The newly-minted A-Class is the most affordable Mercedes on sale. Pricing starts around $35,000, or just under $37,000 when fitted with the popular 4Matic AWD.
To that, my tester added some optional equipment that pushed the sticker to the mid-40s. The resulting package amounted to a nicely-loaded package for the shopper looking to spoil themselves on the relative cheap with something thrifty, comfortable and upscale.
They say you can tell a lot about a brand by how well they do their cheapest car, and if I’ve ever had a bigger first impression of a car at this price point, I’m not sure what it was.
From the outside, its a fresh and athletic collection of signature Mercedes design touches, including drilled brake rotors, sculpted fascias, a prominent grille, integrated dual exhausts, and an all-LED exterior lighting setup that creates big after-dark presence.
The instrument cluster is a wide-screen, high-resolution display with vivid graphics that’s fully customizable for layout, theme and colour. It flows into the central command screen to its right, which is equally as gorgeous. Much of the driver’s forward view is therefore occupied by a large, high-quality display that spans half the dash.
Elsewhere, the dash and doors are sculpted, accented with metal, and dotted with interfaces and switchgear from further up the line. Some low-budget materials and exposed fasteners can be found if you’re digging, but mainly, this cabin effortlessly puts drivers front and centre in something that looks and feels high-end.
And wait until you see it at night. Vigorous use of colour-selectable ambient lighting works with the soft glow of the vivid display screens to set the after-dark cabin ablaze in soft, colourful hues. The LED-technology headlights are also excellent. Few machines create such a striking after-dark atmosphere. Day or night, much of what you see from the driver’s seat looks like a million bucks.
Four average-sized adults will find adequate space, but just. You’ve got plenty of choices on larger vehicles for the money, if needed.
The A220’s road feel is largely as expected from a high-end product. The steering feels nicely weighted in all conditions, adjusting its feel based on your speed.
The two-litre turbo engine is economy first, packing 188 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s delightfully quiet and responsive in around-town driving, never sounds or feels overworked, and performs well, though sportier drivers will wish for a little more sauce when it’s time to pass or merge.
The ride is dense and creamy, comfort-first, but not lifeless. The automatic transmission is of the dual-clutch variety. In motion, it’s snappy and fast, though getting smoothly off the line will require a little practice to find the right rhythm with your right foot.
Equipped with quality winter tires, the 4Matic AWD system was also a joy to use after a heavy snowfall. It provides immediate four-wheel bite the moment you set off in deep powder, no digging required. The system knows what to do, when to do it, and requires none of your attention.
Gripes were mostly ergonomic in nature, including the strangely-positioned gear-shift wand where most cars keep their wiper stalk, and some controls and readouts that are blocked by the steering wheel.
By collecting and deploying some of the best and brightest Mercedes design elements and features, the A220 gives drivers affordable access to an authentic taste of the motoring high-life. It’s a car that feels composed, confident and upscale, almost no matter the drive.