2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
New for America in the 2019 model year, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class takes over entry-level duties from the CLA-Class, and does so with a more obvious sedan shape and better interior room.
Unlike most Mercedes-Benz models, which have rear-wheel drive, the A-Class can have standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. Only one trim level is offered: the A 220.
The sole engine is a 2.0-liter turbo-4, producing 188 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, mating with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. With a choice of suspension settings, the A-Class has a stiffer body but can ride better than the CLA. An optional AMG Line Package lowers ride height by 0.6 inch without turning the ride harsh. Base-suspension models come with 17- or 18-inch wheels, but the AMG Package relies on 19-inchers. Adaptive dampers are available as an alternative.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the A-Class sedan.
Attention Assist and a rearview camera are standard, but most safety features add considerably to the price. A $2,250 Driver Assistance Package adds adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, forward cross-traffic detection, active lane control, evasive steering assist, and lane-change assist.
Blind-spot monitors come with driver assist that can steer the car back into its original lane if the system detects another vehicle in the way of a lane change. When navigation is active, it can slow the car down at corners. The system can also detect the current speed limit and set the car to maintain that velocity.
Regular blind-spot monitors are included in the Premium Package. A Parking Assistance Package adds a surround-view camera system and automatic parking system.
High-performance variants are being developed, but won’t emerge for a while. Scheduled for 2020, the A 35 is expected to get a 302-horsepower engine and AMG Speedshift dual-clutch transmission, promising 0-60 mph acceleration in about 4.6 seconds.
Prices do not include $995 destination charge.
A 220 ($32,500) comes with front-wheel drive, MB-Tex vinyl upholstery, power front seats with memory, split-folding rear seatbacks, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights and taillights, paddle shifters, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Mercedes-Benz’s infotainment system includes dual 7.0-inch screens, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and Bluetooth.
Options include navigation, ambient lighting, multi-contour heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone charging, head-up display, and Burmester sound system.
A 220 4Matic ($34,500) substitutes all-wheel drive for front-drive.
In contrast to the CLA sedan’s coupe-like profile, the A-Class takes a conservative, traditional approach to design, yielding greater usable space. Though less sleek, the A-Class looks good both inside and out.
With short overhangs front and rear, plus long hood/short deck proportions, the A-Class even conveys a taste of sportiness in its shaping. Pronounced wheel arches reach over the wheels. The sporty aura is enhanced if 19-inch tires are mounted.
Up front, headlights are slim and the hood sits low. The familiar grille wears a large Mercedes-Benz star at its center. A sharp shoulder character line is evident in the profile, while a rising line sits near the rocker panel. At the rear are two-piece taillights and dual exhaust outlets. A spoiler shape is integrated into the trunk lid.
Inside, the cabin looks modern and indisputably premium-level, though just short of luxurious. Interior technology ranks well ahead of the CLA. Simple and attractive, the interior is well-appointed for an entry-level compact.
For its size, too, the A-Class is spacious. Headroom tops that of competitors, according to the automaker – quite unlike the CLA with its sloping roofline.
Front-seat passengers enjoy good room on seats that are comfortable, if a bit short on support. MB-Tex vinyl upholstery is glossier and less supple than leather, which is available as an option.
Rear legroom is less appealing, though it’s possible for two 6-footers to ride, one behind the other. Head clearance is ample, at least for shorter journeys, but seat bottoms are quite low and lack thigh support. Seatbacks can fold flat, though.
Turbine-shaped air vents add a touch of beauty to the dashboard. A large glass surface inset into the dashboard contains twin digital screens, each either 7.0- or 10.3-inch. Controlled by a trackpad, the screens are part of Mercedes’ new state-of-the-art infotainment system.
Also new, the MBUX system provides access to the automaker’s Me Connect services. MBUX uses artificial intelligence to “learn” the driver’s patterns and preferences. Voice commands or steering-wheel buttons can be used for control, instead of the trackpad.
The A-Class navigation system introduces augmented reality, projecting the view from a forward-looking camera onto the center screen. Able to add street names and addresses, the system works well.
An optional Premium Package increases screen sizes to 10.3-inch, adding blind-spot monitors, keyless entry, and power-folding mirrors. The AMG Line Package lowers the suspension 0.6 inch and includes perforated front brake rotors, and a chromed diamond-block grille.
Measuring 14.3 cubic feet, the trunk is comparatively large.
Small in size and agile in behavior, the A-Class is fun to drive. Unlike the stiff-riding CLA-Class, it provides a welcome balance of controlled ride and sporty handling.
While setting no records, the 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine undertakes its task with little drama. An A-Class can reach 60 mph in 7.1 seconds – swift enough for capable highway passing. The 7-speed automatic shifts quickly and decisively, without the pause that occurs in the CLA.
Ride comfort also is substantially better than the CLA provides. Even with the AMG Line Package installed, an A-Class absorbs most bumps effectively, without pounding over small obstructions like the CLA.
Sharp steering has satisfying heft and yields direct responses, providing a steady on-center feel. Little body lean occurs while cornering. Brakes have a natural pedal feel. Perforated front brakes in the AMG Line Package are more effective for maneuvering along rural roads.
Fuel economy is fine, EPA-rated at 23/35 mpg City/Highway, 28 Combined. All-wheel drive differs slightly, at 24/34/28 mpg. Premium gasoline is recommended.
Well-equipped and attractively priced, the 2019 Mercedes A-Class forges well ahead of its CLA-Class predecessor. Improvements in ride and handling are most notable. Plenty of active-safety technology is available, but mainly in option packages rather than standard. With only one trim level offered, buyers need only choose front- or all-wheel drive and ponder the option list.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.