The 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class luxury subcompact sedan enters its third 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 premium 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 of those fine standard features is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, shortened (mercifully) to MBUX. It’s the latest generation of infotainment system with a built-in digital assistant making its way into every other Benz.
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 entry level 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, this turns out to be enough. It also runs smoothly while merely sipping gasoline.
Any perceived power shortfall is addressed in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A 35, which brings 302 horsepower and many upgraded components (suspension, brakes, transmission, etc.) to add some real kick.
What’s New for 2021?
Blind spot monitoring is now standard throughout the range. Thee A 220 gains 18-inch alloy wheels with a 2-tone finish as standard. And the MBUX Interior Assistant becomes available as an individual extra, as opposed to being part of an options bundle. See the 2021 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
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 all-wheel drive, highway consumption is thirstier by 1 mpg.
The 2021 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.
Fuel consumption is 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.
All of these EPA figures are from 2020, but we expect 2021’s numbers to be the same or extremely close.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class premium subcompact sedan starts off with the A 220. The A 220 4Matic is differentiated only by its standard AWD system, costing $2,000 extra. At the top is a sportier 2021 Mercedes-AMG A 35 model.
Standard equipment in the A 220 ($34,700) is generous, including 18-in alloy wheels wearing run-flat tires, panoramic sunroof, LED headlights with automatic high beams, selectable driving modes, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, 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, rear center armrest, 7-in digital driver information display, 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.
A Premium package adds keyless entry/ignition, 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 optional 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 19-in alloy wheels, summer tires (not of the run-flat variety), hands-free trunk lid operation, head-up display, leather upholstery, heated/ventilated multi-contour front seats, 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 ($46,900) has its own drivetrain, plus an AMG-tuned sport suspension, 18-in alloy wheels, and dual 10.25-in displays.
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. Instead, the A-Class drives a fine line between isolation and involvement. The steering in particular lacks a certain tactility, despite its weight being appropriate and consistent.
The standard run-flat tires tend to undo all the good work of Mercedes-Benz’s suspension engineers and create a rough ride. Regular tires will improve this aspect.
The Mercedes-AMG A 35 is the least expensive way of getting into a brand-new car from the company’s high-performance division. It’s not crazy powerful, but 302 hp in a subcompact sedan is undeniably entertaining.
The interior of the A-Class is a cool environment full of classy 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 premium subcompact sedan class. The soon-to-be-replaced Audi A3 has 35.1 inches and 10 cu ft., respectively.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 Audi A3 — A direct rival to the A-Class. Feels like a proper luxury car reduced to subcompact dimensions. The 288-hp S3 goes up against the A 35. A new generation is due in 2021, perhaps as a 2022 model.
2021 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 all-wheel drive 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.
Questions You May Ask
When did the A-Class go on sale in the United States?
In 2019. As Mercedes-Benz fans will know, there’s been an A-Class on sale in Europe since 1997. There have since been a few generations and the third provided a platform for the original CLA-Class and the GLA-Class crossover SUV.
To which generation does the 2021 A-Class belong?
This is now the fourth generation of A-Class on a fresh platform. There are now new generations of CLA and GLA as well.
What’s the difference between the CLA-Class and the A-Class?
They’re both built on the same foundation. The CLA-Class, formerly the least expensive brand-new Mercedes-Benz, follows the company’s “4-door coupe” styling conceit, whereas the A-Class is a straight-ahead sedan with better space for rear passengers.
Although its probably the least enjoyable aspect of test-driving a Mercedes-Benz, try versions with run-flat tires and without to really feel the difference.
Naturally, the AMG A 35 has its own special attractions, while buyers of the regular A-Class need to consider whether all-wheel drive 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