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2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Review

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class subcompact sedan enters its second year as the most affordable brand-new Mercedes-Benz. There have been other keenly priced cars wearing the 3-pointed star, but this one is different. And better.

Rather than skimp on things like the quality of materials in the cabin, Mercedes-Benz has made the A-Class a well-realized luxury car stocked with many fine features while making others available in the options list. It’s just small. As any adult sitting in the back or trying to load something into the trunk will soon discover.

One such fine standard feature is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, shortened (mercifully) to MBUX. It’s a new generation of infotainment system with a built-in digital assistant making its way into newer Benzes.

Similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, this system can recognize instructions given in natural speech. Even saying something like "I’m too hot" will result in the climate control’s temperature being lowered. The magic words to preface any command are: "Hey, Mercedes."

An array of driver aids is also available, making the A-Class as safe and aware of conditions as its much bigger and more expensive stablemates.

In the basic A 220, there’s one luxury trait that’s missing — performance. Its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine cooks up a relatively modest 188 horsepower. But in real life, negotiating city streets or trundling around the suburbs, that turns out to be enough. It also runs smoothly while merely sipping gasoline.

What’s New for 2020?

The 2020 Mercedes-AMG A 35 variant is due later this year, bringing 302 hp. And gesture control for the MBUX infotainment system (aka Interior Assistant) becomes available as a separate option. See the 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class models for sale near you

What We Like

  • High-class cabin
  • Ample standard features
  • Unmatched array of driver-assistance features available
  • Refined driving experience
  • Strong, efficient base engine
  • Classy looks

What We Don’t

  • Smallish back seat and trunk
  • Potentially firm ride with run-flat tires

How Much?

$33,795-TBA (once the AMG A 35 becomes available)

Fuel Economy

The A-Class range kicks off with the A 220 employing a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 188 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. A 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is standard. The regular A 220 has front-wheel drive (FWD). All-wheel drive (AWD) is an option, as indicated by the name A 220 4Matic.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption for the A 220 at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving. With AWD, highway consumption is thirstier by 1 mpg.

The 2020 AMG A 35 also has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, but this one has been developed by AMG to generate an entertaining 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A 4Matic system is standard here and the 7-speed automated transmission has also been given the AMG treatment. There were no EPA figures at the time of compiling this review.

Standard Features and Options

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class premium subcompact sedan comes as the A 220 — the A 220 4Matic is differentiated only by its standard AWD system, costing $2,000. The sportier AMG A 35 model joins the 2020 A-Class range before the summer.

Standard equipment in the A 220 ($33,795) is generous, including 17-in alloy wheels wearing run-flat tires, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights with automatic high beams, selectable driving modes, forward-collision warning, driver fatigue monitoring, automatic brake hold, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory settings, simulated leather upholstery, 60/40 split/folding rear seats, a rear center armrest, a 7-in digital driver information display, a 7-in infotainment touchscreen, touch controllers in the center console and on the steering wheel, natural speech recognition, five USB-C ports and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration.

The Premium package adds keyless entry/ignition, blind spot monitoring, power-folding mirrors, self-dimming driver’s side and rearview mirrors and an upgraded infotainment system with dual 10.25-in screens.

The Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control with active steering assistance and GPS input (which uses the navigation system to anticipate corners and slow down accordingly), evasive steering assistance, automatic emergency braking, lane-change/lane-keeping assistance and enhanced blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The Parking Assistance package adds a 360-degree camera system and an automated parking system. Although many of these features are available from other manufacturers, few are as well-executed.

The MBUX Interior Assistant is gesture controlled. Moving a hand in a certain way to raise the audio system’s volume, for example. It can even tell whether the driver or front passenger made the gesture.

The Multimedia package brings navigation with augmented video (adding directional signs to a live video feed from a front-facing camera). The Night package consists of a variety of black exterior trim parts. The AMG Line package includes a lowered suspension, sport front seats and styling details such as a "diamond block" grille design.

Other options include 18-in and 19-in alloy wheels, summer tires (not of the run-flat variety), a head-up display, leather upholstery, heated/ventilated multi-contour front seats, a heated steering wheel, rear-side airbags, 64-color ambient LED cabin lighting, wireless charging, satellite radio and a 12-speaker/590-watt Burmester surround-sound system.

The AMG A 35 ($TBA) has its own drivetrain, plus an AMG-tuned sport suspension, 18-in alloy wheels, and dual 10.25-in displays.

Safety

The A 220 has seven airbags (front, front-side, side-curtain and driver’s knees) as standard, along with stability/traction control and Mercedes-Benz Emergency Call services. Another excellent standard safety feature is Active Brake Technology that moves the pads closer to the discs if the driver gets off the throttle sharply. Doing this means faster braking response should the need arise. It also includes a brake drying function.

The A-Class has yet to be crash tested by any agencies in the United States, but it scored well in a European program.

Behind the Wheel

It seems Mercedes-Benz looked at its previous entry level car, the first-generation CLA-Class, and decided to do better. The A-Class is considerably more refined and luxurious, while offering greater passenger space.

The A 220’s 188-hp turbocharged engine is torquey and energetic, providing an enthusiastic exhaust bark during aggressive acceleration. On the other side of the efficiency coin, averaging around 28 mpg is more than bearable.

Handling is poised and confidence-inspiring, but the A 220 isn’t quite a sport sedan. The steering in particular lacks a tactile dimension, despite its weight being appropriate and consistent.

Instead, the A-Class drives a fine line between isolation and involvement. By upgrading to a larger wheel with regular tires, the ride quality will also improve. The standard run-flat tires tend to undo all the good work of Mercedes-Benz’s suspension engineers and create a crashy, unpleasant ride.

The interior is a cool environment full of quality materials, agreeable designs and a generally luxurious ambiance — especially with the optional 64-color ambient lighting and 2-tone interior color combinations.

The standard MBUX interface deserves a special mention. It provides four different ways to accomplish most tasks. These are a touchscreen, a center console touch pad, steering wheel touch pads and voice commands. This may seem confusing or overdone at first, but it allows the user to choose a preferred method for any given function.

Space in the A-Class is restricted, which shouldn’t be surprising. A 6-footer probably can’t fit behind another. And rear-facing child seats might be a tight squeeze. Rear legroom is 33.9 inches, while trunk space is 8.6 cu ft. These measurements aren’t even good for the category. The soon-to-be-replaced Audi A3 has 35.1 inches and 10 cu ft., respectively.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Audi A3 — A direct rival to the A-Class. Feels like a proper luxury car reduced to subcompact dimensions. Due for replacement, though. The 288-hp S3 goes up against the A 35.

2020 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe — Priced closer to $40,000 and perhaps more of a rival to the CLA-Class. Nevertheless, it’s the smallest 4-door BMW. The "xDrive" part of the name means AWD is standard.

Used Mercedes-Benz C-Class — More space, stronger performance and many of the same features. Used examples of the current C-Class generation should now be available. Check out the Mercedes-Benz certified pre-owned (CPO) program.

Autotrader’s Advice

This is perhaps the least enjoyable aspect of test-driving a Mercedes-Benz, but do try a version with run-flat tires and one without to really feel the difference.

Naturally, the AMG version will have its own special attractions, while buyers of the regular A-Class need to consider whether AWD is necessary. In any version, the Driver Assistance package is highly recommended. And the larger displays would sway us toward the Premium package as well. Find a Mercedes-Benz A-Class for sale

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