Review update: 2020 Mercedes-Benz A220 struts its small-car savoir-faire

Budget ‘Benzes are boffo in my book.

Not only for the alliterative opportunities but also because they’ve been pretty good. That’s a far throw from faultless, mind you. The last-gen GLA and CLA were less comfortable in the rear seats than a front-row seat in an iron maiden—and I don’t mean a concert. They didn’t drive particularly well either, but for round-about $30,000 a three-pointed star could be yours. That’s the point. It helped that the car attached to the star looked like a Mercedes, too.

The current crop of baby ‘Benzes does it better.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz A220 sedan is the least expensive of the bunch, compared to the CLA-, GLA-, and GLB-Classes. All four cars broadly share the basics: a base 2.0-liter turbo-4 mated to a 7- or 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available on all of the above, and performance variants are in the mail.

Based on looks alone, the GLA-, CLA-, and A-Classes have their tickets to the ball and the GLB may be stuck at home with the chores. The GLB250 is my Cinderella too; it’s more practical, spacious, and more sedate, which is more in line with my worldview. The A-Class takes a different tack. After our first drive, we were impressed by the planted feel behind the wheel of the A-Class.

I’ll second that assessment, and here’s what I learned after a week.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

Hit: You go, grille

Either because I’m old, or old at heart, but I still think the proportions of the A220 are better suited to small cars than the CLA250’s dramatic profile, which has a swoopier roof and slinkier lines. Both cars look great, but the A-Class looks better with a broad and wide Mercedes-Benz sport-style grille, short overhangs, and a rising tail like a sprinter in the blocks. The grille looks great and the rest of the body follows wonderfully with an athletic, poised shape.

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2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

Hit: Fun to drive

The base turbo-4 in the A220 is rated at 188 horsepower, which is less than similarly sized engines found in the GLB, GLA, and CLA—down 20 to 33 hp to all three. The engines in all four share the same displacement, bore, stroke, and although the compression ratios are slightly different, the difference in horsepower is likely down to boost. With smaller boost but less weight, from behind the wheel, the A220 feels brighter, sharper, and less laggy than the others. The A220 grips, steers, and pivots without being too stiff. Superb.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

 

Miss: Not practical

The rear seats aren’t old CLA-style poor, but they are tight for bigger frames. Paired with a puny 8.6-cubic foot trunk, the A220 is a pretty lousy Home Depot shuttle. What’s more, the seats aren’t as comfortable as those in BMW and Audi rivals, and the synthetic leather Mercedes uses doesn’t feel as durable.

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

Hit and Miss: Infotainment

Mercedes’ outsized, twin 10.3-inch screens for instruments and infotainment are huge in the dash of the A-Class. Like, IMAX-screen-in-my-bathtub big. Cool tech today; eyesore tomorrow. But the automaker’s infotainment software, voice recognition, and integration into the car’s other systems are superb. For instance, programming a destination into the navigation system not only shows the route, time of arrival, and turn-by-turn information in the instrument cluster, it also shows augmented reality projections on the main screen, so I know when next to turn via a live look. It’s all very slick and helpful, and also very complicated. Tapping the infotainment’s reserve of information and entertainment, possibilities, and using the internet-connected voice recognition system, all take more time and concentration than the SATs. That’s likely more time than most buyers will be willing to spend with the large screens. And two of the accurate and helpful touch controllers—one on the steering wheel and one on the center console (the other is the center screen itself)—are easily missed.

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2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

 

Miss: Lousy details

My tester’s contrasting synthetic leather seats did no favors to the A220’s finer details or lack thereof. The stitching on the seats is unconvincingly awkward—three wide horizontal loops down the seatback that looked like an afterthought. The Mercedes star up front was covered in a thin, pocked, and easily scratchable transparent surface (that I also found on the GLB-Class, but nowhere else), and the A220 started to feel like the entry-level luxury car that it is. Bummer.

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220

Miss: Option, option

You wouldn’t know that by the price. My tester rang up almost $14,000 in options­—same with the model we first drove—and its bloated $48,295 final price felt like a far cry from its $35,795 starting price. Inflation-adjusted, that’s more than the first CLA-Class that was available for just over $30,000 when it went on sale, but this A220 is a better car with a better ride, even if the price of entry is higher.

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2020 Mercedes-Benz A220 4Matic

Base price: $35,795 including destination

Price as tested: $48,295

Drivetrain: 188-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 24/34/28 mpg

The hits: Exterior looks great, fun to drive, good tech…

The misses: …but it’s a challenge to learn, options add up in a hurry, cramped trunk.

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