2021 Mercedes A220: This Benz Doesn't Feel Entry Level
A conquest model usually gets the short end of the OEM's stick. Not this Merc.
When luxury manufacturers eye buyers making the jump to a premium marque for the first time, those models used to target them are stepchildren within the brand. Cheaper quality materials, smaller dimensions, and a lesser experience. The sort of stuff that gets most people in the door with an ad campaign wrapped around an incentive rate and smaller monthly payment low-mileage lease.
Mercedes, BMW, and Audi all have these conquest models, and plenty of them are sold with attractive residualized offers. In the form of the Mercedes-Benz A220, the German marque opted to give its entry model some kit you'd expect in the more expensive models. Does it add up to a good car?
The Key Figures
The A220 is powered by a less potent version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder you get in plenty of models throughout the lineup, producing 188 horsepower at 5,800 RPM and 221 lb-ft (300 Nm) of torque at 1,250 - 4,000 RPM. The standard powertrain is a 7-speed DCT with front-wheel-drive, and Mercedes offers the option of its 4MATIC variable-torque all-wheel-drive system. In either driveline setup, the A220 can sprint from 0-60 MPH in 7.1 seconds, with an electronically-limited top speed of 130 MPH. EPA fuel economy estimates are 25/34/28 MPGs.
Mercedes' entry sedan is in its fourth generation, but in the States it has only been around since 2019. As a compact four-door, it can find itself cross-shopped against anything from an Audi A3 to the Honda Civic and Mazda 3. Thankfully the A220 comes well-equipped in standard form, with a panoramic roof, the MBUX touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ambient lighting, LED headlights, and dynamic select.
Starting at a base price of $33,650 in front-wheel-drive form, and $35,650 for all-wheel-drive, my Denim Blue Metallic tester ticked a couple option boxes to hit an MSRP of $42,150. If you crave more power in your pocket rocket sedan, Mercedes-AMG offers the A35 that boasts a hopped up version of the 2.0-liter with 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, but its base price starts around $46,000.
A Good City Sedan
Mercedes packages a practical small four-door with the A220, if you aren't toting a family around, and don't need to carry a ton of stuff. If you live in a climate with harsh winters, go for the 4MATIC option, but if you aren't dealing with snow regularly, you'll be pleased with the agility of front-wheel-drive that saves you some cash.
The boosted four-banger is definitely quick enough for a city car, with good response, and little burbles from the exhaust if you put the dynamic select in the sport drive mode. Sport mode quickens up sprints on any road, without being harsh at all. If you're not concerned about a couple MPGs, use this mode often to truly enjoy your A220.
To save fuel during a week-long test that involved lots of highway driving, I set up my individual drive mode with the drivetrain and steering in sport, but kept the engine in eco. Even with the engine response reduced, and shifts shortened, the A220 was reasonably fun. Steering is a bit light, but still nicely connected to the pavement for an entry level compact luxury sedan. Ride quality is smooth and offers decent response in the corners without damping being too stiff.
The A-Class is a compact package, measuring a few inches shorter in overall length than the next step up Mercedes CLA four-door coupe and Honda Civic sedan, so don't stick your adult friends in the back seat for long hauls. Front seat occupants will be comfortable, with simple looking seats that offer nice support and optional heating (which my tester had equipped).
Cool Yet Practical
It may be the entry level Mercedes, but the cockpit gets the same setup that you get in the new GLA and GLB crossover models. Equipped with MBUX infotainment system and a pair of good screens up front, you're treated to a slightly smaller version of the layout in every other Benz, and the instrument screen can still be tweaked with a few different layouts to show your driving data in different ways. I appreciate that Mercedes gives you the option of using the touchscreen or a big trackpad on the center console. The A220 also gets a good storage bin in front of the cupholders to stash your sunglasses, access cards, and phone while it's plugged in.
In standard form, there is a 7.5-inch display that's a bit small for my liking, so you'll want to tick the $1,750 option box to add the premium package that upgrades to 10-inch screens for the instrument cluster and infotainment system. In an effort to cut costs, the A220 uses flat black plastic buttons on the infotainment panel of the center console, which is actually nice because you don't worry about getting them covered in fingerprints and tiny scratches.
I like the styling of the A220, even if it's somewhat tame when compared to other Mercedes models. Lines are sharp without being overdone, with tidy sleekness that runs from nose to tail. Avoiding the trend of massive wheels and tiny sidewalls on entry compact models, the A220 is fitted with standard 17-inch wheels, and my tester was upgraded with a smart-looking set of polished 18s wrapped in Bridgestone Turanza all-season rubber.
The Basic Benz Isn't Bad At All
As entry level models go, the A-Class isn't a bad way to get your first Mercedes. Sure, it's a bit on the small side, but if you don't truly need a bigger car as your daily driver, you'll be happy with the the A220. Should you want a hint more space, paired with sharper styling, you could spend a bit more cash to get the CLA four-door coupe instead.
Far too often, if people want a practical compact car they either have to decide on a crossover that OEMs are basically forcing upon everyone, or to get one of the more common Japanese sedans they had in high school or college. I'm glad this compact sedan exists in the Mercedes lineup. The A220 provides a smart package with good looks, cool tech, and a badge that gets a bit more respect from your coworkers and friends.