They pointed out a few small flaws about the car but mostly it's all positive stuff.
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class made its debut in 1997, but it only now comes to the U.S. and Canada in its fourth generation, as the lowest entry point into the three-pointed star.
In prior iterations, Mercedes got a little weird in the entry-level space with the B-Class and CLA hatchbacks. Not so in the A 220, a handsome subcompact sedan that seats five and hides its front-drive proportions well. "More mature, more defined, with much less sag in the surfacing than the previous car, the new A-Class looks like a much more expensive car than its predecessor," international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie said.
The 2020 A-Class comes in two main flavors: the A 220 and A 35 AMG. Front-drive A 220s start at $33,495, with all-wheel-drive models adding $2,000 to the sticker. The $45,000 AMG variant at is expected in the spring of 2020, with revised aerodynamic bits, a tuned-up version of the 2.0-liter turbo-four delivering 302 horsepower and 295-lb-ft of torque, and goodies like a torque-splitting all-wheel-drive system and launch control.
But before we get carried away, let's check out the base model. Benz has tried very hard to carry flagship S-Class style throughout its entire product line and does an amazing job inside the A 220. There are dual-color touchscreens for the instrument cluster, and the infotainment system is loaded with crisp graphics and informative displays. Mood lighting, laser-drilled Burmester-branded speaker grilles, even door-mounted seat controls, all surrounded by metallic accents and leather trim, feel very much "on brand," at least at first glance.
From a performance perspective, our A 220 test vehicle comported itself well at the test track. Our editors liked its linear power delivery, generally smooth upshifts, and sporty, tail-happy handling. "It's a remarkably fun little bugger on the handling track," technical director Frank Markus said, noting the A 220's good body control.
But on the lumps and ruts of real-world roads, the A 220 fell apart. Every editor noted its rough, noisy, non-premium ride. "Isolation from coarse pavement is just OK, but—holy moly—broken/choppy pavement is a real problem, "road test editor Chris Walton said. "There's so little isolation from the road, even the floorpan was vibrating."
The more time spent with the car, the more weaknesses were revealed. "Once you get past all the Mercedes jewelry, you start to notice where costs have been cut, particularly below eye level, where hard plastic is everywhere," guest judge Chris Theodore said. "Lesser cars use higher-quality materials—but I doubt the target customer will notice the corner-cutting."
Our editors certainly did. Executive editor Mark Rechtin was not impressed by the thin sheetmetal and flimsy door handle feel and called the A 220 an "ersatz Mercedes that feels like it should have a Kirkland label on it." Massaging seats are rare at this price point, but the A 220's didn't deliver much in that way. Markus said it "seems to just raise and lower the front of the seat, push the lumbar in and out a little, and do a slight back-and-forth with the back rest." He also took issue with the sound system. "This cut-rate Burmester sound system pales in comparison with the full-blown systems in the GT, E-, and S-Class," he said.
It's worth noting, the A 220's target audience among our judges was willing to look past these foibles. "It's honestly not bad," aspirational millennial and MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said. "There's a ton of tire noise and other NVH problems, but other than that, this is a pretty compelling product. It has a youth appeal; the leather is soft, there are few spots with hard plastics, you're getting a great design inside and outside with air vents that light up—Vegas night-club style!"
Guest judge Ian Callum agrees: "Mercedes will sell every one they can make." But at what cost?