 looks handsomely purposeful.
That stubby trunk lid betrays a tiny cargo space, sadly – only 8.6 narrow cubic feet of space back there, though the seatbacks do fold for a bit of flexibility. Those rear seats do give the rear passengers plenty of room, with ample leg, head, and shoulder room keeping a pair of sisters from encroaching upon their respective texting habits.
The front seats are marvelous — I briefly considered whipping out a ratchet and sockets to steal them for my minivan. Doubtful that anyone would notice the swap, right? But these chairs are all-day comfortable, with enough bolstering to keep things in place when driving aggressively.
The dashboard is designed to wow, with a pair of 10.3-inch panels integrated into a single slab. The visuals for gauges, infotainment, navigation, and climate are bright, distinct, and attractive – and highly customizable. The touchpad in the center console is intuitive and responsive, with a handy wrist rest to position the hand for ideal mousing. Most audio, phone, and nav functions can easily be mirrored on the steering wheel, with solid-feeling metallic buttons, touchpads, switches, and knobs controlling everything with ease.
More glitz comes from the accent lighting glowing throughout the cabin, which can be easily adjusted or switched off. My kids chose the purple and red shown here. The cellphone wireless charging pad immediately forward of the cupholders has a nice touch – a hinged plastic bar that helps to keep the phone in contact with the pad, minimizing situations where the phone becomes dislodged and thus not charging.
I’m not a fan of the column-mounted shift lever in the A220. While I actually like the traditional right-side-of-the-column lever location, reminding me of American cars from the Eighties, the actual feel of this lever is cheap. It’s made of thin, lightweight plastic, and looks too much like a windscreen wiper stalk. While I’m certain that with today’s electronic transmission controls there’s likely no chance of dropping into park while on the interstate, I still don’t love the look or feel.
Other than that flimsy shift lever, I love how this A220 drives. 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque doesn’t sound like much in a world where the headline-grabbing sports sedans have well over 400 horses (including the insane 416 hp coming to the AMG version of this A-Class), but this A220 moves nicely enough. Car and Driver, for example, measured a zero-to-sixty time of 6.1 seconds, which is plenty quick, especially for this class. I was further impressed by the fuel economy. I was able to manage 32.2 mpg in my week of mixed driving, which is quite close to the EPA rating for highway only.
Handling, too, is great for what this is. Sure, the AMG accoutrements lower and tighten the ride, but the chassis is solid and quiet, which speaks to the excellent chassis beneath the entire lineup. The steering is especially communicative, with a good weight to the chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel. The ride is luxury-car smooth even with these big wheels, though I do notice some wind noise from the A-pillar at highway speeds.
I’m almost ashamed about how much I liked the Mercedes-Benz A220. On paper, it doesn’t stack up – it’s small but expensive. The trunk is tiny. It’s not that powerful. My tester had another fifty percent added in options to the base MSRP.
But this little sedan charmed me. It looks fantastic – there are few cars that I like painted white, ever since my old landlord decided to pave the only exit to the complex shortly before I left for class, leaving spatters of tar on my new-ish white Ford Focus. But this A220, with blacked out trim, wheels, and grille inserts, has a presence that few small sedans offer.
Further, though it’s not a high-performance car with a snarling tuned engine, this baby Benz drives with balance and joy. Yes, it’s a front-drive-based all-wheel drive system, but it feels sprightly. It’s a rare entry-level luxury sedan these days that still caters to a driver, all while maintaining a sensible personality. It won’t find a home at a track day, but it will encourage some drivers to take the long way home.
[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]
Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.
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