In a choice that oozes sincerity if not finely honed customer research, Mercedes-Benz’s marketing team decided the secret to selling more small vehicles to Americans was to make them look more like traditional sedans.
That’s the origin story for the 2019 Mercedes A220 4Matic sedan, which offers a more conventional, upright profile than the sleek CLA that was the first front-wheel drive compact car Mercedes sold in the United States.
Because, like, everybody knows Americans love sedans. That’s why the body style hit an historic low at less than 30 percent of 2018 vehicle sales. Ford decided to stop selling them in favor of vehicles with SUV looks because selling sedans is so easy and profitable that it was beneath the Blue Oval to continue doing so.
Maybe Mercedes knows something other automakers don’t, or maybe it figured it was building the new A-class anyway, so what the heck? Why not ship a few to America to see if it’s the small sedan Americans have been waiting for?
Either way, the A220 is in dealerships, offering Mercedes’s new and vastly improved controls and creative and attractive interior design.
Behind the wheel
2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4Matic
All-wheel-drive, five-passenger compact sedan
Price as tested: $48,790 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: Three out of four stars
Reasons to buy: Interior look and feel; rear headroom; handling.
Shortcomings: Trunk space; rear legroom, no USB A-type ports; cost..
The A220 is the sedan version of Mercedes’ new compact architecture.
Competitors include small luxury cars such as the Audi A3, BMW 2-series coupe, Cadillac ATS, Jaguar XE and Volvo S60.
The A220 is similar in size to Mercedes’s sleeker CLA, which is currently in its last model year before a new, bigger version model arrives late this year. At 179.1 inches long, the A220 is 2.2 inches shorter than the 2019 CLA and 5.5 inches shorter than the coming 2020 CLA, with which it shares its architecture and wheelbase.
The A220 is 3.6 inches shorter than a Honda Civic sedan, so you can see we’re talking about a small car.
A 2.0-liter engine, front-wheel drive and seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission are standard. All-wheel, which Mercedes calls 4Matic, is optional.
Mercedes will also build a small GLA SUV based on the architecture. That’s virtually certain to be the best-selling model in the company’s compact line when it reaches U.S. dealers, probably early in 2010.
Specifications as tested
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder
Power: 188 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm; 221 pound-feet of torque @ 1,250-4,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Acceleration: 7.1 seconds 0-60 miles per hour
Top speed: 130 miles per hour
Wheelbase: 107.4 inches
Length: 179.1 inches
Width: 70.7 inches
Height: 56.9 inches
Curb Weight: 3,416 pounds
Prices for the A-class start at $32,500 for a front-wheel drive model and $34,500 for Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD system. Both prices are $600 less than the comparable 2019 CLA 250.
I tested an AWD A220 4Matic that cost a hefty $48,790. All prices exclude destination charges.
My test car had adaptive cruise control, blind-spot alert, lane-departure assist; touch screen; dual zone climate control; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; voice recognition; leather upholstery; heated front seats; memory for the driver’s settings; power adjustable seats; push button start; LED headlights and taillights; adjustable 64-color ambient lighting; 19-inch AMG multispoke black wheels.
The A220 competes with small luxury cars like the Audi A3, BMW 2-series, Cadillac ATS and Jaguar XE. The A220’s base price is at the low end of the group, but options add up fast.
Competitive base prices
(Excluding destination charges)
(Automatic transmission, all-wheel drive models.)
Mercedes-Benz A220 4Matic: $34,500
Audi A3 2.0T Premium Quattro: $35,600
BMW 230i xDrive: $37,300
Cadillac ATS 2.0L AWD: $37,495
Jaguar XE 2.5T AWD: $39,345
Volvo S60 Momentum AWD : $40,300
German automakers have finally tired of the multifunction rotary controllers they’ve inflicted on customers for the better part of two decades. The A220’s controls are a breath of fresh air: easy to learn and use. The A220 introduces Mercedes’s new MBUX system, which disposes of the rotary controller in favor of a touch screen and an unobtrusive touch pad. I’m not a fan of using touch pads in moving vehicles, but the A220’s is largely redundant to the touch screen, meaning you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.
“UX,” is short for “user experience,” the auto industry buzzword du jour for how easy it is to use a vehicle’s climate and audio controls, voice recognition, etc. Based on the A220, MBUX looks like a winner.
The gauges and touch screen in my car were part of a $2,100 option package that creates a dual-screen display rising from the top of the dash. It’s intended to resemble a tablet, a look designers at many automakers are infatuated with.
The A220’s a creative interior design includes vents that light up red or blue, respectively, when you raise or lower the temperature, and soft materials on the doors, dash and arm rests.
The A220 4Matic’s steering and handling are responsive are sporty. Its ride is comfortable and the interior is quiet.
The 8.6 cubic foot trunk is smaller than any of the competitors’. Rear legroom is also tight.
The interior has several USB-C ports, but none of the larger, more common USB-A. That’ll be convenient as the smaller, faster USB-Cs become more common. Until then, however, it means you’ll need an adapter to use most smartphones and other devices. The Lightning connector in Mercedes’ proprietary iPhone adapter would not work with my small phone case, so I used one of my own cables.
Apple CarPlay performed inconsistently during my test, with the car frequently losing connection to my iPhone.
The 2.0L engine’s output of 188 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque are less than all comparably priced competitors.
Acceleration feels fine thanks to the quick shifting transmission, but the Mercedes’s claimed 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds is slower than the AWD CLA, A3, 230i, XE 2.5t and S60. It’s probably slower than the ATS, too, but Cadillac inexplicably doesn’t publish a 0-60 time.
EPA fuel economy rating: 25 miles per gallon city/ 35 highway/ 28 combined